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Valley man fled World Trade Center



Published: Wed, September 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The conference a Boardman native was attending was canceled shortly after it started.

VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT

Michael Tringhese was full of anticipation when the company that just hired him sent him to the Big Apple for training. On his third day in the city, the 22-year-old Austintown man was thankful to be alive.

He and 280 other trainees from around the country were at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's offices in the World Trade Center when the landmark towers were hit by two airliners hijacked by suicide terrorists.

"We were on a break on the 61st floor in Tower 2 when the first plane hit Tower 1," Tringhese said. "I saw fire and paper and wreckage falling. Nobody waited to find out what happened. They started evacuating immediately."

By the time the second plane crashed into Tower 2 near the 61st floor, exactly where Tringhese had been, he and his roommates had climbed down 20 flights of stairs.

"It was pretty freaky," he said. "The building was shaking. We could feel it swaying. The walls were cracking -- we could see the pipes. People were falling in the stairway and the three of us just looked at each other. We thought we were dead."

Finally out: Ten minutes later, Tringhese made it out into the street. People were shouting not to stop, to keep going. He didn't look back. He didn't know how bad it was, or how lucky he was to be alive until he got to his hotel and turned on the TV. Half an hour after he made it into the street, Tower 2 collapsed.

Thirteen members of Tringhese's training class are missing.

That he made it out alive is a great relief to his family. The fourth of Patti and Anthony Tringhese's seven children, the 1997 Ursuline High School graduate "sounded remarkably calm" when he called home to let his folks know that he was OK, his mom said.

She learned about the terrorist attack this morning while she was at work. Her first reaction was to gather her other children together, so she pulled her two youngest out of school and went home to wait for news. Michael called just as they arrived.

Lyle Williams, meanwhile, was in his car just a short distance from the Pentagon when he saw a plane fly by. A few seconds later, he heard two loud explosions.

The next thing he saw was a large fire that he believed was an apartment complex ablaze.

"I thought, 'My goodness, what a fire,'" Williams said. "I thought, 'I've never seen an apartment fire like this.'"

But he was wrong, tragically wrong.

What Williams, the former three-term Mahoning Valley congressman, saw was a suicide mission by a terrorist crashing an airplane into the Pentagon.

Williams -- who has on a houseboat on the Potomac River, about a half-mile from the Pentagon -- was on the George Washington Parkway on his way to work when the crash occurred.

"I got out of my car and everyone was running," he said. "I heard from people that a plane hit the Pentagon. The smoke was horrendous. It was an eerie, eerie feeling."

Charles Straub, spokesman for U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., said he was looking out his office window at the Rayburn House Office Building in the direction of the Pentagon when he noticed a large plume of smoke.

Straub had just finished talking to a friend about the bombing of the World Trade Center's towers in New York City when the plane crashed into the Pentagon, about three miles from his office.

"I was trying to put that bombing into perspective while I looked out the window and I saw the smoke," he said. "I thought, 'What is going on?' I saw the smoke rising."

He never saw the airplane.

In Capitol: Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, was in the Capitol waiting to give a one-minute speech on the House floor when the plane crashed into the Pentagon, Straub said. Congressional members and their staffers were evacuated from the Capitol after the crash, he said.

After the attack, Williams headed to his houseboat and spent the rest of the day watching the Pentagon burn.

"I can see the top of the Pentagon on fire," Williams said from his houseboat. "I've been here 20 years, and I've never seen anything like this. It was like a movie, but, unfortunately, it's all too real. I'm in absolute shock."

Shortly after the Pentagon attack, Washington was a ghost town, Williams said.

"A lot of activity cleared out of the city," he said. "The only thing I've seen is fighter-pilot planes in the sky looking around. It's impressive how they locked this place down."

A closer view: Margarita and John Goodwin Sr. have relatives in the Valley but live in Hempstead, N.Y. Margarita works in Brooklyn just across the river from where the collapses took place, and her husband works for the post office in Manhattan.

"At 10 minutes to 9 I saw that plane come up and hit the first tower, and it looked like the plane went in the building because there was no debris and no fire -- only smoke," she recalled. "By the time the second plane came in I was sitting there in shock, like it was a movie. Then it hit the second building and a big gust of explosion came."

About the same time, John was in a mail truck several blocks away from the trade center. He, too, watched as that first plane came in and struck the building. After the impact he said there was chaos: people running, screaming and crying.

Margarita managed to make it back to Hempstead when buildings began to be evacuated, but it would be hours before she would know the whereabouts of her husband. He, along with thousands of others, was forced to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan.

The couple is happy to be safe at home, but as of Tuesday night were still waiting to hear from other family members living and working in the New York city area.

A Boardman Township native who lives in Maryland, witnessed some of the aftermath of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Marian Dirda, a paper conservator living in Silver Springs, Md., was driving on the beltway by Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday morning on her way to a Smithsonian Institution conference.

"I was coming around the beltway and I could see the plumes of smoke," she said.

Dirda, whose parents, Harry and Ann Peck, and a sister, Carol Gbur, still live in Boardman, moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 1975. She works in artwork restoration for area museums.

When she initially saw the smoke, Dirda knew of the attacks on the World Trade Center Towers but hadn't yet learned that the Pentagon had been struck. She heard the news on the radio.

"The conference, which was in a government building, closed almost immediately," Dirda said. "There are a lot of international people there and we were helping them to get to hotels."

The conference, which focused on the production of old ink, attracted attendees from as far away as Holland and India and was expected to run through Friday.

Like most of the rest of the country, the attacks brought shock and fear to conference participants.

"People were crying," Dirda said.

"No one knows what our government's response is going to be," she said.

Experts needed: Forensic specialists also attended and were called away to aid in the investigation of the terrorist attacks.

"My son is taking a forensic science class in high school, and his teacher was pulled out of class," Dirda said.

Dirda made it home without any problems, but much of the area in and around Washington, D.C., was immobilized. Some of the roads surrounding the air base, from which the President usually flies, closed, rerouting motorists in the area.

"No one knows how long the government buildings are going to be closed," Dirda said.

Many military personnel live in the area where the Boardman native resides.

"They're just waiting to see what they're going to be called to do and it will affect all kinds of things," she said. "I went to pick up eyeglasses today, and [the salesman] said, 'I'll probably be issuing glasses for the military soon.'"

Paul and Doreen Holden of Coitsville were greatly relieved Tuesday to find her daughter Beth, son-in-law, Greg Backes, two grandchildren, and Greg's parents safe at Greg and Beth's Bronx apartment.

Had been there: The group had spent the week at a hotel three blocks from the World Trade Center, and had visited the now demolished landmark Monday.

Greg was to fly to Seattle on business, and his parents were to fly home to Nebraska on Tuesday. Instead they all spent the day stocking up on groceries, following news reports and watching a stream of New Yorkers commute home on foot, walking across bridges closed to traffic.

"Beth said she recognized an intersection near the Trade Center," Doreen said. "One of the airplane engines had landed in a spot near where she had been standing the day before. I am stunned -- and blessed."




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