British Columbia

'I saw the plane coming in': Victoria man reflects on surviving the 9/11 attacks 15 years later

Robin Lamprecht, a resident of Cordova Bay, remembers the day with vivid detail. Fifteen years ago, on September 11th, he was on the 103rd floor of the south tower about to give a presentation.

Robin Lamprecht, who worked for AON in the World Trade Center, was on the 103rd floor of the south tower

Smoke pours from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001 after two hijacked planes hit the buildings. (Robert Giroux/Getty)

"It is 15 years, isn't it?"

Robin Lamprecht, a resident of Cordova Bay on Vancouver Island, doesn't like to think about September 11, 2001.

"I've got a little home on the beach, and I try to put a lot of it out of my mind."

But the 77-year-old can recount the day in vivid detail and has not forgotten the faces of those who helped him get out of the World Trade Center.

That morning, Lamprecht was on the 103rd floor of the south tower of the WTC, standing in front of a large window, about to give a presentation for AON, the company he worked for.

"I'd just been introduced, and I stood up to give that presentation. I saw the plane coming in. Initially, I thought it was a plane out of control because it was way too low, and then suddenly the plane went right into the [north tower]. It hit around the 90th floor."

At that moment, Lamprecht and his co-workers had some key decisions to make — stay and wait to hear instructions or leave? Take the stairs or the elevator?

"I chose to walk down the stairs."

It was the right decision.

South tower hit by second plane

Lamprecht kept moving at a steady pace, but when he got down to the 42nd floor, he heard a huge boom and the building started swaying.

"I didn't know what it was because I'm in the stairwell ... As I look around me now, the stairs are starting to fill up. What I didn't know was that the second plane had hit our building."

The second hit — which ripped the south tower from the 78th to the 100th floor — made it impossible for anybody above the 78th floor to get down.

"If you had taken the stairs, you had to be below the 78th floor to have survived it all. If you took the elevators, you were not going to get out."

Once Lamprecht made his way into the lobby, he focused on getting outside and calling his wife to tell her he was OK. At that point, he slipped on some coffee and was caught by a young firefighter on his way into the building.

"I remember his face until this day. As I looked up at him and thanked him, he said, 'just take your time, sir. You'll get out.' Then he pressed on, going up, so I doubt that he made it."

Eventually, Lamprecht made his way outside, convincing a doorman in front of a neighbouring building to let him use the phone and call his wife. He made his way to the train station and headed home.

Moving on

Lamprecht's company, AON, lost 175 employees in the attacks. AON chose Lamprecht and a few others to counsel employee families after September 11.

He retired shortly after, moving to Vancouver Island.

"In the early stages everyone asks you the question ... you sort of move on after that, but for the next few days it will be on my mind. I remember mainly the people that I knew in the office, who worked with me," he said.

To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a joint American and Canadian service and reception will be held at the Peace Arch Douglas Border Crossing in Surrey, B.C. at 10 a.m. PT.

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan and U.S. Consul General Lynne Platt will be in attendance.

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Remembering the September 11 attacks


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