Staples' story of survival on 9/11

Friday, September 30, 2011

When Adam Staples arrived in New York on Sept. 10, 2001, he was expecting to have a successful three weeks training as a broker with Stanley and Morgan, located in the South Tower of the Twin Towers. He recalls the first day being very successful.

Adam Staples speaks to the Harrisburg Rotary Club about his survival during the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. (DT Photo/JACKIE WILSON)

Staples told his story this week to Harrisburg Rotary Club members, sharing his life-changing experience on Sept. 11, 2001.

Originally from Piggott, Staples was excited about his opportunity to work with the "big dogs" in New York City, learning from the best. His first day went off without a hitch. The following day, Staples began the morning at 8 with a speaker. The speaker ended early and Staples left the 61st floor of the South Tower and went down to the 43rd floor for some breakfast. That is when he got the news that an aircraft had hit the North Tower.

He immediately went up to the 61st floor to meet with his group.

"I looked out the window (to the North Tower) and saw all this paper flying out," Staples said. "The building was on fire too. I started to realize this was more serious than I originally thought."

Then came an explosion.

"I knew I needed to get out of the building immediately," he said. "I knew it had been intentional and that we were under attack."

The second plane hit the South Tower between the 77th and 85th floors.

Staples recalled how two stairwells emptied into one bottleneck of people at the food court at the 43rd floor. Everyone was being directed into one designated stairwell.

"The closer I got to the bottom, the more nervous I became," he said. "I felt myself losing control of how fast I could make it down the stairs due to the crowd. The last 10 to 15 floors I started seeing cracks and dust or smoke coming from the bottom of the stairs."

Staples stopped twice once he finally got out of the building -- once to borrow a woman's cell phone to make a call, which did not go through, and once more to stop at a parked taxi cab with a crowd listening to the radio. That is when he found out the Pentagon had been hit.

He was just blocks away when the South Tower finally did collapse, just 56 minutes after being hit. It was after noon when Staples finally reached the hotel, where the other 292 people from his group were waiting. He was one of the last to arrive, but eventually everyone from the group made it out.

It took Staples a long time before he was able to get a call through to his mother. When he did finally call home, he was greeted not only by his mom, but the community.

"There were probably 100 people sitting in my house waiting to hear from me," he said.

The boys from Arkansas in the group eventually got a hold of an SUV and made the journey home from New York, driving straight through the night.

"The strangest thing in all of this is that I'm just a normal person," Staples said. "Now I'm in newspapers and speaking to Rotary Clubs. It has given me a stage though, to talk about my faith in Jesus Christ. I'm thankful for that."

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