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Ron Saladino: A World Trade Center crash survivor's story

Ron Saladino is a survivor of the World Trade Center crash. He joined the chat room from New York.

CNN: Good morning and welcome, Ron Saladino.

RON SALADINO: Hello, everybody.

CNN: Ron, first, set the scene for us. Which building were you in and what did you first experience?

SALADINO: Building number 7, 28th floor. I heard a loud explosion followed by an earthquake type shaking. I immediately ran to the southern window, which faced the northern World Trade Center tower and I saw debris falling everywhere. I then looked up and saw a crater sized hole in the northern tower. Along with that, there was fire coming out all ends. And I saw individuals jumping, free falling for about 5 seconds to the ground -- they just fell from top to bottom.

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After that, someone decided to evacuate and I took the stairs 28 floors down. Once I was downstairs in the lobby, the 2nd plane crashed into the tower. At this point people started getting hysterical, crying, rushing away from the windows. Eventually, security guards directed people down the escalator out the back to Greenwich Street to get us away from the Trade Center -- it runs north. About ten blocks north, I stopped to catch my breath and when I turned around, the southern WTC began to collapse like a waterfall. It just fell down in perfect symmetry, one floor, then another floor, then another... and then a puff of smoke like a giant mushroom popped up.

At this point when the Trade Center collapsed, people started getting hysterical in the streets. People said the city was under attack, the Pentagon was destroyed, there was mass confusion. People didn't know what was going on, they were crying all over the place. At that point I just decided to move north, run another five blocks to just get out of there to avoid any other collapses or buildings falling down. It was then that I finally got into a restaurant and saw everything in a more realistic perspective on the news. Things were a tiny bit easier, I understood that we were not under attack, the Pentagon was not destroyed, the White House was not destroyed, I had a more realistic perception.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Ron, what did come into your mind at first thought?

SALADINO: I was in shock... I didn't know what to think. I stopped breathing for about ten seconds. It still hasn't hit me to what has happened at that moment.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: When you were looking at the holes in the WTC, did it ever cross your mind that the towers might collapse?

SALADINO: No. When I first saw the hole and someone said a plane, I thought it was a two seater, a miniature plane. Someone then said it was a giant 757 and I saw that the hole was a lot bigger than I thought. I didn't think it would collapse at all.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Did you see the 2nd plane hit?

SALADINO: No, I was in the lobby, but I felt the shock wave and heard the explosion.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Did you have friends that were in the building that you are sure didn't make it out in time?

SALADINO: I knew no-one... an individual that worked with me did fall and break his leg, but he is safe with his family.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you feel most of the people in your building escaped?

SALADINO: Yes, by far, it was one of the first buildings that were evacuated.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: How long did it take for people in the buildings to realize what was happening?

SALADINO: After the first plane hit, some people just didn't think much of it, they didn't really think of it as a crisis to evacuate. It took about five minutes for them to say "lets get the hell out of here." I think that they were still in awe of what happened.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What do you think of the people that did this, or organized it, or supported it?

SALADINO: I have feelings of anger after seeing people fall out of windows to their death. I don't take this lightly. I truly would like to see the individuals responsible punished.

CNN: What has your life been like since Tuesday?

SALADINO: Part of me hasn't really accepted it. Part of me doesn't think about it, and part of me is kind of living with it.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Ron, do you think you'll ever want to work in a high rise building again? Would you work in a rebuilt WTC?

SALADINO: Absolutely not. It is a bulls-eye for attacks like that.

CNN: Do you have any final thoughts for us today?

SALADINO: I'm just happy that if you have any people that are safe and alive, be grateful. Think twice next time before you say good bye to someone.

CNN: Thank you for being here today to share your story.

SALADINO: OK, thanks.

Ron Saladino joined the chat room by telephone from New York and CNN provided a typist. This is an edited transcript of the chat which took place on Thursday, September 13, 2001.

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