The Copley man was in New York City for his second day of training with Morgan Stanley on the 61st floor of the south tower when the first plane crashed into the north tower.
“I knew something was wrong when I saw a bunch of paper flying around outside the windows,” Vieltorf said. He said he didn’t realize a plane hit the building, but, “Later on, we started to get phone calls.”
He began the 45-minute-long trek down the stairs, despite announcements telling people to return to their offices. He was halfway down when he felt the tower shake as the second plane hit close to the floor he had just left.
“Probably even scarier than the initial jolt that moved the building every minute or so, you would hear a bunch of steel and concrete moving around above your head,” he said.
Vieltorf got to an exit and onto the streets, which were filled with debris and injured people. He said he saw a chunk of an engine in the lobby of a bank.
As he moved north, away from the burning buildings, he heard a loud noise.
“All of a sudden, I see the building falling in front of me. That’s what was making the noise. And I just turned and ran,” he said.
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He ducked into a building as the massive cloud of dust and debris swept over Lower Manhattan. He continued on until he found a working payphone to call his wife back home.
His wife traveled to New York to pick him up and take him back home to their two young daughters. A third was born a year later.
“Had a wife and a young family to take care of so I got the chance to do that,” Vieltorf said.
Twenty years later, the images of that day resonate with him. So do the moments of heartbreak and compassion.
“I’m definitely lucky, that’s for sure,” he said. “Mathematically, if you look at what are the chances of being in the building that day and being able to escape. I know a lot of people did get out, but a lot of people didn’t.”
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