World Trade Center survivors remember 9/11

Carol Cain, Detroit Free Press

Patrick Anderson is known for making sense of things like quantifying the economic impact of Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile, the University Research Corridor, the Ann Arbor Art Fair and even the forthcoming Obama Presidential Library in Chicago.

Photo: J.P. Martin

Photo: J.P. Martin

The soft-spoken bowtie-wearing economist, who runs Anderson Economic Group, is the go-to-guy for leaders who want to explain things.

Fourteen years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Anderson, who was in the World Trade Center when two jets crashed in the buildings, can only explain why he made it out alive by talking about his angel.

“I was getting ready for the day when the building starts to shake and there is a loud crash and it can’t be thunder,” said Anderson, who was there for an economic conference and was on the fifth floor of the Marriott Hotel inside World Trade Center Tower 3 when the first jet struck.

Not knowing what was going on, he looked outside his window and saw debris starting to fall. A hotel announcer told guests to stay inside their rooms.

Anderson planned to do so, when an internal voice – his angel – told him to run!

“I had one shoe one and one off, I grabbed my wallet, cell phone and pocket knife and ran,” he said.

He was aided by three heroic New York City firemen who helped him and others find their way down the stairs and out the side of the building. During the trek, a second plane crashed with more carnage to follow. The firemen guided them across the street to safety before heading back in to save others. They never made it out.

At one point, Anderson recalled laying [sic – lying] under a large truck for cover as parts of buildings and planes toppled around him and praying out loud to God for help.

He also vividly remembers the sound of the second plane hitting, and the gaping holes in what had been the World Trade Center towers.

Anderson was so inspired by the bravery of the firefighters and others that day he started The Michigan Remembers 9-11 Fund, a non-profit commemorating the loss of Americans and their heroism that day. They are sending two Michigan first responders to New York City for the annual Tunnel To Towers Run on September 27.

The Michigan Remembers organization is also hosting its own annual “Run to Remember” 5K race in Lansing on September 12.

Anderson, who doesn’t speak often about that day, will do so at remembrance ceremonies in Lansing on Friday at Wentworth Park in Lansing and a Friday night event in Pontiac.

Economist Patrick Anderson, who made it  out of the carnage of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, started The Michigan Remembers 9-11 Fund to commemorate those who lost their lives that day and the heroism of so many. Photo: Dave Trumpie

Economist Patrick Anderson, who made it  out of the carnage of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, started The Michigan Remembers 9-11 Fund to commemorate those who lost their lives that day and the heroism of so many. Photo: Dave Trumpie

“Doing these things is part of thanking the Lord for giving me some more years on the Earth, and ensuring we properly remember the loss and the sacrifices of our fellow man,” said Anderson, who is married with three children.

Back to Michigan

J.P. Martin, then 24, had moved from Michigan to New York City with two pals from Michigan State University and working as a buyer for Lord & Taylor. The trio lived in an apartment three blocks from the World Trade Center.

Martin was sitting at his desk at work and listening to Howard Stern when he heard him mention something had hit the World Trade Center.

“I thought it was some kind of joke,” said Martin.

With phones out, Martin set off on a journey back to his apartment to see whether his roommates were OK. “By the time I got to Battery Park, it looked like it had snowed with inches of soot piling up,” he said.

He wasn’t able to get to his apartment as the entire area was cordoned off.

He found his roommates two days later, and the three moved into his roommate’s sister’s 600-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn Heights where they slept on the living room floor for weeks.

Martin decided to move back home to safety in Michigan.

Now 38, he’s married with three young children. He finished law school and started a new job as general manager of Midpoint Restoration of West Michigan.

“I wouldn’t say that I look forward to the 9/11 date each year, but there is an anticipation,” Martin said. ” I go through the year pretty much forgetting that I was part of that day.”

He keeps two pictures of their apartment building — a before and after – as a reminder.

“We can never forget all of those innocent people who perished. We can also not forget the sacrifice, which re-taught a generation of people the lesson of devotion and selflessness,” said Martin.

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