Racing away from his office, Jud Weaver, a 1984 Brainerd High School graduate, found himself Tuesday in the shadow of the World Trade Center towers, fearing how he could outrun a toppling 100-plus story building.
"Someone said the building was falling," Weaver said. "That was the point at which I thought I might be checking out of the big world."
As the buildings began to fall, the scene went black. Smoke filled the air. The street lamps came on.
As luck blessed him, Weaver, son of Dr. John and Ruth Weaver of East Gull Lake, found himself blanketed in soot yet otherwise unscathed when the towers came crashing to the ground. The first building to fall almost imploded onto itself. It fell rather straight to the ground. If the building had toppled toward the river, Weaver might have been buried.
Weaver, who lives in Hoboken, N.J., and is an operations manager, worked across the street from the World Trade Center, 125 feet from where the terrorism struck, in the Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St.
He arrived about 8:30 a.m. EDT at his office on the 36th floor. He was talking on the phone when he heard an incredible noise, like thunder -- an explosion across the street. He couldn't directly see the plane impact but saw metal, glass and burning debris falling from the building.
Weaver said he assumed it was a bomb in the World Trade Center. Employees on his floor were told to go to the middle of the building, away from the windows. He did so, but didn't believe he was in imminent danger. He went back to his desk to grab his wallet and briefcase, only to witness the second explosion.
"It blew out basically all four corners of the building," he said.
In his building, windows broke. Weaver said he could smell smoke.
At this point, he knew something was dreadfully wrong. All the employees on his floor stuck together and started walking down a fire exit.
After they emerged from their building, he and a co-worker walked toward the Hudson River with the intention of catching a ferry to New Jersey.
That was when the first building fell. "Nobody knew what way it was falling," he said.
His next thought was, "We're still alive."
They made it Battery Park City where they stood and watched the second tower fall.
Within minutes, private boats, tugboats and ferry boats started arriving to transport people to safety. They took women and children first, he said. After 45 minutes, he said he and his friend caught a tugboat to Exchange Place in Jersey City. They then walked home.
"It's still a little weird," he said in a phone interview late Tuesday afternoon. "I think my building might have been destroyed."
He said a friend was walking in the World Trade Center building when the first plane crashed. He said his friend slipped on something as he hastened to get away, only to later realize he slipped on a part of a body.
Weaver said he had lots of hugs for -- and from -- his wife and two sons when he arrived home.
He said the experience was surreal.
"It was a life event," Weaver said. "It wasn't fun. It was very real. You come through it and say, 'OK, you tempted fate.'"
Weaver said friends called his parents wondering whether he was safe.
"Tell them all, 'I'm still alive,'" he said.
"It was very scary," he added. "I don't wish anyone to experience that kind of terrorism. I hope they catch whoever did it. I'm sure they will. I guess I hope that our children don't have to suffer things like that."
Weaver's wife, Carol Losos, first learned of the explosion when she received a cell phone call from a friend while she was with their son, Jackson, at preschool. She spent the next several hours awaiting word about Jud, although she checked her phone messages at home and discovered he had called once to say he was OK.
The Weavers have a view of the New York City skyline from their home. She said Tuesday was a beautiful summer day with clear, blue skies and mild temperature. Yet smoke billowed from the sky. "It was a pleasant day yet something was so completely wrong," she said.
She said she was so relieved to see Jud. "I was so happy when Jud walked in the door. I couldn't let myself think something happened to him."
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