I remember. I was in my sixth semester of my junior year at Lycoming College. It was a typical Thursday a.m. OK. I was struggling. Another long night of drinking $2 pitchers with my mates. I had one class at 9:00. ECON 440W. The History of Economic Thought. Adam Smith was brilliant, but he wouldn't help with my pounding headache.
I overheard someone say that a plane just crashed into a building, but it didn't register and I didn't think much of it at the time. Actually. No one did. Ninety minutes then passed and my brain was done. I recall walking down the stairs to find a large crowd huddled around the television in Pennington Lounge. They were all watching intently, but in complete silence. It was strange. Everything was at a complete standstill.
I can't believe it has been sixteen years since that horrific day in September. A lot has changed since then too. I still get choked up when I see the footage of the towers falling. Anyone else see CNN's 911 NYFD documentary? Incredible. Perhaps we take it for granted. And there are times we might even sadly forget. But on that single day — 3,000 innocent lives were lost in a gruesome act of terror. I still can't possibly fathom.
Josh Mattox and I both played on the Roanoke College Golf Team in the late 90s. The tall and lanky southern red head was rather polite and had a great short game. I was a few years older and we were in the same fraternity. Josh was one of my mother's favorites, because he often called her ma'am. I wouldn't say that we were super tight and to be honest — we hadn't spoke until just here recently.
"Spence. What's good man?" my old friend answered in a southern drawl. "Get out. You're a writer?"
We chatted it up for a few minutes and then I asked his permission to tell his amazing tale.
"Of course. I still think about it," Josh explained. "It gets tougher the older I get. I caught a huge break man."
Josh Mattox was working on the 61st floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. He was in New York finishing up a Morgan Stanley training program. Josh just graduated and this was his very first job. He was only 21 years old.
"All of a sudden we heard a bang," Josh continued. "All of this paper and debris was flying into our window. Things were falling down, but we had no idea what the heck was going on."
The first plane had just struck the North Tower and the 2,500 or so Morgan Stanley’s began evacuating the building. Josh believes he was on the 54th floor when he "felt" another catastrophic explosion only a few stories above.
"It's really hard to explain, but it was like a bomb went off. Tiles from the ceiling started collapsing. Papers were everywhere. Metal beams shot out of the wall. People were screaming. It was absolute bedlam."
The second plane hit and Josh literally began to run for his life as he was jumping down flights and flights of stairs in a total panic.
"I don't really remember how or why I got out. But I made it. Literally five minutes before the South Tower fell. That's one of the things that I think about a lot. Why did I walk out of that building? Without a scratch. I wasn't married. No kids. I survived. Why me?"
My old golf partner is left with a rather unique and incredible perspective. I can guarantee that he will NEVER FORGET.
"Everyone remembers where they were," Josh concluded. "It's universal. I bet you anything that you can tell me where you were. Well, I was there. And I was one of the lucky ones."
Josh continues to work for Morgan Stanley in his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia. He and his lovely bride Stephanie are proud parents of a one-year-old son named Hayes. Josh is still polite and he still has a great short game. NEVER FORGET. #cheers.