Retired FBI agent Wesley Wong recalls noting what a beautiful morning it was on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. His workday began at an FBI garage facility just north of the World Trade Center, where he learned from a mechanic that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.
Confused about how something like this could happen on such a clear day, Wesley called his office, which confirmed the mechanic’s information. Under the impression that the crash was a terrible accident, Wesley responded to the World Trade Center to provide support.
Once onsite, Wesley was directed into the lobby of the North Tower, where a command center was being set up. From inside the lobby, he heard a loud booming sound. Firefighters immediately informed the command center that a plane struck the South Tower.
Now understanding that these events were in fact a coordinated attack, his role changed instantly. As the senior FBI on-scene commander, Wesley called his headquarters to assess information while assigning tasks to agents on site. Less than an hour later, he heard the beginning of a loud, rumbling noise. As the South Tower collapsed, Wesley sprinted into an alcove just before the lobby filled with smoke and debris and went completely dark.
Wesley found himself trapped in this space with a small group of firefighters. In that pitch-black alcove, the firefighters started turning small lights on and the order to “huddle up” was given. The group of survivors heard a voice call down to them, and following it out of the destroyed lobby, Wesley discovered FDNY chaplain Father Mychal Judge. Wesley and the firefighters carried Father Judge out of the North Tower lobby to emergency medical professionals onsite.
Outside, Wesley prepared to go back into the North Tower to search for more survivors but was directed to evacuate the site instead. As he was leaving, the North Tower began to collapse. Running away from the site, Wesley was able to dive into a doorway for shelter.
Uninjured, Wesley immediately reported to his office and worked continuously until 5 the next morning. He would continue to work in his office and at Ground Zero throughout the rescue and recovery efforts.
On September 11, 2020, Wesley Wong and five others will share their stories as part of this year’s fifth annual Anniversary in the Schools webinar. Register for this free program here.
The webinar is made possible thanks to generous support from The New York Life Foundation.
By Lindsey Cline, Education Specialist, 9/11 Memorial Museum