September 11, 2006 - Posted at 3:12 p.m. CDT
WALNUT RIDGE, AR -- As Region 8 remembers the anniversary of September 11th, many of us can recall where we were when we heard the news the Attack on America began.
Piggott native Adam Staples was on the 61st floor of the South Tower training with Morgan Stanley on September 11th, 2001. Believe it or not, today he says he's thankful for the events of that day.
"From the time that I got out of the elevator and onto the 61st floor, I walked to the window and right when I got to the window, that's when the plane hit the South Tower," recalled Staples, "And as soon as that happened, there was absolutely no doubt whether or not I should stay there or not. You definitely knew something major had just happened."
"I finally made my way into the stairwell and you could see the gap in the handrails all the way to the floor. From there I could see hands on the handrail to the bottom and I thought, there are going to be a lot of us that never make it out of here. You could actually hear the building creak a little bit and smell the smoke and it got thicker and thicker as you got to the bottom," said Staples, "Then when I got out, I was able to look back at the buildings and that's when I decided, these buildings I think will fall. So I started walking away and I had been about six blocks when the south tower collapsed."
On September 11th, 2001, KAIT-TV's Heather Flanigan was working as an Associate Producer for KFVS-TV in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
"When my mother called to tell me that our family friend Adam Staples had survived the attacks on the World Trade Center that day, I said a quick prayer for his family and then began thinking like a journalist...tracking Adam down to his hotel room in New York for a telephone interview that evening. He was ok, just in shock. When I spoke to him for the one-year-anniversary, it was a reality that still hadn't quite hit home," said Flanigan.
"Obviously I wonder why I walked away from that and so many other people didn't. I'm lucky to be here and if my burden is to carry some guilt around, ok," said a then 23-year-old Staples, "Has it totally sunk in yet, has it totally hit me how big it really is? I don't know if it has hit any of us. It's changed every facet of our lives. Everything we do now is just a little different then we used to."
An event that nearly took his life changed the course of it....
"I can look back on that day now and say I'm thankful that happened, because look at all of these things that happened after," said Staples, "For instance, I would have never have met Nicole had that not taken place. Because I spoke at a church where her mother was a member."
Adam spoke at the Walnut Street Baptist Church in Jonesboro, where fate took an unexpected hand.
"My mom was in church that Sunday evening when Adam spoke about September 11th and she came home and said 'There is a guy that you have got to meet!' and I thought, 'Oh good grief,' because she always does that to me. She kept bothering me and bothering me for a year I guess about this guy that I had to meet. She'd prayed over it and finally I went to his Sunday school class one day and that's when we met and things started happening," laughed Nicole Staples.
Adam and Nicole dated for about a year before he proposed. They were married on December 18, 2004.
"She's more than I could have ever asked for. I married way out of my league," smiled Staples, "I can't say that September 11th even crossed my mind that day. That may be one of the very few days since that it hasn't. But that day I was just so caught up in what was taking place and getting to have Nicole as my wife from that day on."
"I thank God that he had his hand on Adam, that he protected him that day. I did not know him at that time, but I feel relieved and at the same time I have peace about it. I know that God has everything and does everything for a reason," said Nicole Staples.
And five years later, it's clear to Adam why his life was spared.
"I would look back to 9/11 and that particular day and the events that followed, they made me grow up and I'm forever grateful for that. I was probably not in a real mature place, and not that I am now, but I'm leagues better then I was," said Staples.