By Michelle Hillman / News Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 9, 2003
FRAMINGHAM -- Two years later, Joyce Ng still remembers the blond woman screaming in the hallway, warning guests at 3 World Trade Center to get out.
Then there was the British man who picked up the contents of her wallet for her as she ran from the Marriott Hotel -- a building nestled between the towers.
Later, the towers collapsed and obliterated the building where Ng and more than 900 hotel guests had slept the night before. The building was small compared with the towers that shared the same address, and Ng believes the hotel has been "forgotten."
To her and others who survived that morning, escaping 3 World Trade Center was nothing short of hell. This month Ng, 29, launched the Marriott WTC Survivors Web site to give other survivors a place to share their stories.
Shortly after she returned home to Framingham, Ng said she posted an account of her day at 3 World Trade Center on Internet sites triggering a chain of responses from other survivors.
"I wanted to forget, but the funny thing is, it's a small world and Marriott guests started contacting me," Ng said.
Ng realized after hearing from other survivors there was a need to create a central place for people to share stories about that day and how they've coped in the days since.
"It's part of the healing process actually to be able to share stories," she said. "It's helped me out tremendously."
The site features a picture of the Marriott in the shadow of the ominous towers. It includes hotel information, a timeline of events, including when the towers fell, as well as links to trauma Web sites for survivors.
Thinking back, Ng recalled there was a loud explosion that shook the building. Ng later learned it was the first plane slamming into the north tower, and she looked out her hotel window to see glass and debris falling from the building.
Ng called the front desk to find out whether it was a construction accident, but found the line busy. She went into the hallway, but no one knew what was happening.
If it had not been for the blond woman yelling in the hallway, Ng said she would have stayed in her hotel room longer.
A few minutes later, she grabbed her cell phone and wallet and raced down 13 flights of stairs to the ground floor. As huge chunks of building crashed to the ground -- some hitting fleeing people -- Ng went up one floor to the hotel lobby.
There a police officer was directing people out of the hotel telling them not to look up. Instinct forced Ng and others to look up.
"I saw the tower burning in flames," she said. "I was speechless. I was sad. I was thinking about the people burning in there, dying at that moment. Everyone around me, they were captivated by the image. They couldn't peel their eyes away."
Ng doesn't remember how long she watched the horror, but the next thing she knew, a plane was flying low overhead. At first she thought it was the military coming to help. It was the second plane hitting the south tower at 9:03 a.m.
"It was the most deafening sound. It was really, really loud," she said. "It shook buildings. That's when I got scared. Everyone was running. I started running. At that point I thought we were under attack."
She ran to a subway and got on the first train she saw. Another man who ran from the same area sat beside her with glass in his eyes. Ng couldn't speak and was shaking.
Passengers complained when the train -- heading north into Manhattan -- stopped. They were going to be late for work. The train then headed south away from the devastation.
With time, Ng said it has become easier to accept the events of Sept. 11, but she continues to be fearful of loud noises and tall buildings. She is reminded daily what she lived through in both nightmares and blessings.
She is also haunted by the guilt that she lived and others didn't. Todd Hill, a Framingham High School graduate, died while staying on the 17th floor of the Marriott Hotel at the World Trade Center.
A software consultant who had traveled to New York City on business, at least a dozen times earlier that year and a Brooklyn native, Ng said she remembers the twin towers as a landmark in the city.
After escaping the Marriott, Ng made her way north on the subway and walked around in Manhattan for hours. She eventually landed midtown on 49th street where she watched the towers collapse on televisions placed outside by restaurant and bar owners.
Ng can recite what transpired the rest of the day by heart. She remembers the people who asked her if she needed money in the bar somewhere near 49th street when she finally had the strength to speak.
The sleepless night after she found a bed in the ballroom of a hotel filled with other people who had nowhere to go. They were surrounded by television images of carnage. Later, she remembers being given a hotel room overlooking Times Square and fearing a plane would crash into her room.
For all she witnessed, Ng said the Marriott and its survivors are forgotten with the media's focus primarily on the towers.
The Web site is to remember a day that continues to haunt her in sight and sound.
Recently, a car's exhaust backfired, and Ng said she jumped three feet. Walking by the John Hancock tower in Boston is not easy. She doesn't stay in high-rise hotels.
Ng said as time goes by people are not as sympathetic to the lifelong trauma she must face. The site is a way for survivors to find comfort in each other.
"It is important to just reflect on what happened and be grateful we are alive," she said. "It's part of me, being a survivor of the Sept. 11 attacks."
Ng is hoping to find more survivors, including the blond woman or British man through the Web site at www.sept11marriottsurvivors.org.
Michelle Hillman can be reached at 508-626-4447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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