The Restaurant That Died on 9/11
Windows on the World was a paragon of New York splendor. And then it was gone.
“I don’t mean to break in on the fun, but this is a serious news story,” Howard Stern said on the radio. “A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.” Glenn Vogt, Windows on the World’s general manager, was listening as he drove down the West Side Highway. He couldn’t believe it.
Unaware of the gravity of the situation, he parked near the World Trade Center and walked toward the North Tower lobby, glass crunching under his feet. He thought, It’s going to be months before we can clean up this mess. He, like most people, assumed a small plane had hit the building.
Firefighters were standing around, seemingly awaiting orders. Vogt was under an overhang when a body fell onto it. Vogt went numb. He was overwhelmed by sensory overload. There was so much noise, so much happening, that there seemed to be a quiet descending on him. A firefighter said, “You have to get away from the building.” He did.
Greg Hein, the director of catering for Windows on the World, had stayed up late the night before drinking one dollar Michelob Lights at a local bar watching the New York Giants play the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, so he slept in. He took the 7:43 train from Massapequa, Long Island, instead of the 7:11, to Penn Station. He was on the E train when the first plane hit. Aboveground, at Vesey and Church, he heard the tremendous grinding sound of the second plane overhead. When it exploded, he saw a fireball and debris as big as cars flying in all directions. A young woman landed in front of him outside the Stage Door Deli, her legs terribly mangled, and died right there.
Windows had been constructed with a purpose: to help sell the enormous skyscrapers to prospective office tenants and to a skeptical city.
Glenn Vogt was still on the street when the second plane hit. He wanted to get a better view of what was happening at the top of the North Tower, where Windows on the World was open for breakfast, so he walked toward West Street. He passed a firefighter, suited up in full uniform, sobbing. He eventually got a clearer…