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.