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World Trade Center survivor seeks to inspire

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 11:27 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 11:33 PM CDT
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WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - Adam Staples knows that seconds counted the day he survived the collapse of the South Tower at the World Trade Center. But, early that morning, time didn’t seem as important as it would become.

“There were some people kind of scrambling around with a shocked or panicked expression on their face, best, I can figure,” Staples said. “They must have seen the North Tower get hit.”

That was his first inkling that something might be wrong.

On September 11, 2001, Staples was inside the South Tower of the World Trade Center for training. He’d just signed on as a broker for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

This is the badge he used to access the World Trade Center during his training there for Morgan...
This is the badge he used to access the World Trade Center during his training there for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.(Source: Adam Staples)

“They came over the public address system and said the North Tower had been struck by an aircraft. The South Tower security had said to go back to your offices,” Staples explained.

So this Piggott native and recent graduate of Arkansas State University went back up to the 61st floor and looked out.

“I could see little pieces of paper flying around in the air and you could see a fire on top of the buildings’ roofs below,” Staples said.

It was just a few minutes after nine o’clock.

“I can remember thinking. Man! This is more serious than they’re letting on and just about the same time I had that thought is when the second plane hit our building,” Staples explained.

That was hijacked United Airlines flight 175.

“It was pretty violent,” Staples added.

About 9,000 gallons of jet fuel passed through the building, creating a fireball outside.

“At that point, nobody had to tell me to evacuate. Nobody had to tell me that this is not anything you want to be around for,” Staples said. “It felt like the floor fell out from underneath me. I can remember it being very loud.”

The building swayed.

“As I was turning away from the windows, I can remember something being in the air. A lot of something being in the air,” Staples used his hand to illustrate.

Staples was on the 61st floor. The plane took out the floor all the way to the 84th floor.

“It was very, very orderly,” Staples said of the way people made their way down the numerous flights of stairs. No one was trampled and Port Authority staff were holding doors open and guiding people through the evacuation path.

As I was leaving the 61st floor for the last time, a guy got a call on his cell phone. Staples could hear the one-sided conversation.

“Oh, my God. What are you doing there?” the caller questioned. “Your building just got hit by a plane.”

And then Staples came to the conclusion.

“This is deliberate. This is some kind of attack on us,” Staples said.

He pressed on down the stairs. Some women had taken off their high-heeled shoes and left them behind.

“The last 40 flights of stairs and you could see hands, other handrails all the way down...all of us trying to get out,” Staples said.

He made it out.

“I remember getting across the street,” Staples explained.

When he was just a few blocks away, the unthinkable happened.

Even though the South Tower was hit last; it was the first to fall.

“If I had stood around too long looking at the damage to the building,” Staples trailed off.

He might not be here.

But today, Staples counts himself blessed.

“That’s my wife,” he said as he points to a photo on the wall of his office in Walnut Ridge.

He is married with two children and successful insurance business in Walnut Ridge.

“I do count myself very blessed to be alive,” Staples said.

A steel replica of the Twin Towers, given to him, hangs on his office wall.

“I was right there,” Staples said as he points to the section where his meeting was taking place that fateful day.

20 years ago this Saturday, I interviewed Adam Staples over the telephone. It was the first thing I did when I got to work that day. Phone lines were jammed. People couldn’t call out. It was a difficult day. I would talk with him again a year later.

“You were one of the very first people, I think, I spoke with certainly, certainly in the media and so 20 years later, here we are,” Staples said.

Over the years, he’s shared his story with hundreds of school children and spoke about his faith.

He even reached out to the family of another Region 8 victim on 9/11... flight attendant, Sara Low.

“I would welcome as close a friendship as they want,” Staples said.

Being a father now, he can’t imagine their pain and the pain of thousands of other families whose loved ones didn’t get to come home.

“I can’t...” Staples’ voice trails off. “I just can’t imagine.”

If there’s one thing, he hopes people remember about his story...

“People say that’s the guy from September 11th. That’s guy is faithful to point back to Christ every time he tells his story.”

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