On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Morgan Stanley employee Dan Heldridge was sitting at his desk on the 63rd floor of the 2 World Trade, speaking with a friend on the telephone who was at 5 World Trade.
During the conversation, he felt the floor shake and his friend asked "did you feel that?" Knowing the distance between the two buildings, Mr. Heldridge said he knew something was unusual. He then looked out the window, which overlooked New York Harbor, and saw burning debris falling from the sky.
His friend had been working in the area during the 1993 bombing and advised Mr. Heldridge to leave.
Mr. Heldridge took the advice and announced to his staff - where he had begun working that same year - that they should leave all their personal belongings and exit the building. As he made his way to the staircase, Mr. Heldridge realized he had forgotten his two-day-old cell phone (his very first) in his briefcase on his desk, but thought, "Oh, I'll get it later."
Once they reached the 47th floor, he said he felt the building shake again. He then felt the building lean to the side and heard the steel beams moan. He remembers thinking the building was going to fall over before it righted itself again, and they rushed even faster to escape.
He and a few coworkers were on Broadway when the tower fell.
Escaping the collapse, they headed up to the Morgan Stanley command center in Midtown Manhattan where they tried to piece together who from their office was missing.
When he got home the next morning, he found his wife on the phone with a woman who said she had his cell phone.
"That's impossible," he said. He remembered asking numerous questions, thinking it was some sort of scam.
The woman on the other end identified herself as the wife of an FDNY member and asked, "On what floor of the Deutche Bank building did you work?" He said he did not understand why she asked, since he worked more than a block and a half away from there.
Lt. (now Captain) Tom Frizalone was working at Ladder 174 in Brooklyn on Sept. 11. He and other members commandeered a city bus to drive to the WTC site, and arrived just after the second building collapsed.
They arrived on the northern part of the site, near 7 World Trade, and stayed there for a few hours to make sure everyone evacuated as they were concerned about collapse.
The firefighters then moved to search the Deutche Bank building, located on the south side of the site. They searched floor by floor and were overwhelmed by what they saw.
When they got to the roof of the building, Capt. Frizalone remembers seeing debris scattered everywhere, including airplane parts and papers. But one thing stood out - a briefcase that looked as if it were untouched, standing upright and covered in little dust.
He peered inside and found a cell phone. Since he hadn't contacted his wife since before they left the firehouse, he used it to try and call her. Yet, since the system was overwhelmed, the call would not go through.
He put the phone in his pocket and tried calling throughout the day, finally reaching her the next morning. It was at that time that numerous voicemails were coming through the cell phone.
Capt. Frizalone said he and his wife thought about whether they should try to track down the owner, worried that he or she had been killed, but decided they had to do so.
And after reaching Mr. Heldridge and his family, they mailed it to him, covered in bubble wrap with a small note attached.
Although the two men had an extraordinary connection on that terrible day, it would take more than 10 years for them to meet.
Mr. Heldridge visited Capt. Frizalone at his firehouse, Engine 255 and Ladder 157 in Brooklyn on May 14 to swap stories and share lunch.
The Morgan Stanley employee said he remembers resting the briefcase on his desk, leaning against the window located on the south side of 2 WTC that morning. He thinks the force of the second plane hitting must have sent it shooting out of the building, sending it to the roof of Deutche Bank, nearly two blocks away.
The Fire Captain said he tried to get back to the roof of the Deutche Bank building days later, to retrieve the briefcase he had left behind, but could not since safety concerns shut down access to the structure.
Mr. Heldridge said he held on to the cell phone for the decade since 9/11, though he never again turned it on, because, "it held a lot of significance for me."
It will now have a new home, the New York State Museum's 9/11 memorial, where the two men, and thousands of others can visit and marvel at the small electronic device that brought them together.
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