9/11 Survivor Saved By Impromptu Breakfast Discusses Years' Worth Of Guilt
Kenneth Polcari of ICAP Equities made it out of the September 11th attacks alive but spent years struggling with survivor’s guilt, though he now says he is "thankful for every day." NY1’s Diane King filed the following report.
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Ten years ago, Kenneth Polcari's office was in the second tower of the World Trade Center on the 55th floor. He might have been at his desk, but a fellow securities trader just happened to convince him to go out for breakfast that day. It was about 8:25 a.m.
"The truth is, he probably saved my life. I don't know where I would have been, but I think he really saved my life. I struggled for a long time trying to reconcile the feeling of 'why me and not somebody else?' It's almost like remorse, this feeling of overwhelming remorse,” says Polcari.
Polcari says what he didn't know at the time was that a friend had called his wife after seeing the first plane hit the North Tower.
"My wife was in a panic ‘cause she couldn't remember which building I worked in, couldn't remember what floor I was on. She called the office, got no answer," says Polcari.
Unaware she had tried to call him, Polcari phoned his wife.
"It was just nine o’clock, right before the second plane hit. When I called her, she picks up the phone and she's crying, and I'm not understanding. She's saying to me 'where are you, where are you?' I said ‘I'm at work,’ as if where else would I be," says Polcari.
Like many others, though, Polcari and his colleagues had to clear out of downtown shortly thereafter.
"We got out the east side, got on Wall Street, and as we started to walk down Wall Street towards the East River, you could start to see the tops of the buildings as you moved further away. There you saw them engulfed in smoke. It was very surreal," says Polcari.
When he returned to work on September 17, he went to the stock exchange, where he still had to cope with the stench and his conflicting feelings. Polcari struggled for years with survivor’s guilt.
"Today I've really come to grips with it. There was a time thereafter that I had a very difficult time, because in my mind, I think I came very close to being right in the center of it,” says Polcari. "My outlook has changed. I take nothing for granted, and I’m thankful for every day. I'm thankful for every single day."