9/11 Survivor: ‘It Was the Loudest Noise I Had Ever Heard’

She was in the Ball Room of World Trade Center 3 when she heard a loud "boom" and saw the chandelier shake. The person sitting next to her remarked, "I did not know you had hurricanes in New York."
Jose Rivera September 11, 2018

Elinda Kiss was sitting at a breakfast meeting in the Ball Room of World Trade Center 3 when the first plane struck. She was a newly elected board member of NABE (National Association for Business Economics.) She and the others heard a loud “boom” and saw the chandelier shake. The person sitting next to her remarked, “I did not know you had hurricanes in New York.”

A security guard informed them that a plane had just hit One World Trade Center (the North Tower) and everyone should evacuate the building. Just after leaving, a colleague asked Kiss to return to the building, as he was concerned for his wife. As they neared the World Trade Center again, Kiss and her colleague witnessed the second plane as it struck Two World Trade Center (South Tower).

Kiss knew the area and led the group of people uptown. They had only walked a few blocks when WTC2 fell. Kiss said, “It was the loudest noise I had ever heard!”

Eventually, the group made it to the West Village and learned they would need to walk to Midtown to completely evacuate the area. It was there that they saw WTC1 fall.

As they kept moving north, Kiss decided to call her husband, as her cell phone had not been working earlier. Just as she stopped into a store, her phone suddenly rang. Answering it, her sister was on the other end, relieved to hear Kiss’s voice. It was then Kiss understood that the events were not just local—it was now national news.

After they made it to Midtown, they had some delays, but eventually, they were able to leave Manhattan.

The “Tribute in Light” memorial is in remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The two towers of light are composed of two banks of high wattage spotlights that point straight up from a lot next to Ground Zero. This photo was taken from Liberty State Park, N.J., Sept. 11, on the five-year anniversary of 9/11. (U.S. Air Force photo/Denise Gould)

Kiss was safe, shaken, changed, but alive having escaped with no injuries. She returned to her family and work, even changing jobs, but she was different. Her husband says she is nicer since that day, and she has been more focused on her family, the most important thing to her now.

Before teaching at Maryland, Elinda Kiss was an Associate Professor in the Departments of Finance and Accounting at Rutgers University School of Business (from 1998-2003). Before teaching at Rutgers University, she was Corporate Treasurer of Custom Equipment Manufacturing, held various management positions at the Resolution Trust Corporation, and was Vice President of PSFS Bank, Assistant Vice President of Citicorp Investment Bank, and a Commercial Lender at First Pennsylvania Bank. She has also worked as an Economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Treasury.

Scars aren’t always physical and for Kiss, in her own words, “I would drive by the Newark Airport and see planes coming in slowly for a landing, I would re-live seeing the large plane flying fast into WTC2 (a “daymare”), but I no longer relive the moment.”

Elinda Kiss. (Courtesy of Elinda Kiss)