Gregory Tukov
Construction Manager Enroute to City Hall

Fania Lev

 

Fania: A neighbor of mine. Hello, Gregory Turkov.

Gregory: Hi, how are you?

Fania: Hi, can you please tell me, you, you know why weíre interviewing now, this is going to be Pace University's archive and this is a very important information not only to both of us but to many others. Can you tell us and share with us your experience and your aftermath of September 11th?

Gregory: Okay, Iíll uh, I'll try to tell you what happened to me that day. Uh, I tell this story maybe like a thousand times already, but uh, I still see it like uh, like it was like yesterday. And uh, I would never probably forget it for the rest of my life what happened there. I mean we all see it on uh, TV, we all see it on the news, but when you see it in your own eyes, thatís something unbelievable. Uh, on that day I was like in Manhattan because I am a manager for a construction company and I had a client who, who was uh, who was having a meeting with me. So I was there like earlier than my appointment with him. The appointment was at 9:30 at City Hall and I came at about like 8:45 just too have some time to have a coffee.  So I went to the coffee shop, had coffee and I was standing just looking uh, outside and all of a sudden I see like a smoke, smoke over the World Trade Center. Uh, it was like first World Trade Center and it was about probably like 8:57am. So first what you think you? You think itís a fire; so I thought it was a fire and I uh, I was like interested, I said, ďWhatís going on in the middle of Manhattan?Ē Such a smoke, such a thing, so I called my wife and said ďWow! Something is going on here in the middle of Manhattan.Ē And she told me she just look at uh, uh,  NBC I think and uh, she said that a plane crashed through the World Trade Center, so I was like shocked I did not know what to do. I uh, I see like uh, a lot of police car, fire trucks, everybody were pulling over to World Trade Center and it was a lot of noise and it was like a movie; I mean uh it was like unreal. I couldn't even imagine at the time Iím witnessing it, and I didn't know what to do and I started being nervous. So I said, I called my wife and said to her, ďWhere was my kids?Ē And my kids were luckily home; so that kind of gave me a peace of mind.

Uh so, next few minutes I saw a plane, it was unreal. Plane was like heading towards World Trade Center too and I saw it hit in the World Trade Center, it was like unbelievable. It was a sound it was like, as a, as a fire truck goes like by like two sec, two feet over you. And that was like, I was like shocked, I was uh, almost deaf from uh, what happened. And I couldn't even believe that this thing was going on; and uh, I at that time I thought it was an accident still I mean. But then all of a sudden I said, first was crashed, then second was crashed so it was something else; it was not an accident. So I, I panicked, I didnít know what to do because smoke was coming down now. And I saw actually people were um, uh, kind of uh, uh, jumping out of windows and trying to escape the fire. It was a horrible feeling so I thought I probably gonna die today. I was gonna die so I started like heading towards the Brooklyn Bridge and uh, Brooklyn Bridge was closed. So I didn't know what, where to go. So uh, my sister works in uh, Manhattan in uh, in the middle town of Manhattan so I knew where she was working so I uh, I was just like walking there and people were running, people were screaming, people were like panicking. And I was calling all my friends and my wife and I was telling her what it was like Iím witnessing. She was really worrying about me. So she said to just get out and I just get out. I mean itís a terrorist attacks, itís uh, something horrible happens, nobody knows what is going on and uh, people died there. So I couldnít, uh it was like many, many people and there, I just like followed uh, people and they were all like screaming, uh, talk to each other uh, didn't know what to do. They were completely, completely panicked...

Fania: Gregory, itís your call, I would like to know, what did you do with your car where, when you were heading towards seeing your sister?

Gregory: I didn't even think about car first at all, I mean car was too close to, to World Trade Center and everything was closed, you couldn't even, I forgot about car. I forgot aboutÖ

Fania: I could just imagine what you were going through um such a horrible tragedy as that and also witnessing it and actually seeing it.

Gregory: Actually, itís a lot of people were there like thousands of people. I mean you can't believe like Manhattan at nine o'clock and then in September days filled with people, full of uh, everybody going for business. So that was really, really like thousands of people were involved, they, I was like a small, small part of this tragedy and uh, luckily I, I got out like alive and unharmed but thousands of people died and they wereÖ

Fania: When you finally met your sister, where did you go?

Gregory: No, I got to her maybe like in two hours after I left downtown because it was a long walk and nothing was working; no, no buses; no taxis; a lot of people were on the street and I got a little bit, got a little uh, disconnected and uh, uh a little bit like I didn't know where to go. So finally I found her because I called her on the phone and she told me she would wait for me. So we were sitting in her job for, like till evening and after evening we, we went to Manhattan Bridge, we went to Brooklyn Bridge and we, we went over to uh, to Brooklyn. And we were walking over Brooklyn Bridge just to get out because uh, nothing was working, and uh, people were panicking.

Fania: At about what time, at about what time did you get home?

