New Jersey resident, George Mironis, will never forget where he was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Mironis was working as an office manager for Dai-Ichi Kangyo, a Japanese bank, on the 48th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Like any other morning, Mironis arrived at his office earlier than most at around 7:30 a.m. At 8:46 a.m., Mironis felt as if an unknown force was pushing him back.
He felt the floor of his office move back and forth. He glanced out of his office window and saw debris and glass falling, “like a blizzard,” from the upper floors of the tower. Still unsure of what was happening, Mironis gathered his coworkers and headed to the nearest stairwell. “I saw many people being carried down with severe burns,” he said, “I still didn’t know what was going on. About halfway down, firefighters started coming up for people. One patted me on the back and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re all going to be okay.’”
Mironis finally reached the lobby of the North Tower, ran across the glass-covered floor and on to the World Trade Center plaza. Mironis recalls seeing people on the plaza frantically screaming for colleagues and friends still in the towers. It was then that he learned what happened; two planes had hit both the towers. He watched the South Tower sway back and forth and ran off the plaza and on to the corner of Vesey and Church Street just as the South Tower collapsed.
Mironis ran toward the east side of Manhattan and began walking uptown. “I saw people covered in debris as I was walking,” he said, “Hospitals and stores were passing out water bottles to anyone who walked by.” Once he reached midtown, Mironis walked over to 32nd Street and 12th Avenue, where he waited more than three hours for a ferry back to New Jersey. Once home, Mironis remembers immediately falling asleep, exhausted from the distress of the day.
After 9/11, Mironis continued to work for Dai-Ichi Kangyo out of their Jersey City, N.J. office until early 2003. Mironis held a few other positions after leaving the Japanese bank and began working as a visitor services host in at the 9/11 Memorial in April 2012.
He is happy to share his story with visitors when they ask where he was on 9/11 and noted some get very emotional when he tells his story. For Mironis, the memorial itself has a very personal meaning. Though he survived the attacks, many of his friends and coworkers did not. Mironis lost 16 friends and 23 coworkers in both the North and South Towers on 9/11. He often visits their names on each of the pools on the plaza and keeps a note with their names, along with what tower they worked in, on him at all times.
Mironis also honors the memory of the firefighter he encountered in the stairwell that morning. About a week after 9/11, Mironis revisited ground zero and St. Paul’s Chapel. Just inside the chapel’s entrance, among pictures of missing people, Mironis noticed one picture that looked exactly like the firefighter he had met. “I immediately started crying because I knew he didn’t make it,” Mironis said. To this day, he visits FDNY Ladder Company 10 House, across from the memorial, once a week and leaves a candle in a glass jar just outside the firehouse. “It still brings a tear to my eye,” he said.
By Emily Bonta, 9/11 Memorial Communications Intern