News20 Years Later: Texans Remember 9/11

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First job at the World Trade Center: Texas A&M professor shares 9/11 experience 20 years later

Posted at 4:05 PM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 00:52:17-04

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush is in Central Texas — on vacation at the Western White House.

While behind these gates – at his ranch in Crawford – Bush received a classified intelligence memo titled quote, “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.”

At the same time, Nathan Harness -- now a professor at Texas A&M University -- was preparing for his dream job at 22 years old. A friend helped Nathan get a job at the World Trade Center.

"She was working in the World Trade Center for just a little while so she took this picture," said Harness. "She helped me get the job."

Nathan, born in a small Arkansas town, moved to the Big Apple.

"You’re the first person in your family to ever leave, and then you get to New York and you see buildings you can’t believe," said Harness.

One of those buildings was the Two World Trade Center, and on his first day of work Harness rode the elevator up to the 61st floor.

"I was wearing a suit and tie," Harness said. "It was the beginning of adulthood."

On Sept. 11, 2001, at 8:46 a.m. a plane hits tower one.

"Everyone is quiet, everyone was pressed up against the window and I wondered — what is going on?" Harness said. "I could see burning office papers through the window."

Trying to evacuate, Harness makes it down 20 floors before this happens.

"That hit with a ton of energy," Harness said. "It took me to my knees. People are screaming, ‘We are going to die,’ and people are having heart attacks right there at that moment."

By this point, the rest of the world is glued to the TV coverage. Nathan's mom and dad are a world away in Europe. He has no way to contact them.

"I remember praying out to God for a lifeline ... that was the first time I saw a rescue personal," Harness said. "For many of us that was a lifeline. The moment you think things are not going to be okay but a rescue worker shows up. I remember locking eyes with a New York firefighter that had fear in his face."

Thinking about jumping out the window, the 22-year old keeps going. Making his way to these survivor steps that are now in the 9/11 Museum in New York City.

"Walking down those stairs I think that was a moment where I felt a sense of 'we’re going to make it' ... a lot of us are going to make it," said Harness.

He continues to run for his life.

"I began to run, and I ran for about 15 minutes," Harness said.

As one of the lucky ones, he makes it out.

"I look back and I see the tower go to the right and then come down," said Harness. "So I ran because smoke began to come after me."

Then comes this letter from his father.

"The story of your survival of the World Trade Center is not complete, the after-effects of this trauma will continue to shape your life for days and years," Harness reads.

Twenty years later, Nathan believes in sharing his story with a younger generation, so they will "Never Forget".