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September 30, 2001

Trade Group Staff Escapes Tragedy

By John A. Byrne

On the morning of Sept. 11, Lee Korins was on a conference call in the 45th floor offices of the STA in the north tower of the World Trade Center. It was an ordinary morning that was changed by an extraordinary event.

Korins remembers hearing a tremendous explosive sound around 8.45 a.m. "I lived in California for 10 years. I've being through several earthquakes there. This explosion shook the building, at least initially more than any building in California I had been in during an earthquake," recalled the STA president.

Then he began to see debris falling outside his window and he smelled smoke.

Korins knew immediately it was time to evacuate. He headed for the stairwell with STA staffers, Walter Dolengo and Renee Johnson. "At that point I had no way to know it was an airplane that had struck the building. I thought maybe it was a bomb. I thought maybe some of the heavy equipment up on top of the building had been damaged," Korins said.

It took them about 45 harrowing minutes to walk down the stairwell. "At one point everyone had to move aside because they were bringing down some people who were badly burned. That was a horrendous sight," Korins said.

On the 10th floor there was a sudden rush of water from a burst pipe, soaking the stairwell. When they reached the first floor they escaped the building through an opening made by firefighters. Korins learned from the crowds fleeing uptown that the building had been struck by a plane. He will never forget what he saw next.

"I made it up six blocks heading north in about 45 minutes when suddenly the north tower came down," he recalled. "You could taste the dirt in the air."

Korins said it is hard for him to find meaning in the destruction. "It was an act of wild-eye revolutionaries, a despicable act on innocent people," he said.