Monday, May 2

Remembering a Story of Survival

With the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden, much like the occasions when the events or 9/11 are at the forefront of American discussion, the thoughts of one person whom I am glad to call a friend always come to my mind. A longtime associate and friend in the game, Lyndelle Phillips narrowly escaped death that day.

Here is the account of that day through her eyes, as we reported at United Soccer Leagues several days later...

NEW YORK  – Lyndelle Phillips, the team president of the W-League’s New York Magic, knows she is lucky to be alive.

Phillips miraculously escaped injury in this week’s terrorist attack on New York City’s World Trade Center. Ironically, it was her prior experience in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that saved her life and that of many of her co-workers.

Phillips is an attorney for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., one of more than 3,500 employees of the financial giant that took up 50 floors of the Twin Towers.

Her office was on the south side of Two World Trade Center – in the company’s law offices on the 65th floor – right where the second jet slammed into the complex.

If she hadn’t headed downstairs after the first attack, Phillips realizes she probably wouldn’t have survived.

“I’m not a holy roller or a bible-thumper, but I’m religious, yes. You survived this twice. There, but for the grace of God… What if the plane had hit our building first?

“It hit on the 65th floor where I just left. It came into the same conference room that I had been sitting in 20 minutes before.”

Phillips arrived at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, preparing for an 8 o’clock meeting in the conference room of the 65th floor of the South Tower – a room with a view of downtown Manhattan.

Some 45 minutes later, all hell broke loose. The North Tower exploded in front of her very eyes.

“We felt the impact and then we saw that debris was flying out the window. Documents, desks, people.”

The initial explosion came at 8:45 a.m. ET when the first jet, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the North Tower. Trade Center security officials soon announced that the South Tower was secure and urged people to remain calm and stay in their offices.

“I didn’t listen to that. I was in the first bombing in ’93 and the big problem then was there was smoke all over the place,” said Phillips. “I was concerned about the flames from the other building.

“I just grabbed my purse and briefcase and I told everyone to get out and headed for the nearest stairwell.

It was a crowded but orderly evacuation, and some fifteen minutes later Phillips was more than halfway down. Then came the second impact. United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower.

“We get to the 27th floor and the building is shaken to the foundation. We don’t know what it is. The building started shaking to the left and to the right.

“We felt the impact and thought the building was going to fall down. I thought we were going to die. I took off my shoes and I said ‘Forget this.’ I started running.”

Things were surprisingly calm when she reached the main concourse. “There were police and security guards and they were telling people not to run, to walk, to go this way. There were people directing the masses of people coming out of many different stairwells.”

“We saw there was debris. I can’t begin to tell you what it was looking like.”

Barely 10 minutes after she stumbled out onto Church Street and made her way up Broadway away from the devastation – the South Tower crumbled to the ground – followed shortly afterwards by the North Tower.

“Everyone I know that I asked about got out.”

Ironically, the Magic logo contains the New York City skyline, including the doomed Twin Towers.

“The landscape of New York City is gone. There’s nothing. You can’t see it. It’s showing in our logo. Our logo has the Twin Towers in it, and now it’s not there.

“I had a lot of people from the USL call, people from Jacksonville and Toronto and Springfield and all over. You really start to realize you develop some contacts and friendships. The soccer community came through. It was really interesting.”

Phillips admits the full scope of the tragedy hasn’t sunk in yet. “I’m sure it will, but when I get quiet moments. Right now, I’ve got friends calling from all over. I’m sure that once I get a chance to sit back, I’m sure it will settle in.”

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