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Businessman Dr. Alan Sokolow recalls attacks on 9/11

Posted at 9:30 AM, Sep 07, 2021

(KERO) — The U.S. is marking the 20th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 this weekend, remembering the chaos that began with two planes flying into the World Trade Center towers.

Ground Zero has since been rebuilt now with a single tower that includes a 9/11 memorial and museum.

Many people in Bakersfield have a personal connection to the attacks on 9/11 through friends and family who were in New York.

For a local businesswoman, her father was working in the north tower on September 11th, 2001.

23ABC sat down with him in 2020 when he visited Bakersfield to talk about his memories from the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history.

Dr. Alan Sokolow was an executive with Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2001 working on the 19th floor of the north tower at the World Trade Center.

He had an early meeting that was wrapping up around 8:45 a.m. local time when he felt something.

Then he looked out the window.

He could see aluminum and was clear something bad had happened.

He called his wife and told her he was coming home.

As one of the only executives on the floor at that moment, he began moving people towards the exits and into the stairwells.

The evacuation was very slow and firefighters were passing Sokolow heading up the tower while they descended.

When they reached the 12th or 13th floor, crews returned with burn victims.

It was during this time he thinks he heard the 2nd plane hit the south tower.

"I heard a ringing a gong, bell.. Must've been other plane."

The descent continued as they reached the fifth floor.

A flood of emotion you might say overcame them when water started flowing down the steps.

The crowd was directed through a basement area that was blackened by smoke and fire, believed to be the aftermath from the plane hitting the tower 90 floors up.

"There was fireball down elevator shaft and blew out doors."

Sokolow emerged on the other side of the plaza and got his first real look at the towers.

Dr. Sokolow walked across the street to the Millenium Hotel where a triage was being set up.

An ER doctor for 20 years in Norwalk, Connecticut, he helped a dozen or more people wandering out of the tower complex with injuries from minor to serious.

Including one victim who saw one of the planes hit the tower.

A short time later he remembers looking up and staring at the top of the south tower.

"It looked like an ice cream cone melting."

When it finally started to settle, Sokolow began walking to another hospital not far away.

It wasn't a trauma center, so no one with injuries were brought there.

Not long after he saw the dust cloud from the second tower coming down.

"I could see dust, paper come down. I needed to go uptown to Grand Central Terminal... No more than 30 miles from home if I had to walk, I was gonna walk."

But to get home to Connecticut, he had to get to Grand Central.

He jumped on a bus headed out of the area that dropped him at the outer edge of the dust cloud.

He hitched a ride in a pickup truck to Grand Central Terminal.

The trains had been shutdown but were now running again.

Dr. Sokolow wasn't sure exactly when he got finally got home but phone service had been sketchy all day.

His secretary Gloria McCarthy was able to get word to his family including his daughter, Morgan, who was in California going to school.

Of the nearly 3,000 fatalities,10 of the victims worked with Dr. Sokolow including one man who stayed behind to make sure everyone got out.

He has since returned to Ground Zero and visited the memorial.

Memories of that day that Dr. Sokolow says really hasn't gone away.