Adapted from Memories - Connie Labetti, WTC survivor and Colleague of Ron Fazio

The day started out like any other normal day: rushing to get my 10-year-old son off to school and rushing to catch my express bus to the city. I have done this trip and worked at the World Trade Center for many years.

As I made it to work with no time to spare, I ran to catch my elevator to the sky lobby in WTC # 2, the 78th floor, and then took another elevator to AonRe on the 99th floor. As I got to my desk a few of the men were standing around by my cubicle just talking. The time was 8:40. My usual routine was to drop off my bags and head for the ladies room but that morning my message light was on. I always check my messages first in case it is regarding my son. However, it was a business call. As I was writing down the information, the men were ending their conversations and heading back to their offices, when my manager Ron Fazio commented on how low a plane was flying. I didn’t pay him any mind. I have worked up there so long and have seen almost everything from blimps to helicopters.

Seconds later his voice was shrieking in such a high pitch that it made the hair on my arms stand up right, “Look at the plane it’s too low.” I stood up at my desk and just turned my body around to face the window and a few of the men came out of their offices when Ron screamed, “Oh My GOD it’s going to hit us! Get away from the windows!” As the men ran, I couldn’t move. I just stood frozen to this horrible sight. I could see the plane clearly, and the AA (American Airlines) on the tail. I could see the tinted windows of the cockpit. I watch with absolute horror the plane crashing into the tower only a few floors below where my office was. There was a large puff of white smoke and then inside the smoke was a deep red, which appeared to be blood, but in fact was fire. Then dark gray, almost black smoke engulfed the top 30 floors of Tower 1. Debris was flying all over the place and hitting into our building. My co-workers have commented on the sound, the sound of the plane coming towards us and of it hitting the tower, but I have no memory of sound, just the visual. It looked like the plane decapitated the top 20 floors of Tower 1. You could feel the heat of the fire from across the tower.

My initial instinct was “Oh thank God it didn’t hit us” and then I thought of all those people in Tower 1, especially my old friends that I had worked with at Marsh & McLennan and Risk solutions Insurance.

There wasn’t any time to mourn or even think. Ron was screaming to get out and run to the stairs. I am not sure if he had a premonition of what was to come or was worried that the debris was going to hit into Tower 2. The few people that witnessed this went right for the stairs, however some people stayed, probably thinking there was no immediate danger to our building. Unfortunately, they did not make it.

Ron ran to the stairwell. We followed a few people were coming down the opposite side of the hallway and Ron was screaming at them to run to the stairwell. One girl was screaming she had to get her purse and he said “NO, there isn’t time go now” and she lived!

As I saw the people going for the stairs I turned back to my cubicle just for a moment, grabbed my sneakers from my desk, and took a look around. I knew that I would never see it again. I would never be back after seeing what I saw. I could never work in a skyscraper again.

When I got to the stairs they were empty I just assumed Ron and everyone were running a few floors ahead of me. However, Ron had gone to the other side of the floor to make sure that everyone was evacuating. Through communication we found out that Ron did make it down stairs after rallying more of our co-workers to evacuate quickly and holding the doors for them. Sadly he did not get far enough away when the building collapsed to spare his life.

Ron Fazio was a HERO that day for myself, and many of us. Because of his initial gut reaction to get us out of there, I am alive today and so are many of my colleagues. He did not hesitate, he moved. He was the only one to take control and made all the right decisions so that our lives were spared. I pray that there will never be another day as that day. Ron showed unselfishness in a time of unconscionable fear.

This type of character is undying and his sprit will live on though me. Throughout history, tragic events have turned ordinary people into extraordinary heroes. He was no Fireman. He was no Policeman. He was a BRAVEHEART. His concern was for his friends and co-workers. Even as he reached the ground floor, his priority was for our safety and us. If it weren’t for him I would not be here.

I know he is up in Heaven HOLDING THE DOOR for all who have passed on. WE WILL NEVER FORGET 9/11 AND RON FAZIO!