Lorenzo looks back at 9/11
Fri, 09/10/2021 - 2:11pm admin
NEW YORK CITY - The following are excerpts from the Sept. 12, 2002 Lime Springs Herald.
Steve Lorenzo, a 1984 Crestwood graduate and the son of Lynne and the late Frank Lorenzo of Cresco, recalled his experiences.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Lorenzo worked on Wall Street, seven blocks from the World Trade Center complex. When the first plane hit, he was uptown. He didn’t think anything of it and continued to go to work.
He was just coming out of a subway station five blocks from the towers when the second plane hit. “I didn’t so much hear it as felt it. I heard people screaming, and then it started to rain papers. Some of the papers were on fire and chunks of people were falling and hitting the pavement.” He also saw individuals and couples jumping from the tower holding hands.
Lorenzo went to his office and looked out the windows toward the WTC. He later learned the second plane had circled his office building. “People on the 51st floor could actually see into the cockpit.”
His building was evacuated. He was on street level when the first tower came down. “It was horrifying. The easiest way to describe it is like in the movie ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ when the vat of water is released, and it goes around the corners, and it is roaring toward them.
“When the tower came down, it was like that except with smoke and dust. People were being hit by debris, and it was like a blizzard of dust 30-40 stories high.”
He ran to the East River, and the Brooklyn Bridge disappeared in the cloud of smoke.
He ended up returning to his office, where he felt he would be safest.
Ever since the first bombing at the WTC, workers in skyscrapers had diaster preparedness training. “We had an emergency drill the week before and been given a kit that contained a glow stick, silver blanket, pouches of drinking water and dust masks.”
Lorenzo returned to the 27th floor and stood alone in the conference room watching as the second tower came down.
Two other coworkers returned, and all three walked to Brooklyn. In all, it took him six-and-a-half hours to get home.
“We weren’t allowed back to our offices until a week after the attack. We had to show our company ID cards to soldiers carrying rifles just to get off the subway. Lower Manhattan was like a bunker.
“Every time the wind picked up, you could smell burning and decaying flesh. Needless to say, it wasn’t an environment in which people were able to function normally. The stench of death was in the air.”
Lorenzo noted he was lucky not to know anybody who had been killed. Some of his coworkers were not that lucky. One person was absent for two months. He was gone to memorial services every day. “He said that most of his Christmas card list was dead.”
The WTC was more than just two buildings. It was a city unto itself with a shopping mall, restaurants and more. Lorenzo stated, “That city was obliterated, along with all the businesses and tourists it attracted.
“Many local businesses started shutting down because their customers were dead, lost their jobs, had relocated or just couldn’t bear to return to the neighborhood.
Lorenzo lost his job in January when his company downsized. Other companies were doing the same.
In March 2002, Lorenzo had surgery on his sinuses. He had sinus problems before the attack, but they worsened due to all the material he breathed in that day.
A biopsy revealed abnormal tissue attached to the bones was human genetic material, but not his own.
Of the devastation left behind, Lorenzo noted, “It is not just like losing a loved one. Three thousand people are dead. But there is also a huge chunk of the city that is gone.
“The towers were more than just office buildings. If you were driving in New Jersey, you could look to the horizon and see the towers lit up at night. It was like a beacon to find your way home.”
Twenty years later
Although he has not forgotten 9/11, Lorenzo has experienced other emergencies, such as Super Storm Sandy and COVID, and does not put as much focus on that one day. “It was so long ago. It was just one day. There have been many other days, good and bad. You can either focus on a traumatic experience or focus on getting back to living.”
Lorenzo continues to live in New York City and has since moved back to Manhattan. He attended survivor-only get-togethers on the anniversary of the attacks, including the opening of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in 2011. “I would get together with other survivors, but after the 10th anniversary, we didn’t do it as often.”
Remembering is not acutely painful as it was in the first few years, but difficult memories did arise as the first wave of the COVID pandemic hit NYC, evoking the same fear and helplessness people felt in the city during and after the attacks. “It is different to process when you have lived through it than when you just watched it on television,” he noted.
For the first seven years after the attacks, Lorenzo had ongoing respiratory issues, but those symptoms eventually went away. He continues to participate in the World Trade Center Health Program, which tracks and treats specific symptoms of people who were in lower Manhattan during the attacks and their aftermath, but admits that he is more likely to attribute any current health concerns to being 20 years older than he was in 2001.
“Sept. 11 was difficult to live through. I was fortunate to have access to people to help me. It is no longer a defining part of my identity. I haven’t forgotten. It is just something that happened in the past.”