15 years later; Roanoke man recalls surviving 9/11 at the World Trade Center

Josh Mattox survived 9/11. It was his first time in NYC and in the World Trade Center.
Josh Mattox survived 9/11. It was his first time in NYC and in the World Trade Center. (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Surviving 9/11 is something that Josh Mattox says has taken him nearly 15 years to understand.

"It's still hard to believe that that's the plane right there," Mattox described pointing to a picture of the second plane moments before it hit the South tower of the World Trade Center. "That's 55 and I was standing on the 54th floor."

And yet, he's left with questions.

"One of the things that I think about a lot that will never be answered is why did I walk out of that building? I had no kids to care for, no spouse, no wife, no mortgage, no nothing. I walk out without a scratch. And all the people that were parents. Why did they die? We will never know that. I think about that a lot," Mattox said.

It was timing he says put him there, and timing that saved his life.

"I was literally out 5 minutes before it fell down. I don't know, but I think timing has a lot to do with things," Mattox said.

A recent graduate at Roanoke College, he was 21 years old.at the time, finishing a training program with Morgan Stanley working his first day in the World Trade Center on the 61st floor of the South Tower.

He remembers when the plane hit. It was his first time in New York City. He and several colleagues were looking out the window admiring the Statue of Liberty

"All of a sudden we heard a noise. All of this paper and debris started flying into our window, it was on fire. We started looking down and the building's below us was on fire. Stuff was falling down, but we had no idea what was going on," Mattox said.

Trying to leave the building, he was in a staircase on the 54th story...when the plane crashed only one story above him.

"It was like a bomb went off. Tiles from the ceiling started collapsing. A red metal beam when you see when they are constructing those buildings shot out of the wall," Mattox said.

It was then he knew he was running for his life

"I start literally jumping down flights of stairs. I can remember my knees...shaking, hitting each other. I remember thinking...'Get it together,'" Mattox said.

He became trapped in a frantic crowd, unable to move as piles of people were slammed together in the stairwell.

"I remember thinking, I'm on the 43rd story of a building...it may crash. I'm going to die," Mattox recalls.

But he didn't. He is a survivor. Somehow, unscratched, he made it out alive.

And left with a perspective of that tragic event we all watched unfold on television.

"I've never met anyone who can't tell me where they were. It's universal. I bet you anything that you can tell me where you were," Mattox said. "I was there."

A day he knows he'll never forget, but one he says will never keep him from moving forward and appreciating the life he's been given.

Today, Mattox still happily works for Morgan Stanley. He is doing well, and plans to get married to his fiance this November.

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