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Sept. 11: “I never believed for a single moment that the building could collapse,” says a French World Trade Center survivor

“I never believed for a moment that the building could collapse”Bruno Dellinger, a French survivor of the September 11, 2001 attacks, told Franceinfo on Friday, September 9, 2001. When an American Airlines Boeing 767, hijacked by terrorists, hit the facade of the North Tower of the World Trade Center , it worked on the 47th floor. After impact, it remained “about twenty additional minutes in [ses] offices “ then “a little inner voice tells me to leave”, He continued. Of these attacks, he wishes to retain “values ​​of courage, work, solidarity, sense of duty” it is a “life impulse” what led him to have two children, “for the world to renew its innocence”.

franceinfo: What were you doing at the time of the attack?

Bruno Dellinger: I was getting emails and downloading them to my computer. We lived in an extremely calm universe in the middle of the sky, it was an extremely peaceful work environment unlike the rest of the city. When I heard the shrill noise of the reactors, I was immediately attracted by the noise.

At 8:46 am, the Boeing 767 drops about fifty floors above you. When do you start to understand what’s going on?

I immediately realize that this is a plane that crashed into the towers, because of the noise of the jet engine, the violence of the crash, and when I looked up I realized it was a plane. But I didn’t have any immediate concerns, I thought about what happened at the end of the war years [le 28 juillet 1945] : a bomber [dont le pilote s’était perdu dans le brouillard] collided with the Empire State building and the building is still here. So I never believed for a moment that the building could collapse.

You don’t panic and don’t even say to one of your coworkers, “Don’t worry, it’s just a plane.”

Yes, it’s quite surreal. I still tell my employees to get out of the office, but I stay to do computer backups and answer the phone. I can never imagine that the building will collapse. I spend another twenty minutes in my offices. And then, all of a sudden, I get a very imperious order from a little inner voice that tells me to get out, so I lock everything up, my computer, my computer backups, and like a good Boy Scout, I evacuate my offices.

You walk down the stairs. What do you see ?

When I leave my office, everything is devastated, there’s a lot of smoke. On the 47th floor, the shielding of the elevator machinery exploded, there are no more slabs in the corridors, there is a drop of fluids. And I meet people who are evacuating, I’m tempted to go with them, but I go up the stairs indicated to me and do well because these people aren’t going to leave the building while I’m leaving. There are a lot of people on the stairs, a line going down, step by step, it’s very long, it takes 50 minutes to reach the back of the building. I see the security services going up, which I attend on the 45th floor, they left a long time ago and are already exhausted. And then a third line that sporadically forms severe burn victims who descend from the upper floors, who no longer have hair, have no skin, which are urgently evacuated. The heat is terrible, there are strobe lights, sirens, paper towel distributions, good boy. Nobody loses their temper, because everyone knows very well that the slightest loss of calm leads to disaster.

What happens when you finally make it out of that North Tower of the World Trade Center?

I reach the street, take a step and turn around, see the tower on fire, and then I understand the gravity of the situation. There are vapors of terrible darkness, flames of unfathomable violence very red, very orange, and I can’t believe what I see, I take a second step to turn again and see this diabolical sight. And actually I don’t see it a second time because at that moment tower number 2 is collapsing. I see this half-kilometre curve that, under my perplexed eyes, I don’t understand what’s happening, it’s collapsing. It makes a cataclysmic noise, it’s the only part of the day I can’t bring myself back to consciousness.

Twenty years later, you still wonder how people could have done this?

Yes, this is really the basic question I usually ask myself. I don’t understand, because the causes defended tended to retreat. All religions have in their DNA concepts as beautiful as mercy, pity or love of neighbor. I can’t understand how we came to look for each other, we who lived in this sky with respectable dreams, individual but also collective as we were an example of the utopia that is New York or all religions, all races, all social classes coexisted and lived in harmony .

In the years that followed, you had two children and said, “These are the children of 9/11.” What do you mean ?

That means I’m not sure I would have these kids right away if, deep inside me, the values ​​hadn’t cheered me up. These values, that’s what I remember, and my children are the testimony of that September 11th. I think it’s too much of an honor for barbarians to continually reminisce about terror. What is important is what allowed us to survive, the values ​​of courage, work, solidarity, the sense of duty. And then this impulse in life that made me want to have children so that the world can renew its innocence. I believe the world needs innocence and kindness. Basically, that’s what I remember about that day, more than the spectacular images that obscured everyone’s vision. Basically, they witness neither the violence we experience as individuals nor the suffering that victims and survivors may have suffered.

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