Here is my wife’s story as submitted to the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund. To date she still has dreams about the day and sometimes wimpers in the night about “the planes!” It is something that will NEVER go away, but we learn to live with it and each time she talks about it, it helps.
“September 11, 2001
Anne M. Koster
My day started at 7AM; I worked for Bank of America on the 81st floor of 1 World Trade Center – the North tower. This day was normal until 8:46 when my boss caught a glimpse of a plane coming towards us and,
after the impact, shouted “A plane hit the building; make whatever calls you need and get out!” When the plane hit, the building swayed, lights shook and ceiling tiles fell. I called my husband, then my father, grabbed
my purse and headed for stairway A. This must have been around 8:55 or so.
While going down, the lights went out, then flicked back on. I can only now guess that that was when the South tower was hit. I made it down to the 60th floor landing and had to use my asthma inhaler medicine. I was
with many of my co-workers and we started down again. There were so many people coming down past us who were burned; we moved over and stopped to let them pass. Everything was orderly in the stairway.
By the time we reached the 44th floor, I was with my girlfriend, Susan Conlon, who left the group to seek fresh air and rest. We begged her to stay with us, but she was too nervous and wanted to sit. For a second or two,
I wanted to go with her to make sure she would continue down, but decided to keep going. She never made it out. I started to hyperventilate but could not use my inhaler again. A firefighter approached carrying a roll of hose
on his shoulder, mask and oxygen tank. He stopped to help me, giving me his mask and telling me to breathe in the oxygen and assuring me that I would get out safely. I only hope God was good to him and saw him safely out.
I began back down after giving my pocketbook and suit jacket to my boss, Steve, in hopes that being lightened, I would be able to descend quicker. My knees were getting banged up from the tight turns and narrow stairway and
I began holding onto the railing with both hands to steady myself. As we got lower, we encountered smoke and water. By the 11th floor, another co-worker was having a panic attack and Steve went to help her. I told him not to
lose me since he had my pocketbook with my cell phone and wallet. He said not to worry, he’d be right behind me.
On the 6th floor, the water was up to our knees and it was dark (I would guess that by this time Tower 2 had collapsed). There was a Port Authority police officer and a firefighter holding flashlights over our heads showing us the
way out. We were instructed to feel along the walls to find the door. There were two doors on this level and we were alternately sent out one and then the other to prevent bunching up and delays. Steve was sent to the left and I to the right.
I was now with two Vice Presidents of my firm and had finally reached the Atrium. There were a lot of beams and debris inside which was our first clue of the damage that was inflicted. I turned and said that we were OK now and wanted to rest.
Eddie said “We’re not OK until we get out of here.” He grabbed my hand and walked me through the debris and down the escalator leading out to buildings 4 and 5. When we reached the bottom of the escalator, there were police and firemen
directing people out to the streets.
All of a sudden, there was a rumbling from above. Firemen yelled that the building was going to come down and to run. Eddie grabbed me again and pulled me across Church Street towards Vesey Street. I stumbled on debris and found out later
that I broke three toes on my left foot. We had barely made it into City Hall Park when the building came down and were enveloped in the cloud of dust and smoke.
Police directed everyone to walk North and away from downtown. By this time the East River bridges were closed and we were unable to cross into Brooklyn. By the Supreme Court building, there was an ambulance where I was given oxygen since
I was having trouble breathing and had my eyes flushed out. I sat there for a few minutes until another victim staggered up in need of more intensive medical care than I. I got up and the three of us resumed walking uptown. We received water from
people along the way, which we poured over ourselves to rid us of the dust.
I lost my shoes in the stairway, which had been ruined by the water in the stairway back in the Tower. We walked until we got to Greenwich Village where Steve bought me a pair of slippers. In Little Italy, I managed to get a call through to my husband
to let him know I was alive; hurt, but alive all the same. I asked him to try to call my cell phone to see where Steve Giacchi was since he had my bag, and I assumed he had gotten clear himself before the collapse. My husband managed to get Steve on
my cell phone and found that he was heading to our former office space at 9 West 57th Street. When I called him again about an hour later, he relayed this information to me and we decided to head there. At 33rd Street and 3rd Avenue we tried to hail
a cab to take us the rest of the way. The driver took one look at us and refused, claiming he was off duty.
