Some New Yorkers Thankful for Their Close Calls

Another boring morning meeting. A rescheduled doctor’s appointment. These mundane events, normally minor aggravations, probably saved two New Yorkers’ lives.

Andrew Judelson had just returned last week from a trip to Italy, where he had toured Milan, Lake Como and Venice. The last thing he wanted was to sift through the week of paperwork he’d missed at the National Hockey League office.

"I had just come back from vacation and was stuck in an office till 12:30 in the morning," said the NHL's 34-year-old vice president of corporate marketing. "I was angry. When you come back from vacation you think, I have a new philosophy, I’m not going to work 18 hours a day. I had tickets for Michael Jackson that night that I had to give away."

Judelson and three colleagues needed to get to a meeting in Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday. "On Monday we had looked at flights to San Francisco out of Newark, one of which was Flight 93," he said. "I was booked on that flight."

But Tuesday morning, after spending the night packing a travel bag, he found he had to sit through a meeting and would miss his flight. He was annoyed, but had no choice but to book an afternoon flight.

Not long after the meeting began, a passenger plane struck one of the World Trade Center towers. It was followed by another plane in the other tower, a plane crashing into the Pentagon and a plane that demolished itself in rural Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh.

That last plane was United Airlines Flight 93, bound for San Francisco out of Newark International Airport.

"My reaction at first was a bit of denial," Judelson said. "I was not capable of even looking at the bags or carrying them out because they signified how close I had come. Unpacking that bag last night was a very emotional thing for me."

Later, when he heard Flight 93 had been forced down by passengers who had overcome the terrorists, Judelson found himself wondering what he would have done, or whether he and his coworkers might have made the difference between life and death for the 45 people on board.

"I think about the shoes I was wearing that day, and were they shoes I could have moved quickly in," Judelson said. "What could I have used to help thwart these people? I was in business class – would they have come up behind us? Who’s to know?"

One thing Judelson is sure about: "I will be back on a plane very shortly. I have absolute confidence in our country."

That same Tuesday morning, marketing manager Jenny Griffin was on a subway train headed for the heart of the World Trade Center. The 32-year-old had just come from an doctor’s appointment on the Upper West Side and was afraid she was going to be late for work at the offices of American Express.

"Originally my appointment was for 7:45, but my doctor had to switch patients around and asked if I could come in later," Griffin said.

She got to the subway stop at the World Trade Center at about 9:10 a.m., and when she emerged, "I saw the towers on fire."

Not knowing where to go, Griffin walked west, toward her desk at the World Financial Center.

"You’re so discombobulated, I wasn’t able to wrap my arms around the fact that there was a terrorist attack at all," she said. "In retrospect [going to the WFC] seems so stupid. What I was thinking about was, 'I don’t know if I’m going to be delayed going to work.'"

Only after she ran into coworkers who had just been evacuated did her near-miss dawn on her.

"If I had gotten out of my appointment 15 minutes earlier, I would’ve been down there 15 minutes earlier," she said. "I would’ve been right in the thick of where the planes were hitting."