Jim Long, software development manager for IQ Financial, a computer software company for the financial industry, was on the 83rd floor of the South Tower when the first plane crashed into the North Tower.
"I heard just a monstrous crash and saw a fireball flying by my window," said Mr. Long. He couldn't see the plane, just the fireball wrapping around the building where it struck. He immediately got up and made for the exit stairwell.
"My boss just yelled `Get the hell out of here,"' he said.
From the 83rd floor, he took the stairs down to the 44th "Sky Lobby" where Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. is located. Everyone was congregating around a television, which showed that a plane had just hit the North Tower, he said.
At that point, he said some people actually went back up to their office, thinking it was an isolated incident, but about five minutes later, the second plane hit Two World Trade Center.
Before the second plane hit, Mr. Long said he was waiting in the lobby, not sure whether to take the elevator or the stairs down. "I knew I wasn't going back to my office because I was pretty scared at this point even if Tower 2 was fine, I still wanted to get out."
Didn't know about danger
When the second plane hit, he felt the impact as it crashed into the building only about 20 floors above him. But he didn't know what it was. "Nobody I was with had any clue that this was another plane hitting or that the towers were in jeopardy of falling," Mr. Long said.
"I was in the sky lobby for about five minutes; three of those waiting to figure out what to do and two of those trying to get to the staircase after the second plane hit."
People immediately started heading down the stairs and the elevator upon the sound of the second plane, he said. He took the stairs because he had gotten stuck in the elevator a few weeks ago.
He said the exit down the stairways was organized and orderly as people descended. Around the fifth floor, he said, the stairwell started getting smoky and at that point he knew it was something very serious.
When he got outside and came up on Chambers Street, "there was a smoking jet engine on the street just north of Chambers," Mr. Long said.
Mr. Long said all but five of the 90 employees at his company have been accounted for. "I can only hope that the five that are missing turn up and they turn up OK."