Europe

‘Ten seconds later, I would have died’: Frenchman recalls 9/11 trauma

A French businessman has been recalling the moment he survived the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Bruno Dellinger, speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of the disaster, said his office was on the 47th floor of the North Tower.

Arriving early on September 11, 2001, he recalls the moments before the first plane struck the building at 8:46 am local time.

“We were living in the sky in the World Trade Center, in an immense silence, unlike the rest of the city. I was contemplating the view,” he told Euronews. “Two of my employees arrived and I was checking my e-mails when suddenly I heard the shrill sound of the jet engines, a strange noise that was beyond comprehension. Then, there was the immediate impact on the façade where my office was, about twenty floors above.

“I experienced first-hand the collapsing facades, the building rocking in a very, very disturbing way. (…) You could feel that you were on the verge of breaking. It lasted a very long time, two, three minutes,” Dellinger added.

Despite the fact that he didn’t see a plane straight away, the businessman immediately thought of one.

Not wanting to panic, he initially stayed in his office before realising he needed to leave.

“I walked by a group of people who were taking a different staircase from the one I took, they died,” he added. “My descent lasted 50 minutes, but I got out. It was very complicated amid terrible heat. (…) I could have died on 50 different occasions that day. If I had left ten seconds later, I would indeed have died.”

Once out on the street and in a state of shock, Dellinger witnessed the collapse of the towers, before a gigantic cloud of dust engulfed him.

He recalls this experience as particularly traumatising, saying that “in the space of a few seconds, everything became blacker than night” and “there wasn’t a sound”.

“Overwhelmed by the elements, my body thought it was dead. All these things: the noise, the lights, the sound, the breathing — these are things that we do not need to learn, we know them from birth.

“But when they are challenged by the force of events, the body, the mind no longer understand.”

Distressed and terrified, the businessman waited three months before finding the courage to return to the scene of the attack.

“Rebuilding myself was a complicated process because I was a ball of pain. Psychologically, I was dead.”

“When I was walking down the street and I saw a sign of life, like, the sun shining, I would say to myself: ‘This is not possible because you are dead’. Like I had a fuse that exploded in my head. The signs of life began to reappear a month, two months later: silly things like tasting a good tomato for example,” he said.

Now back to work, the businessman wrote a book, “World Trade Centre, 47e étage” retelling his traumatic experience. Twenty years later, he still examines the difficult process of coming to terms with what happened.

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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