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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Tower survivor's 78th floor escape
Enniskillen man Myles Donnelly
Choked by emotion Myles recounts his story
BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight team has been to New York for a special report on the Irish-American community caught up in the terrorist attacks in the US.

Among those they spoke to was Myles Donnelly from Enniskillen, who survived against terrible odds. BBC NI producer Marie Irvine heard his story.

In the south tower of the World Trade Center, Myles Donnelly was at his desk on the 78th floor on the morning of 11 September.

The 30-year-old credit controller had checked his e-mails and had browsed BBC News Online's Northern Ireland site to check on the news back home.

I have experienced various explosions before at home. All you want to do is get yourself clear

Myles Donnelly

"I believe that's what I was looking at when I felt this shudder, heard a bang and the building shook," he said.

Moments later, as debris began to rain from the tower, Myles knew something was terribly wrong.

He said: "I have experienced various explosions before at home. All you want to do is get yourself clear, out of harm's way."

He called out to his colleagues that he was leaving. One of them decided to go with him, but two others were uncertain and said they would stay there for the time being.

World Trade Center towers as they were
Myles worked on the 78th floor of the south tower
As Myles walked to the open lift doors, he did not know he would never see either of them again.

He was already outside the south tower when it was hit. At ground level, he ran three blocks to the offices where his wife and her father worked to make sure they were both safe.

Feared missile attack

The office became their bunker for the next couple of hours as both towers collapsed and downtown Manhatten metamorphised into a war zone.

Myles and seven others were at his father-in-law's office for the collapse of both towers.

The noise of what they later realised were F16 fighter jets had everyone under the desks, believing they were now under missile attack.

WTC attack
The collapse of Tower 2
"It was only when we actually managed to spot one of these planes that we realised that it was one of ours and not one of theirs."

A changed world awaited when Myles finally ventured outside.

The white cloying dust was inches thick and if Myles had ever imagined what the aftermath of a nuclear attack looked like, this was it.

A little later the family were on a ferry to the other side of the Hudson River.


As they got off the boat they were greeted by scores of military and medical personnel.

Fearing these survivors had been exposed to chemical or biological warfare they were told they would have to be decontaminated.

"They were afraid of some sort of biological weapon or germ having been on the plane.

It sounds an awful thing for a grown man to say but I think I am afraid of the dark again

Myles Donnelly

"We were fully clothed and we were hosed down by the fire department and were then herded to a series of medical examinations.

"Only after all this was completed were we allowed to go to our homes.

"It sounds an awful thing for a grown man to say but I think I am afraid of the dark again," said Myles.

"I can't sleep at night and I see the faces of my colleagues all the time."

Flowers for the dead
"I see the faces of my colleagues all the time"
Gulping back tears, he told how he could not wait to see his family in Enniskillen later this month.

"I can't wait, I just want to hug my father and my brothers, my sister...

"It's hard to be so far away at a time like this."

You can hear more of Myles' story and other survivors and rescue workers from the Irish-American community on Spotlight, Tuesday 25 September at 2240 BST.

  Click here to watch.

Attacks survivor Myles Donnelly from Enniskillen
"I am thankful to be alive and I want to make the most of my opportunities"
See also:

20 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Spotlight on the internet
13 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Belfast paramedic recalls US terror
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