Ritacco touched by TR Schools employee Rob Beaton, 9/11 WTC Survivor…

When asked what he thought was the number one thing to recall in the past week, Toms River Regional and Seaside Heights Superintendent of Schools Michael Ritacco spoke of the beautiful 9/11 memorial service held in the Downtown last Thursday.
When speaking of the event, Mr. Ritacco said he was most touched by the personal account of Robert “Rob” Beaton, a 9/11 survivor from World Trade Center Tower #1, employed since November 2001 with the TR District as a Computer Technician, and also a TR graduate, from High School East.
We had the opportunity to speak to Rob and hear first-hand accounts and see photos from the terrible day.
On September 11, 2001, Rob Beaton was just 23 years old, and a recent graduate of James Madison University in Virginia. After a few odd jobs, he had finally secured a great gig as a Flash Programmer at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, beginning in August 2001. Not only was the job in New York City, but its address occupied ten floors the prestigious 1 World Trade Center, one of the Twin Towers. They each rose about 1,350 feet into the New York skyline at the southern end of Manhattan, a symbol of America’s vast prosperity at the center of world’s financial capitol.
When he first began working at the building, Rob would look back from the plaza at the glimmer of the enormous buildings, and would use words to describe them such as “awesome” and “majestic.”
Although it was a two hour commute there and home from Toms River, admittedly “crazy”, Rob had access to the best of everything, and it seemed like a great job. He could either commute from Point Pleasant, or if he took the PATH train, it led directly to the basement of the WTC. Rob says he could go to work, and never really have to go outside if he chose.
As far as the the building he was working, the place was “tremendous” he recalls. Great views could be seen from the various locations in the building he was working, as well as at a lunch area located on floor 40. There were live concerts in the giant Austin Tobin Plaza, as well. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but it was humanistic and pleasant. Life was good for those who worked inside the WTC in September 2001, at least from what Mike was seeing.
Rob had to get up at 4:15 a.m. and be at the WTC by 8 a.m. on 9/11. This was all to press one button for a video conference, and then just wait around until the normal arrival time of 9 a.m., when all the employees were to be at their desks. Mike says he was on Floor 28, and it all began to happen when everyone was just arriving. American Airlines Flight 11 struck the 1 WTC at about 8:46 a.m. at about the 100th floor, many stories from where Rob was, but it felt like the end, he said. They thought it was a bomb from the “tremendous rumble” at first, and then the building began to sway. The sway was so pronounced that the outside view from the windows was altered. Rob says it felt like an earthquake, and everyone that felt the jolt thought the tower was about to topple. However, although mortally wounded, the 110-story engineering marvel somehow righted itself, giving Rob and many others additional time to survive before its ultimate collapse.
No one around Rob had any idea for some time what had actually occurred. Rob looked out the window and saw falling and flaming debris. Seeing a lot of smoke, Rob and co-workers headed towards the emergency exits. Backup on the stairwell began at about floor 24, when there was a lot of waiting. Rob stayed to the right, as firefighters climbed in the free lane aside of him, and injured persons were carried past the non-injured in a prioritized manner. It was extremely smoky and boiling hot Rob recalls. Rob was fortunate enough to have had a jacket along with him to cover his mouth. This helped a lot, he said.
He was amazed that the firefighters continued to climb higher, obviously carrying heavy gear and equipment in the heat radiating from ferocious fires floor above. Rob says that this must have been awful for these (many doomed) first responders.
While in the stairwell, Rob learned that planes had struck both towers, but no one knew of the severity of the damage to the towers. Rob says he did not have any sort of idea what to expect when he got outside.
By accident, Rob went one floor too low, and into the WTC basement. Here, he could see obvious cracks in the wall, evidence of severe structural damage. Engineers inspecting the damage yelled at Rob to go back up and get outside.
By now, water was cascading down the stairs from broken pipes higher above. There was water also coming from activated sprinkler systems from the many fires that had broken out throughout the tower when ignited jet fuel rode the elevator shafts as far down as the WTC lobby. Coming down the stairs, the roaring floods resembled a weird water park, Rob said.
Rob was told where to go, and ushered to safety by emergency personnel posted at various spots. He exited through a mall, and to the outside. Unaware of the tremendous damage he was about to see, Rob and a co-worker stopped for photo, happily smiling that they had made it to the exit of the WTC.
Once outside, Rob looked up at the tower, from the same angle he had looked at his building a few weeks earlier when he had taken the job. He was astonished to see not just the entire top of of his tower in flames, but also that of its twin, WTC 2. The digital camera captured the sight, the same one that had captured the (then) happy escape a few moments earlier. Up until then, Rob or his immediate group had envisioned nothing like this.
Rob wanted to get as far away as he could. He could not believe that there were some people who wanted to get closer, and police had to set up barricades, and it looked like the people were observing a parade! According to Rob, these people were at the fringes of the WTC plaza, far too close for what was about to happen, but no one knew.
Having already predicted imminent toppling of the building, and having been eyewitness to frightful damage to the structure, Rob decided to get as far away from the WTC as possible, walking quickly and without hesitation toward the refuge of the hotel room of his sister-in-law’s father, who happened to be in the city that day. He had to walk from Downtown to 54th Street, near Times Square, no easy walk.
During the walk, Rob heard a rumble, one that sounded like the roar of an enormous subway train. He glanced back at the WTC, and could see just one building, and smoke. WTC 2, hit second, but faster, lower and at an odder angle, had collapsed within about an hour. Rob continued walking north. WTC 1, Rob’s building, hit in the center and high atop, lasted 128 minutes, collapsing at about 10:30 a.m. By then, Rob was too far uptown to be an eyewitness.
During his long walk to Times Square, Rob called worried friends and family back in Toms River, learning that both towers had collapsed. He briefly saw images of devastation on TV’s in store windows, and later watched news coverage in the hotel.
Rob says New York was eerily quiet that night, and as he walked to dinner at a small pub that remained open, there was not one single vehicle in a darkened Times Square. He knew that the day’s events were history making, once-in-a-lifetime maybe, and that he would remember forever.
Rob’s personal account from 9/13/01 is online at: http://www.robbeaton.com/wtc/

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