We arrived at 57th Street at 5:05PM and were relieved to find many of our people there. After embracing and talking about our experiences, I was able to call my family and let them know where I was and that four of us were going to try to drive into New
Jersey if we could find a way out of the city open. My brother, who worked in the New Financial Center and caught the last ferry out of Battery Park City, was going to meet us and take me to his house. After many phone calls, we heard that the bridges to
Brooklyn and Staten Island were opened again and we headed for home.
I finally arrived home at 9PM and my husband took me to Staten Island University Hospital right away. The hospital was on alert for possible survivors arriving from the WTC site. I walked up to the triage area, announced that I was involved in the attacks,
was having trouble breathing and possibly broke my toes. I was whisked inside, given a nebulizer asthma treatment and had my lower torso, chest and toes x-rayed. After about an hour, I was released and told to go home and rest and call my primary physician
in the morning if I didn’t feel better.
The next morning I could hardly walk, went to my doctor’s office and then to Dr Flynn, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Staten Island Sports Medicine. Dr. Flynn x-rayed my knees again and set me up to have MRIs done of them. She also taped my toes together and
gave me an air cast for my ankle which was also hurting me. The MRIs showed that I had damage to both knees which would most likely require surgery to repair. Dr Flynn prescribed physical therapy as an alternative, but that surgery was still a possibility in the future.
I received physical therapy treatments for several months for my knees from Ira Reiter on a Workmen’s Compensation claim. The therapy helped to a degree, but was not and is not an alternative to the surgery Dr. Flynn advised I would eventually need.
Later on that day, after calling Steve Giacchi, I was more or less designated to locate my co-workers and see how everyone fared. That’s when I found out about Susan and the other two people who died. Susan and I knew each other for almost 20 years and I cried
when I realized that if I had gone with her I would have perished, too.
Through a Bank of America program, I sought out the services of a mental health professional. I was directed to Shirley Ostrega who helped me to deal with the disaster, its aftermath and my feelings of guilt for surviving when others died. Although Shirley helped me
through the black days, I still break down when certain images catch my eye or I think about my friends who did not survive.
I also made an appointment with Dr. Sasso, a pulmonary specialist, to evaluate my lungs due to my asthma condition and the fact that I had inhaled a lot of smoke and dust from the collapse. His report is attached.
Because of my injuries, I am unable to stand for long periods of time and suffer from almost constant pain in my knees, my toes bother me under certain weather conditions, and I cannot continue taking the long walks which were part of my physical fitness program that
allowed me to lose over 140 pounds in three years.
Due to the financial downturn and slowing of the economy after the attacks, I was laid off from my job in February 2002 in a cost-cutting move. My husband had been laid off from his job in July 2001 due to a takeover and was collecting unemployment. We could not afford
the COBRA payments – which would have been more that I was able to collect myself – and pay our mortgage and other bills, so we have been without health coverage since March. We were unable to qualify for a New York State health care program since our combined
income was over the allowable maximum. We both take medication that is necessary for our continued health and these prescriptions cost us over $450.00 a month.
The job market has been so bad since September 11th, and remains bad, that I have been unable to return to work in my field or find a suitable paying position in any other career. Some positions I have interviewed for require almost constant standing, walking, lifting and
carrying of cumbersome, heavy items.”
My wife went from making $68,000 a year to $9,500, still with no health insurance.
The fireman who gave her oxygen on the 44th floor never made it out. After talking with friends in the FDNY, we determined he was from Engine 55. Since they were so far up in the building, he would have been one of the first units to respond.
For years afterwards, she always said that God kept her here for a reason. Me, being the joker that I am, said “He kept you here to harrass me until I die”. But God knew I would be lost without her….