The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Torrington native recalls 9/11 experience
Torrington native Sean Corey’s first job out of college was as an associate with international firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton, at One Liberty Plaza across from the twin towers.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Corey was working in the plaza building. First responders were beginning to arrive at the scene, and office employees were advised to leave the area.
“As I waited in the crowd at Union Square station to change to the express train, the PA system suddenly sprang to life,” Corey recalled. “Everyone winced as the ancient loudspeakers accosted us with a spectacular combination of feedback, static and a voice that was made for hailing yellow cabs at rush hour. When he repeated the announcement, I made out the following: There will be no service to Fulton Street on the Brooklyn bound 4-5 because of an incident. No problem – I’ll get off at Wall Street instead, I thought, as the woman next to me muttered, ‘Every day it’s something.’
“The rest of the ride in was uneventful . ... The train emptied at Wall Street at approximately 9:10. I was debating whether to
go latte or coffee-of-the-day as I reached the top of the stairs that led out to Broadway and looked out,” Corey said. “Smoke. A crowd in the street. Paper and ash everywhere.
“I walked half a block up Broadway toward the office to Liberty Park. Clearing the buildings, I saw the south tower completely on fire and I froze. Quickly my mind searched all the back
rooms and bottom drawers of my memory, but nowhere did I have any guidance on what to do in this scenario. Everyone else appeared to have the same problem. In Liberty Park and on Broadway, a crowd of people stood watching. Some were talking quietly to the people next to them or on cellphones. No one was panicking. Or leaving.
“As I tried to imagine what could have happened, I walked closer to our building and saw two things that shook me out of the trance. First, the north tower came into view and it was also on fire. Second, the security guards were blocking the entrance to our building and were visibly agitated,” he said. “Certain now that the fires were no accident, I overheard someone saying that there had been two explosions within the past half-hour. Someone else said people were jumping from the towers. The Financial District, which I found somewhat claustrophobic on a good day, suddenly became unbearable.
“I walked north through the crowd on Broadway, past the corner of Dey Street where a single line of people covered in white ash was dispersing slowly into the crowd. The line stretched all the way back to the Trade Center. Past Fulton Street, an identical line was arriving and one man stood in tears yelling, ‘Barbara? Barbara?’ at the people marching toward him on the sidewalk.
“Almost everyone being evacuated to the east from the towers was stopping on Broadway. Hugging each other and reporting about friends and co-workers. It had to be close to 9:30,” he said. “I continued north on Broadway with a growing contingent of people. Progress was slow due to large numbers who congregated on every corner or next to any car with a radio on. EMT vehicles and unmarked black sedans with sirens going full blast frequently parted the crowd. As I walked, I heard people explaining that hijacked planes had caused the explosions.
“And then people started screaming. An enormous cloud had covered the whole area . ... Looking south, I saw people many blocks away now running toward us. Someone said the towers had fallen. I thought of the crowd of people at Liberty Park. I turned north and kept walking.”
“The next day I saw a picture in a newspaper of an enormous cloud of debris exploding out from Broadway and Fulton Street,” he said. “Again, I thought of that crowd. Are they OK? Someone should’ve known. What if I’d stayed?”
It was months later before Corey and his co-workers could return to work. He stayed seven more years at the firm before moving to San Diego. He recently returned to Connecticut to visit his mother, Lynne Wilson, and stepfather, David Wilson, who live in Litchfield.