Former Lowcountry investigators recall close call on 9/11

Benjamin Norris
Benjamin Norris
Alan Williams
Alan Williams

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Two former Lowcountry investigators say the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center 10 years ago still feels like it happened yesterday.

Former North Charleston detective Alan Williams and former assistant fire chief Benjamin Norris traveled to New York City on Sept. 9, 2001 to pick up an arson suspect. Two days later, they decided to go sightseeing and hopped a bus at their New Jersey hotel to visit the World Trade Center.

"We walked out the hotel room at a quarter till 9 so that's about the time the first plane hit," Norris said.

The men had no idea what happened until their bus came over a hill.

"As we drove up top the hill around the corner, we saw the World Trade Center on fire and the bus driver said they'd both been hit by an airplane," Williams said.

"What's going through my mind is we're in a state of war, we're being attacked," Norris recalled.

At that point, some people on the bus went into panic mode, Williams remembers.

"The gentleman across the aisle from me, he was literally going into work late and watched the tower he worked in collapse. There was the guy that was talking to his secretary in one of the floors above where the planes are crashed in and until the phone went dead abruptly. The looks on their faces just made it more real than kind of seeing it on TV," Williams said.

Norris said one woman on the bus kept asking him questions after the towers fell.

"She turned around and says well now what's the fire department going to do? I said 'ma'am they're not gonna do anything because they're all dead.' "

Williams and Norris knew they also could have been killed.

"That's another thing we think about, that if we had decided to go early we would have been in there," Norris said.

Instead, they are alive to talk about it 10 years later.

"My life took a dramatic turn because of that day," Williams said.

"It's just one of those things that will be in your mind forever and never go away," Norris said.

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