This resonates for me in so many ways. But Paul Carris’ experience of 9/11 was far more personal, intimate and intense — quite literally, a matter of life and death.
Out of that, a vocation was born.
From OSV News:
On a September morning 22 years ago, now-Deacon Paul Carris of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, settled into his cubicle in a New York skyscraper — the iconic World Trade Center 1, also known as the North Tower.
Six weeks earlier, the civil engineer — a 46-year-old layman at the time and a self-described “compartmentalized” Catholic, whose faith was neatly segmented from other areas of his life — had left his private consulting work to rejoin the staff of his former employer, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
If skies were clear, the 70,000 tourists and employees on site each day at the North Tower and its sister South Tower could see 45 miles in every direction from the top floors. The vista was no less stunning down on the 71st floor, where Deacon Carris had a window view.
“I hadn’t even opened all my boxes yet,” Deacon Carris told OSV News Sept. 7. “And I was in a new department. So I really, I knew maybe one or two people, but most of the people were all new to me.”
Yet on that cool, picture-perfect morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he was moments away from several life-changing meetings — with a fellow North Tower worker, with God and with himself.
“I’d just gotten off the phone with my manager, and I heard a huge, loud roar and then (an) impact to the building,” he said.
At 8:46 a.m, American Airlines Flight 11, which had been hijacked by five terrorists from the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaida, crashed into floors 93 through 99 of the North Tower. The 76 passengers and 11 crew members on board were killed instantly, along with hundreds in the building. Above the 91st floor, hundreds remained trapped.
Minutes later, another five hijackers from al-Qaida drove United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower, immediately killing 51 passengers, nine crew members and an undetermined number of building occupants. Another 50 to more than 200 of those in both towers are believed to have jumped to their deaths after the impacts…
… Deacon Carris told OSV News it “literally took three or four days after the event” to process the sequence of events that led to his escape from the North Tower.
“The building … tilted so far that it almost felt like it was going to keep going over,” he said. “And then it just rocked back and forth into place.”
As flaming debris cascaded across the windows, Deacon Carris and his co-workers began to evacuate.
What happened next would change the course of his life. Read on.