Emporia native who escaped North Tower recalls September 11th attacks

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:42 PM CDT
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(WIBW) - Emporia native Mark Pauls just started his workday at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield on September 11, 2001.

“It was a beautiful day, plenty of sunshine,” he recalled.

“I had just spent about half an hour getting ready to go to the conference room for some training class we had every month and that’s when the plane the first plane hit.”

Pauls was on the 29th floor of the North Tower. when he said his reflexes went into action.

“I instinctively grabbed and held on and thought the building was gonna collapse right then and there,” he recounted.

“When it didn’t, that’s when you saw all the debris falling outside the window and then I heard someone yell ‘go,go, go’ and I went to the exits.”

He said he was out of the tower in 15 minutes just as the first firefighters arrived on scene. He and a coworker started walking towards the Bronx.

“I dashed, ran across the street and I did not look up but then eventually I did look up and saw this huge hole and thought ‘that’s no little airplane’.”

“We thought ‘we’re not going to be able to do anything here, let’s start walking’ so within five minutes we were walking away and we were aways away when the second building collapsed...something told us not to stay around and thank goodness we didn’t.”

He said mentally recovering was a slow process.

“I think your body, emotionally, you protect yourself and some of the people went back downtown to see what was going on and stuff and I stayed home and I didn’t push things,” he said.

“Some of the things I didn’t remember until years later I notice anytime a building shook for years I would get scared so that was the one thing, but the sound of the debris falling I didn’t remember that until about 10 years later.”

The experience left him with a newfound appreciation for his life.

“You were part of a group of people that survived people someone tried to kill you and you survived you know and that was a good thing,” he said.

“Going down to the world trade center today and the museum you realize how lucky you are.”

He hopes people keep one thing in mind if they know a survivor or a victim’s loved ones.

“Don’t forget the impact on people and their process and their lives is continuing and will continue for a very long time.”

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