Remembering 9/11 through George Sleigh.
I have a dear friend, George Sleigh, (pictured here), who survived 9/11. He was on the 91st floor of the North Tower at the time — no one on the floor above him, the 92nd floor and above survived. Most everyone on his floor, the 91st floor, and below lived. The plane, a fully-fueled American Airlines 767, Flight 11 from Boston’s Logan Int’l Airport, sliced into the 93rd floor to the 98th floor at an angle, trapping those on the 92nd floor and above. George was then the Manager of technical consistency at the American Bureau of Shipping with a corner office on the 91st floor. The plane was close enough that just before impact, George could actually see into the cockpit. George stated,
“I was at my desk in the morning looking forward to a normal day when I heard this loud noise. I looked up out of the window and just a few feet away from the building was this huge jet plane. The wheels were down and I could see the people in the cockpit. I thought to myself ‘Man this guy is low in the air’ but I still thought it would clear us. But then it smashed into the tower a few floors above me. I couldn’t believe it, even now it seems insane that anyone would do that, even a crazed terrorist.”
After the impact, he got out from the rubble of ceiling tiles and debris around his desk, looked up and saw exposed steel beams and the concrete underside of the 92nd floor. He didn’t know it at the time, but that concrete floor was the bottom of a tomb for more than 1,300 people. Nobody survived on the floors above him. The line between life and death that morning was as straight as a steel beam.
George said, “No one inside the buildings expected that they would fall.” He related some of the unusual, but understandable things that he and some of his coworkers did just then, thinking that the building would remain intact and that they would eventually return to their offices after evacuating for a time. George retrieved the briefcase he is carrying in the picture. Another guy went back to shut down his PC and a third watered his plants, remembering that they had withered and died for lack of water after the 1993 bombing.
George told the Newcastle (England) Evening Chronicle of his harrowing escape from the devastated building.
The stairwells became increasingly congested as hundreds of office workers fled, some of whom were badly burned. After half an hour he reached the 25th floor and it was then he saw the first firefighters going up the stairs to tackle the flames.
George said: “Their faces were grim as though they knew what they would be encountering when they got there. When I saw afterwards how the towers fell I knew those men wouldn’t have made it. It was heart-breaking.”
It was after he had was able to get down the stairwell going down for some 91 floors and was in the subway underground basement area when the North Tower collapsed. George told a group of us at a church gathering that with the billowing dust and ash, total darkness, ground shaking and rumbling, it was then he thought to himself, “I had always wondered how I would die. Now I know.” But God had other plans for George, and, miraculously, spared his life. You can see in the photo just how engulfed in dust and ash George had been at the time.
When asked whether or not his faith saved him that day, George says, “No. There were others who shared my faith who died that day. My faith did not save me, but it has sustained me.” Thank you, George, for these words of faith and hope! In that regard, a more accurate translation of Philippians 4:13 is, perhaps, appropriate here, “I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me.” George was able to endure because of his Sustainer.
George says, “I keep Proverbs 23:4-5 taped to the top of the computer monitor which spews forth the day’s financial quotes. It reminds me, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich: have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Financial wealth is one of life’s many false idols, perhaps even the greatest one. I try to remind myself of that as I remember the events of 9/11 and as I watch each stock tick, ticker away…”.
George, continued blessings to you, my friend! God has spared you that you may tell others of His many Mercies, Grace and Sustenance even in the midst of such adversity. He is The Great Sustainer! Godspeed to you!
*I have compiled several of George’s statements as expressed in this entry from several sources I wish to acknowledge. You can click on them for the complete story:
Live Free Or Die!
This story of George Sleigh as told by Ben Sley is an example of the stories we so seldom hear, and one so important, because George was there!