Inside the World Trade Center when the first plane hit: a personal account

Most people remember what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001 when they learned that two planes had struck the World Trade Center in the deadliest attack on American soil.

That tragic day was a personal experience for Paul Capurso, President of the New York City District Council Of Carpenters. He was in one of the World Trade Center towers when the first plane struck.

Capurso joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss his personal experiences from that heartbreaking and historic day.

A country under attack

On the morning of Sept. 11, Capurso was working a job at the World Trade Center, along with 10 or 12 coworkers. He was walking through the lower section that connected the South Tower to the North Tower with an engineer and a superintendent after upgrading sprinkler and fire alarm systems. One of them received a phone call stating something had hit the building.

Capurso then went across the street to work on another project on Broadway. Crossing the street, he could see the smoke coming from the first tower. He then went into a building for his next project and into a conference room, trying to figure out what to do. From there, he watched through an office window as the second plane hit the second tower. That is when he realized commercial airliners had hit the buildings and not a small plane.

An electrician rewiring a wall in the conference room had the radio on. They learned that planes hit the Pentagon and crashed in Pennsylvania. He remembers the electrician, a Vietnam veteran, telling him he thought the country was at war.

Capurso went to a back office to use a phone when the building rumbled and the lights shook. This was when the first tower crumbled to the ground.

When Capurso exited the building, it was total chaos — people running down the stairs, scattering in all directions, pregnant women fleeing with no one to help them. He tried to help whom he could.

Capurso remembers seeing a mail truck on fire and what looked like a jet engine lying on the ground. Then the ground rumbled as the North Tower collapsed. He saw the cloud of dust striking the city like a tornado and he dove behind a car to avoid it.

Remembering the fallen, 20 years later

Capurso remembers beautiful weather for a day that turned out to be absolutely tragic. Before today’s show, he had not spoken publicly about his memories of that day. But because it has been 20 years, he decided now it was time. Capurso thinks about that morning often, especially the people he worked with, some of whom did not survive. It was a tragic day in history that Capurso feels fortunate to have survived.


America’s Work Force Radio Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and wherever you stream your podcasts.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Google Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Listen on iHeart Radio


AMERICA’S WORK FORCE IS THE ONLY DAILY LABOR-RADIO PROGRAM IN THE US AND HAS BEEN ON THE AIR SINCE 1993, SUPPLYING LISTENERS WITH USEFUL, RELEVANT INPUT INTO THEIR DAILY LIVES THROUGH FACT-FINDING FEATURES, IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS, INFORMATIVE NEWS SEGMENTS AND PRACTICAL CONSUMER REPORTS. AMERICA’S WORK FORCE IS COMMITTED TO PROVIDING AN ACCESSIBLE VENUE IN WHICH AMERICA’S WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES CAN HEAR DISCUSSION ON IMPORTANT, RELEVANT TOPICS SUCH AS EMPLOYMENT, HEALTHCARE, LEGISLATIVE ACTION, LABOR-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS, CORPORATE PRACTICES, FINANCES, LOCAL AND NATIONAL POLITICS, CONSUMER REPORTS AND LABOR ISSUES.

AMERICA’S WORK FORCE RADIO IS BROUGHT TO YOU IN PART BY OUR SPONSORS AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF MUSICIANS, BMA MEDIA GROUP, COLUMBUS-CENTRAL OHIO BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL, COMMUNICATION WORKERS OF AMERICA, HEAT AND FROST INSULATORS AND ALLIED WORKERS, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, INTERNATIONAL UNION OF PAINTERS AND ALLIED TRADES DISTRICT COUNCIL 6, KELLEY & FERRARO, LLP,  LABOR CITIZEN MAGAZINE, LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, NORTH COAST AREA LABOR FEDERATION, MARITIME TRADES DEPARTMENT, OHIO FEDERATION OF TEACHERS-AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, UNITED AUTO WORKERS, UNITED LABOR AGENCY, UNITED STEELWORKERS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.