Anthony DeBlase of Colts Neck, NJ says he escaped the World Trade Center on 9/11, thanks to a 9-year-old little boy who happened to go to work with his mom that day. The two families recently reunited at Ground Zero for the first time in nearly 10 years.
Anthony DeBlase of Colts Neck, NJ says he escaped the World Trade Center on 9/11, thanks to a 9-year-old little boy who happened to go to work with his mom that day.
"Why all of a sudden was there a little boy in front of me in an environment that is all business people?" said Anthony describing the moment he spotted the frightened boy trying to keep up with a throng of frantic adults rushing down the stairwell during the chaos of the evacuation. "I felt like he was a gift from God, that God put him right in front of me, to tell me 'Go ahead. Get out.' Like, a child will lead the way.'"
Anthony was a government bond broker at EuroBrokers on the 84th floor of the South Tower. His brother Jimmy worked at Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower on the 105th floor. The two brothers were speaking on the phone when the first plane hit right below Jimmy's office.
"We heard a noise and he says, 'What the heck was that?' He said 'I gotta go'. So I told my brother I would meet him downstairs," Anthony said recounting that September morning, "I looked to my right and saw papers in the air. Somebody yelled out loud that people are jumping out the window, out the hole in the building. "
Anthony started making his way down. While he was in the elevator, the second plane struck the South Tower. Jet fuel gushed down the elevator shaft, dousing and burning people just feet away, in the back of the elevator car. Anthony, unharmed, rushed out of the elevator at the 44th floor and ran for the staircase.
"Going down the stairs, I met this little boy that went to work with his mom that day," said Anthony, "He had the same name as my son, his name is Michael."
Anthony says the boy briefly lost his mother's grip during the stampede down the stairwell. "I said 'Where's your mom? and he said 'She's over here.' Everyone was pushing a little bit. His mom was ahead of him and she kept looking back and I was telling her just keep going. I got him. I have him."
"I asked him questions like 'Do you play baseball?' because I was coaching little league at the time, to get his mind off it, but actually I was getting my mind off of it too because I was terrified," said Anthony.
"I told him 'Come on, just grab my hand. We're gonna keep going. We started going down the stairs faster and faster," remembers Anthony. "Running down the stairs, we'd see pearls, a pocketbook, a shoe, a sweater all these people's personal belongings."
"He asked me: 'Are we gonna die?' and I said 'We're gonna die one day, but not today, Mike."
"I was worried about him. Actually, I was freaking out myself. So, I really give that boy credit for saving my life because I would have stopped to help someone else and or other people, but I made it my main goal to get this boy out."
"We kept going down. His mom was one, maybe two, floors ahead of us. I think at one point we might have even passed her. We met her again on the 2nd floor, and I said: 'Your mom is a brave woman, take care of her.' He went one way and I went down an escalator. I was going to find my brother."
Anthony's brother didn't survive the attacks, and he never saw the little boy again.
"I just want to give him a hug and ask him a lot of questions about his life, that I wish I had more time in the stairway to ask him," said Anthony.
Margarita Nisanova-Yakubov was working for Morgan Stanley on the 69th floor of the South Tower when the first plane hit the North Tower. The married mother of three was just about to give her 9-year-old son breakfast at her desk.
"Michael had an appointment with a doctor and the location was very close to work," So Margarita brought the boy to work with her on September 11th. "Who knew the events that would take place on that day? Of course, anyone would know a mother would not put her child in a situation like this," Margarita said.
"We heard a big boom. We looked out the window and there were a bunch of things flying around," said now 19-year-old Michael Yakubov. "We looked to our left and we saw the first World Trade Center tower burning."
Margarita grabbed her son and ran to an elevator which took them to the 44th floor.
"There was a guy there on a megaphone telling us to go back upstairs, that everything was safe," said Michael. "Then the second plane hit. Everyone fell on the floor from the impact."
Someone helped the young mother and her son up off the floor.
"I lost my shoe and my mother lost her purse. We ran for the stairs and started to make our way down," said Michael.
"It was really difficult going down the stairs and reassuring Michael that everything was going to be okay," said Margarita. "Michael did ask me a couple of times, 'Are we gonna be okay? What's going on?' And that's where Anthony sort of stepped in."
"I guess I just looked like a kid in need of some emotional support. I think he thought I was in shock," said Michael, remembering the kind man who took his hand in the stairwell, "He was trying to comfort me by talking to me about sports and baseball."
"He was continuously with us," said Margarita, "I remember at one point, Michael was wearing a sweater and he was getting hot. I couldn't take the sweater off him and Anthony stepped in and helped me out."
"I wasn't comprehending what was going on. I was just trying to get out," said Michael. "He was just trying to make me smile."
"I remember when Michael stepped a couple of feet in front of us and he could not hear Anthony," remembers Margarita. "Anthony confided in me that he had a sibling in the next building and he was hoping that... they're alive."
"After we got out of those long 44 flights of stairs, we sort of lost him," remembers Margarita.
"Every day, every week in the months after 9/11, especially in the first year, he was constantly on my mind. I was thinking... I hope he survived. I hope he didn't go back to the first tower to try to find his sibling."
"When I got the phone call that he was looking for us. It was sort of like a blessing, a surprise."
Part 2: The Reunion at Ground Zero
Margarita and Michael agreed to meet Anthony at Ground Zero. It was only the second time the 19-year-old had been back to World Trade Center since 9/11.
"Do you think you will have a flashback when you see him?" Michael asked his mother. "I have been having flashbacks all week. I try to control them, but it's tough," Margarita responded.
"Oh my god," Margarita said, putting her hand on her heart as Anthony rounded the corner with his wife, mother, and two-year-old son. The last time they'd seen each other was inside the South Tower lobby.
"I remember," DeBlase said as he approached the mother and son, "I remember. Come here you," he said reaching out and pulling the teenager in for a hug. "You've grown since I last saw you," Anthony said to Michael.
"You don't know how many times we thought about you," Margarita told Anthony. "I was hoping that you had survived, that you would not go back to the first tower to the sibling you talked about."
"Yeah, I told you about him," Anthony looked at her and then looked down shaking his head, "He didn't make it."
"I'm so sorry," Margarita said putting her hand on her heart again, "I will be forever grateful to you for all the support and help that you gave," she said her voice cracking as she choked back tears.
"You're grateful to me? I'm grateful to him," said Anthony putting his hand on Michael's shoulder, "If it wasn't for him I would have helped someone else and my mother would have lost two sons."
Margarita introduced Anthony to her husband, who thanked him for helping his wife and child get out of the tower alive. Anthony introduced the Yakubov family to his wife, Lauren, his two-year-old son, and his mother.
"I'm so sorry about your other son," Margarita said, putting her arm around Anthony's mother.
For Anthony, who sought out the boy in the stairwell as part of his PTSD therapy, the reunion was healing.
"Seeing him puts closure on it. And the building is about to go up again, hopefully," Anthony said referring to the new One World Trade Center tower.
Michael, who is a graphic design student at Queens College, is also looking forward to the tower's completion.
"I told myself when that building is done, I'll go work there," said Michael gesturing toward the tower, "The Freedom Tower. I want to go work there."
Anthony and Michael are staying in touch. Michael is designing a logo for Anthony new company, while he waits for that dream job at the new World Trade Center.
Anthony, Margarita and Michael recently reunited at Ground Zero, for the first time in nearly 10 years, and Fox News was there. To see their emotional reunion, tune in to the Fox Report with Shepard Smith tonight at 7pm eastern.