Mother recalls fear for her son as towers collapsed
On Sept. 10 of last year, Marcia Graves of Castle Rock had a mouse in her cupboard that she worried might get into some food and make a mess.
“It ruined my whole day,” she said.
But the following morning she would reassess her stress from the day before and realize just how insignificant her worry over a rodent was.
Right after finding out that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, her daughter-in-law, Jennifer, called from Minnesota.
Jennifer told Graves that her son, Mike Graves, was in New York and had stayed on the 24th floor of the Marriott Hotel, which connects the two towers.
“We didn’t even know he was there because he travels so much,” Graves said.
“That’s when I started looking at the television with different eyes. I began looking at it with mother’s eyes. I asked the Lord to hide Mike under the shadow of his wings.”
Tuesday night at the Craig Holiday Inn, Marcia Graves shared her son’s story with members of the Craig After 5 club.
While Jennifer informed Graves that morning that Mike had just called and said he was OK, Graves sat and wondered if her son was still alive as she watched the second tower get hit, and both towers fall.
Mike was scheduled to have a meeting at 9:30 a.m. that day on the 95th floor of Tower 1, she said.
He had originally intended on being on the 95th floor at 9 a.m. for breakfast, but the night before, the taxi driver had taken him to the wrong hotel, and he did not get to the correct hotel until 2 a.m.
Because he got in so late, he decided to sleep in as late as possible.
“Had he kept his original schedule he would have been in Tower 1 on the 95th floor when the first plane hit,” she said.
But instead, he was just rolling out of bed and on the 24th floor of Mariott and getting ready when he felt a huge thud and the building bounce.
He began to walk toward the window to see what had happened when a piece of debris flew threw the window he was walking toward.
Graves said her son grabbed his clothes, his cellular phone and a room key and ran into the hallway to get dressed and proceeded down the stairs.
“As he left the building a woman was following him,” Graves said. “All of a sudden he didn’t hear her anymore and looked behind him. She had been sliced in half by an object that had fallen on her.”
Graves said Mike walked outside to billowing smoke, falling debris and “bodies that were literally falling from the sky like apples off a tree.”
Mike later told his mother that as he left the building it felt like he was living in a Tom Clancy novel.
“He couldn’t believe what was happening just like you at home could not believe it was happening as you watched it on T.V.,” Graves said.
Mike ran to a park next to a small business in which a man came out and asked if anyone wanted to use the phone.
“Everyone wanted to use the phone,” Graves said.
Luckily Mike was close to the man when he asked and ended up being fourth in line to make a call.
It was at that time that he called his wife to tell her that he was OK, who then relayed the message to Graves.
By the time he got off the telephone there were more than 100 people waiting to use it, Graves said.
Mike walked about three blocks from the Trade Center and watched as police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel rushed toward the towers.
He sat on the curb and watched what was happening.
He said it began to sway, at which time it collapsed.
As the smoke and debris began to bellow out from the collapsed building, he ran about 100 yards and took refuge under a dump truck, covering his face with his T-shirt.
No sooner did he get under the truck when a huge piece of debris crushed an ambulance parked just a few yards from where the dump truck was.
The day turned black.
As the smoke began to clear, he began to walk, and Graves described in her son’s words that “it was so silent, like walking on the moon,” she said. “No one spoke.”
He walked another three blocks to where a triage was being set up and tried to assist with those who were injured.
But then he heard more rumbling and realized the second tower was collapsing.
He took refuge behind a car, once again covering his face with his T-shirt and waited out the gust of smoke and debris.
By noon about 200 to 300 people were already lined up to donate blood, and Mike got in line,
“Those in line started singing ‘Amazing Grace,'” she said. “He said he got through the first three words then wept.”
For the rest of the day, Mike walked.
When he dashed out of his room that morning he had not taken any money, and his cellular phone did not work.
He was in a city where he knew no one.
He walked about 10 miles that day trying to figure out what to do and where to go, Graves said.
Later in the afternoon, miles from the towers, Mike, who was bloodied and covered in dirt from his experience, was approached by a man.
“The man said, ‘You’ve been through a lot,'” Graves said. “Then gave him $20.”
That was all Mike needed to get himself help.
Graves said she received another call from Mike at 5 p.m. saying he was OK.
He was able to contact a friend in Pittsburgh who picked him up.
That friend sent Graves an e-mail that night saying “Mike has changed forever” and relayed some of what Mike had told him about the day.
The end of the message read: “What struck him mosts was how
fast death was.”
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