Gary Grigg

Gary Grigg, a 1988 Providence graduate, was in the South Tower when it was attacked.

As Gary Grigg strolled through the rows and rows of photos featured in the Louisville Public Library’s “11 Remembered” exhibit, the emotions become apparent.

The feelings of panic and anger began to swell inside his body, just like they did on the fateful day — Sept. 11, 2001.

“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about something,” Grigg said as he looked at the photos on loan from the New York Historical Society. “For me it’s different things. From a plane going by or an ambulance siren.”

Grigg has every reason to remember the day America was attacked by terrorists and saw about 3,000 lives claimed. He was right in the middle of the chaos.

The New Albany resident — and 1989 Providence High School graduate — was in New York City for business on Sept. 11, 2001. For two days, he worked on the 61st floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower.

Things couldn’t be better. He was in New York City, enjoying the perfect weather, and was working in one of the most famous buildings in the world.

But in a matter of seconds, that perfect situation turned into a living hell.

“I remember running down the staircase and asking myself ‘why me,’” he said. “Why am I here.”

Grigg said the events of Sept. 11 are still vivid. He said he was talking to two friends during a work break when, at 8:46 a.m., hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower.

“We heard the explosion and saw debris falling from the sky,” he said.

So Grigg and hundreds other started making their way to the bottom of the South Tower — either by elevator or staircase. He said as he reached the 44th floor, the warning siren stopped and the Port Authority gave the all-clear that the South Tower was safe and workers were cleared to go back to their offices.

But moments after hearing those reassuring words, a second hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 175, hit the 79th floor of the South Tower.

“I will never forget that sound and how everything was tossed to the right,” he said. “We went from a clean, air-conditioned enviornment to a building full of smoke and heat.”

Once the South Tower was hit, he began to make his way down 44 flights of steps along with his two friends. He called it “controlled chaos.”

“Everything was moving slow the first time we went down the steps,” he said. “But after our building was hit, everything started moving so fast.”

Despite being scared, worn out from running down 44 flights of steps, and on the verge of hyperventilating, Grigg and his pals made it out of the South Tower. When they hit the streets, and looked to the sky, they couldn’t believe what they saw.

“We thought bombs had gone off; we had no idea passenger jets with innocent Americans on board had hit the towers,” he said.

Twenty minutes after escaping the South Tower, it collapsed. Moments after that, the North Tower fell.

Grigg said he just kept running until he reached his hotel some 76 blocks away from Ground Zero. He had survived the most horrific day in American history, but the memories will never be forgotten.

Grigg said in some ways, he has changed since the attack. He said he is more conservative today and said he views the world differently.

“When I look back, I have a lot of anger,” he said. “I’m not politically correct. It baffles me to hear what people say after going through something like this and seeing innocent people die.

“If the British government didn’t have wire tapping, look how many people might have died (in a recent terrorist plot to blow up airplanes that was halted). To me it’s worth giving up a few liberties so no one will have to go through something like that (9/11) again.”

Grigg said he has never advertised the fact that he was in the South Tower when it was attacked. He said he speaks to students in Larry Denison’s history class at Providence High School, but that is usually the extent of it. Grigg said he doesn’t watch television shows or movies about the event.

“I don’t bring it up. I don’t go out of my way to talk about it,” he said.

Grigg said while he still has flashbacks, he has gotten over the fear and anxiety of that day.

“I went back to work as soon as I could. I wanted my clients to know I was alive and well,” he said. “It’s taken a while. When I first got back, I would wake up drenched after having nightmares or flashbacks about the smoke and heat.

“While I no longer have nightmares, it’s something I will never forget.”

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