The Edmond Sun


April 19, 2013

New Yorkers visit OC as part of healing

EDMOND — Thursday evening, Charles Kaczorowski returned to a familiar and ultra-meaningful site.

Oklahoma Christian University is the only place in the world outside of New York City to have survivor trees from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the World Trade Center growing side by side. For the eighth year in a row, guests from New York have come  on April 18 to commemorate the Oklahoma City bombing.

For Kaczorowski, the pilgrimage to the sacred spot located just west of the Mabee Learning Center is on his annual must-do list. He comes feeling like a drained battery, he said. He leaves re-energized, refreshed and restored.


Back in 1990, while he was working for Shearson Lehman Hutton's facilities department, Kaczorowski had an office on the 106th floor of 2 World Trade Center.

Three years later, at 12:17 p.m. on Feb. 26, 1993, the Vietnam veteran was working in 3 World Financial Center on his lunch break in the concourse going down the escalator to the path trains for their schedule when the whole place shook.

“When I felt the concussion, it took me back to Vietnam,” said Kaczorowski, a Navy Seabee from 1969-70.

Terrorists had detonated 1,500 pounds of explosives in a van parked in the underground public lot of the World Trade Center two levels below the southern wall of the North Tower. The attack killed six people, injured more than 1,000 and created a five-story crater beneath the towers.

Less than a month later, the WTC was open for business.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Kaczorowski was arriving at the World Trade Center in New York City.

At about 9 a.m., he was coming from the subway station at Vesey and Church streets, delayed by a subway delay, which made him late for a scheduled 8:30 a.m. breakfast meeting in the Trade Center Concourse.

He emerged less than 25 yards from the North Tower.

“I saw the towers burning,” he said.

When the South Tower began collapsing, Kaczorowski was a block away. He ran as fast as humanly possible away from the dust cloud.

“I never looked back,” he said. “I just kept on running.”

He made it to a nearby building and took cover. Efforts to connect by phone with his wife were hampered by system overloads. Then he heard the North Tower coming down.

When the second tower fell, 35 years of his life were literally wiped clean from his mind and heart like it never existed, he said.

At 8 a.m. on Sept. 25, 2001, Kaczorowski returned to Ground Zero where he supervised the operations for the midnight-8 a.m. shift for the City of New York Department of Design and Construction until July 1, 2002.

Pieces of his memories gradually came back as bodies were recovered from Ground Zero. Like many others who were there he suffers from health issues related to breathing the air; he also has various issues related to his service in Vietnam.  

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