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Tad Hanc continued to stare at that jet, thinking fast as it flew at over five hundred miles per hour directly at the tower. It must be engine trouble or some other mechanical problem, Tad figured, looking to see if there was any smoke trail coming out from behind the aircraft. But he saw nothing that indicated mechanical troubles and concluded that it must be a pilot problem. Mesmerized by the rapidly unfolding event, both curious and perplexed at an aircraft flying so low over Manhattan, Tad hoped that the pilot was taking corrective action, doing everything possible to steer the aircraft away from the tower. As he stood, frozen, looking out his window, he realized that the plane was flying not only toward the tower, but that it was approaching very, very fast—aiming directly toward his window—directly at him!

###

“Charlie!” Jim Usher exclaimed, surprised to see him walking into the office. “What are you doing down here?” Charlie had been on the 108th floor of Tower One repairing an emergency digital transfer relay switch on the new fiber-optic signal repeater system Jim’s company was installing. When he discovered that he needed a part, he picked up his new two-way radio to ask an associate to bring it up. But the radio was dead! So he had to go to all the inconvenience and trouble of locking the electrical relay room door, walking down to the107th floor, taking the local elevator to the seventy-eighth-floor sky lobby, transferring to the express elevator to the main lobby, hiking through the mall, going down the stairwell behind Ben & Jerry’s, and walking through the maze of the B-1 level of the South Tower to the office to get a lousy ten-cent part that someone could have brought up to him. Life was damned inconvenient at times, he thought, annoyed.

###

Helena Marietta had just swiped her WTC access ID card through a turnstile in the main lobby of the North Tower, and was standing in the center of the express elevator headed up to the seventy-eighth-floor sky lobby. Growing up on her daddy’s horse ranch in Montana, she had always wanted to work in the Twin Towers. After graduating high school, Helena had gone to secretarial school. At her request and to her delight the school placed her with a large financial services firm headquartered on the upper floors of the North Tower. She’d been with the firm for eight months now, and the commute was routine. Helena had been out late with her boyfriend the night before and she was running a few minutes late. She stood with her eyes closed, blocking out all the other passengers. Just one more minute of peace and quiet, she thought. She marveled at how quickly the elevator rose, evidenced by the slight pressure in the soles of her feet, the pressure building in her ears, and the faint whooshing sound of air flowing past the cab. It was all very peaceful.

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In the last instant that Tad Hanc knew he had left on this earth, watching that big airliner aimed directly at his window—directly at him—he saw the nose of the aircraft raise slightly, turning faintly to the east. And in that same moment he noticed the silhouettes of the pilots in the cockpit and of passengers in the windows. As the plane disappeared, Tad saw the American Airlines logo on the starboard side.