Gulfport Native Survives New York City Terror

Pam Stennis witnessed the attack on America, from ground zero in New York City.

She worked for a banking and investment firm, on the 59th floor of tower number two.

While many of us watched the news coverage in horror last Tuesday, Stennis and others were running for their lives.

Stennis says, at times, it felt like things were moving in slow motion as she and others scrambled to escape from the World Trade Towers. As those tragic events began to unfold, she and her fellow workers had no earthly idea what was happening.

"Here's the 44th sky lobby, I'm right here when this one went through."

Stennis pointed to a newspaper illustration of the attack as she relived the tragedy.

She worked on the 59th floor of the south tower. Her office shook when that first plane hit the neighboring high rise.

"And I spun around on my heels and ran to the window. And there was monumental amounts of debris. There was so much paper it looked like a ticker tape parade."

Stennis and her fellow workers quickly headed for the stairwell, despite pleas from a girlfriend who wanted to grab things from her desk.

"And she said, I have to go back for my wedding pictures. And I said you've got negatives at home. Move it! We don't care about wedding pictures!"

She made it to the ground floor lobby in about 15 minutes; just in time to take cover when the second plane slammed into her building.

"I could hear stuff hitting the street. And I could hear fire burning and I could hear the glass imploding down around me. And the air came rushing back through the building. I could hear metal cracking and hitting the floor. I could hear the glass hitting, just falling and hitting the ground. I could hear the chandeliers cracking."

On her rush out of the building, she ran into a group of New York firefighters who were headed in.

"I told the guys, you cannot go in there! You cannot go in there! And he looked at me and said, Don't worry about me honey. That's my job. You just get out of here. I know he went into that building. I know he went up those stairs as everyone else was coming down. And I know that he probably went down with that building."

Once on the street, Stennis and others simply ran. She finally got some sense of what was happening from local news reports.

The enormity of her experience is still sinking in. Her workplace no longer exists.

"There's a terrible hole in the soul of New York City. And there's a terrible hole in the soul of everybody in New York. I looked to the south and there was nothing there."