News10NBC Anchor Brett Davidsen sits down with friend who survived 9/11 attacks
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — News10NBC’s coverage of the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks continues with a story about tragedy, a pair of sneakers and the kindness of a stranger.
It’s the story of a college friend of News10NBC Anchor Brett Davidsen’s, Ben Kaminow, who was working in the World Trade Center when the planes hit.
He survived, and Brett reconnected with him on Zoom as he recounted that day.
Brett Davidsen: “Twenty years is a long time. How vivid are your memories of that day?”
Ben Kaminow: “My memories of that day are extremely vivid. I pretty much re-live it each and every day.”
Those memories always begin with recollections of a beautiful, sunny Tuesday morning in New York City.
Ben Kaminow: "I was working on the 25th floor of the North Tower. […] Sitting at my desk, talking to my colleagues when we heard what was like a muffled explosion — best way to describe it. I saw some metal fall from the sky and the shockwave came and literally got knocked out of my chair to the floor and it felt like the building was gonna snap in half. […] In sheer panic, I got myself up and I’m like, I’m getting out of here. I ran to the stairwell …and continued down. […] Once I got out of the stairwell, you could see the damage that was done. […] There were people lined up at the doorway to go outside and a port authority cop held everybody up and sent people out in waves. […] When it was our time to go, he said, I’m gonna count to three, you run as fast as you can away from the building. Do not look up. Do not stop. And that’s when I was with a colleague of mine, Mike N., and we took off running. […] There was a guy in front of me. He tripped over the curb. I tripped over him. I smashed my knee on the ground and my buddy said, come on, we gotta go. He picked me up and we started running. Made it to Battery Park City and had to stop to catch my breath. My feet were killing me. My knee and feet were bloody at that point. […] And this young guy stops us and looks at us and says, you guys ok? And I’m like, not really."
This stranger would turn out to be, as Ben says, his guardian angel.
At first, they just started walking together, not really speaking.
Ben Kaminow: "We walked up further, heard a huge explosion. Didn’t realize what it was and kept walking. And at that point, 25 minutes later, we finally made a turn where we could see and all I saw was just the North Tower — our building — standing all by itself. […] And within a few minutes of that, we watched our tower fall."
As they continued on, trying to process what they had just witnessed, they reached this stranger’s home.
Ben Kaminow: "Brought us up to the apartment and says, hey do you want these sneakers… you’re a mess. The sneakers, the joke is, they were a size and a half, two sizes bigger than my feet. And I took them and I took a pair of socks. […] And that’s when I still didn’t know his name. And he’s like, ‘By the way, I’m Craig.’ I’m like, ‘I’m Ben.’ I have his sneakers on. I gave him a huge hug. I said, ‘I promise you I’ll give you these shoes back.’”
But Kaminow and Craig Katz didn’t speak again for a few years — until, by chance — they ran into each other at a youth lacrosse tournament.
They reconnected and are now very close friends.
Ben Kaminow: “Without him, Brett, I’m not sure which way I would have gone. I don’t know if I would have stayed down there. Don’t know what could have happened.”
Brett Davidsen: “Benj, I know how we were during our days at Syracuse and of course, people change with time. How has 9/11 changed you and your perspective on life?”
Ben Kaminow: “9/11 has definitely changed me … I learned to control and not get upset. You know, it’s like, as bad as a day you’re having, it’s not that bad.”
And those sneakers? They’re now on display at the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
Brett Davidsen: “What do those sneakers signify to you?”
Ben Kaminow: “They signify the best of humanity. […] How a perfect stranger took me into his home, not knowing who I was and gave me something to help me get home to my family.”
Davidsen asked Kaminow what his plans were for Saturday to mark the somber anniversary.
He said he’s really not sure — saying he’ll probably just spend the morning relaxing or just sitting in his own thoughts, but in the afternoon, he plans to go see his son’s football game, and just enjoy his family.