the morning of September 11, 2001 started like any other for the economist Larry Pinto de Faria Jr., at the time 43 years old. The Porto Alegre was taking care of a customer by phone when, at 8:46 am, he heard a crash, felt his desk shake and saw, through the window beside him, debris falling from the sky.
He was in the north tower of the World Trade Center, in New York (USA), the first hit by a plane in the attacks that killed 2,996 people, including 19 terrorists.
At 63 years old and living in São Paulo, Larry told the G1 your memories of that day, 20 years ago exactly. See video above
“It’s been 20 years. I see it in my head like it was yesterday. I’ve talked about it a lot, I’ve commented a lot about it, but it was a terrible situation,” he recalls.
At least three dead Brazilians on the list of victims of the 9/11 Memorial & National Museum: Ivan Kyrillos Fairbanks-Barbosa, Anne Marie Sallerin Ferreira and Sandra Fajardo-Smith.
Larry Pinto de Faria Jr. in an interview with Globo Repórter on September 14, 2001 — Photo: Reproduction/Memória Globo
Son of the late Larry football player, International’s idol and Pan American football champion with the Brazilian team in 1956, the economist moved to New York in February 1999. A year later, the Brazilian started working at the World Trade Center.
Responsible for financial operations in Brazilian time, Larry was just over an hour in the north tower when she was hit by a commercial jet between floors 93 and 99. He worked on the 25th of 110 floors from the north tower, 417 meters.
“I was on the phone with the customer when that thud. It was a deafening noise and a very big knock on the building. When it hit, the building did a pendulum until it straightened. I looked at the colleague who was next door and said : ‘let’s go, this is going to fall'”, he recalls.
American colleagues who have worked at the site for longer thought the impact had been caused by a bomb. That’s because, in 1993, the World Trade Center was the target of an attack. A truck loaded with explosives detonated underground in the complex, leaving six dead and a thousand injured.
The economist says that he immediately went to the emergency stairs to leave the building. According to Larry, the workers’ exit was smooth, with the space to the left freed for the fire department to climb.
On the way down, the Brazilian even spoke to the same customer over the phone, who told him about what was going on. However, the dimensions of the plane that had crashed into the building were still unknown.
“He said, ‘Look, Larry, it was a plane that hit your building, I don’t think it’s terrorism.’ That’s exactly what he told me,” he says.
Unsure of what it was, Larry followed the flight of stairs. Upon reaching the ground floor, he found water taking over the floor and the ceiling already fallen. The elevators were partially destroyed. One of the pieces of equipment had been thrown into the street.
“Before leaving the building, the police were telling us to protect our heads because a lot of stuff was falling out of the building, including people,” says Larry.
As Larry left the north tower, a second plane hit the south tower at 9:03 am EDT. He says that he only found out about what had happened when he was already on the street.
Brazilian at the Twin Towers: ‘A lot of things were falling out of the building, including people’
Safely, Larry Pinto de Faria Jr. remembers trying to return home to New Jersey on the opposite bank of the Hudson River. The journey could be done by boat or train, but none of the transport options were currently operating.
As he thought about what he was going to do, being stuck on Manhattan Island, the economist saw the south tower collapse. Larry says he ran, trying to escape the debris and soot.
“I looked to my left side and I only saw the antenna at the end of the World Trade Center coming down. My God, that time was a horror. It was the only moment, at least, that I was most afraid, because the building collapsed,” he details.
Economist reports when tower collapsed on 9/11
At this point, he manages to contact a friend, who warns him that the United States is under terrorist attack. In addition to the Twin Towers, al-Qaeda hijacked planes that crashed into the Pentagon, outside Washington, and in Pennsylvania.
About 1:30 am later, Larry says he made it to the former boss’s house, where he finally managed to call his mother, who was in Brazil.
“I spoke to my mother, then I spoke to my wife. I reassured them, because they were completely without news of me. It was a tense moment, they didn’t know where I was, what had happened to me. It was terrifying,” he says.
Larry knew and lived with some of the victims of the attacks. A company colleague, for example, had breakfast at the restaurant Windows on the World, located on floors 106 and 107 of the north tower, that is, above the point reached by the plane. In addition, 86 employees of the company in which the Brazilian had previously worked died.
Attack on the Twin Towers on September 11 — Photo: Getty Images via BBC
Even on the 11th, late in the afternoon, Larry remembers that he had 180 messages on his answering machine. According to the economist, most were Brazilian reporters who sought contact with him.
“The pressure was horrible. I took the phone off the wire and stayed at home, calm. I talked to my children, who I hadn’t been able to talk to them yet, and I stopped,” he says.
That week, Larry was interviewed by reporter Jorge Pontual in an article aired by Globo Repórter on Friday, September 14, 2001.
“When I returned to Brazil, I came back as a survivor. It seems that a little bit of that bad thing came out, that I looked out of the window every day and, until I left, on Saturday, smoke was coming out of the World Trade Center. In terms of memory, it was a horrible thing”, he points out.
Larry at home, in the United States, talking on the phone in a report by Globo Repórter — Photo: Reproduction/Memória Globo
A few days after the attacks, Larry returned to Brazil, where part of the company was installed. Months later, however, he returned to New York. Years later, he left for Miami, Florida, where he lived until the end of 2020.
“I thought, at that moment, that everything was over. The company had disappeared. The business, I had no idea what was going to happen. But everything ended up returning to normal after a while”, he says.
The economist is married to Valeria and father of two children, who are now adults, and has a stepson.