Gregory:  I got home at about like uh, nine o'clock pm and I was so relieved. I called my mother, my mother was worried, my wife was worried, my kids were worried, my friends were worried, my aunts, my uncles. Everybody were calling me because they knew that me and my sister were trapped in the city. So it was about nine oíclock in the evening when we get home and we were like shocked, frustrated and very, very depressed; uh we couldnít believe that itís really happened.

Fania:  What did you tell your children?

Gregory: I didn't speak to my children because uh. my wife put them to sleep before I came. They said that  ďdaddy is just uh, uh late from work so you just go to sleep.Ē So I didn't speak that time to my children.

Fania: Gregory, how did you sleep?

Gregory: I didn't sleep that night, uh, all night I was like uh, speaking to other people uh, telling them the same story like I am telling you now but it was uh, more like more as a movie. I couldn't believe that itís me who was there, who witnessed, who watched, who was doing it and I was uh, I was thinking maybe I should have done something different to help those people who were trapped uh, or some other people, people like to, to help them. So, I felt some kind of guilt that I ran and uh, tried like to save my life when other people were dying in the World Trade Center. For 24 hours, I mean uh, I couldn't like really uh, sleep well or eat or do anything. So I was just sitting like uh, with my wife and uh, watching movie, and watching news all over again, the same thing, planes crashing in the buildings. And now we knew what was going on at the time and it was like all so scary. I mean America and uh, terrorists in the middle of Manhattan. Thousands of people, hundreds of people, we didn't know that time it was thousands, hundreds of people had died and we didnít know about like fire department, fire fighters, police officers, EMS workers who died there too. So it was really, really bad thing so I really got depressed and I was depressed for a while so I couldn't work, I could not uh, just wake up in the morning. I felt tired, frustrated uhÖ

Fania: Gregory did you ever see a psychologist or did you ever take any medications?

Gregory: Actually, Iíve been to a psychologist like about two to three months after September 11th because I had nightmares. Every night like when I uh, like about four o'clock in the morning I would wake up because of nightmare all sweaty, thereís palpitations, uh, having a panic attack. That Iím in the middle of, Iím in the middle of this Manhattan and uh, Iím inside of World Trade Center and the plane crashes inside of me. So it was a horrible experience, so I went to see psychologist.

Fania: When did you go back to work?

Gregory: Took me like about three weeks approximately, I get over and everything got better.

Fania: Gregory, what did you tell your children about this incident, because I know uh, how old are your children?

Gregory: One is uh, five and one is uh, three. So I mean, they didn't understand what was going on, they watched news so I didnít really ever said anything to them.

Fania: I see Gregory that you know youíre sitting here and youíre, youíre actually very nervous and um, as if you are shivering, because um, your, your memoryís coming back to you, the aftermath of September 11th. When your children do get older, what would you tell them about September 11th?

Gregory: My children are older now, so I mean itís uh, so maybe like five years passed so my children are understanding whatís going on. So I told them already that I was there, what I saw, exactly what I was telling you so they were asking me why those people hit uh, the World Trade Center, why did they kill people? So, it was very hard to answer them, why.

Fania: Whenever you have seen, do you feel hate um towards Muslims?

Gregory: Actually I don't. I don't hate people because of religion. Uh, I hate terrorists but not uh, religion so I donít hate Muslims.

Fania: Gregory, have you changed as a person, your lifestyle, your perspectives on life?

Gregory: You know Fania, I think uh. all people get used to anything what happen, itís human nature. It was tragedy, people witnesses, witnessed uh, World War, World War 2, Holocaust, concentrated camps and they were still survived it. The only thing what I, I changed have, what changed in me is uh, that uh I, I started to thinking more, more globally. Not about todayís day or tomorrowís days but uh, about like life itself, about children, about future, what we really achieving here as a human being.

Fania: Gregory, when you drive by Chambers Street on West Side Avenue Highway, what, what goes through your mind?

Gregory: Thatís a hard question. I mean in the, in the beginning, first year after September 11, uh obviously memories of what happened were going through my mind and I was uh, really imagining what, what happened and I knew more from news than I know on that time um, and I was uh, actually on what was going on. My fantasies uh, uh, I was thinking like in this place, right here, with people who are coming to work, going to have like dreams to achieve, and uh, having families, their wives were pregnant, they were having their vacation next week, they were all, all dead. So thatís what was going through my mind but times passing and everything is healing so slowly and I start passing this spot and uh, I just, all this memory was still with me but it wasnít so vivid, it wasnít so fresh, it wasnít so hurting and slowly, slowly everything got better.

Fania: Unfortunately, this is history and now you, others, thousands, have experienced this; millions through TVs and um, all the broadcasting networks. However, this is your experience and your aftermath and I, I want to tell you how appreciative I am to meet you, with you and for you to share your experience with me. Thank you very much, and good luck to you. Thank you

Gregory: Thank you.

 


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