Graham Egan in front of the Municipal Finance Authority building on Fort Street. Egan was in New York on Sept. 11

Fate intervened for Saanich resident and mayor on morning of 9/11

On Sept. 10, 2001, Saanich’s Graham Egan took the elevator up 107 storeys to the observation deck of the South Tower at the World Trade Centre.

On Sept. 10, 2001, Saanich’s Graham Egan took the elevator up 107 storeys to the observation deck of the South Tower at the World Trade Centre. The next day, he watched from his midtown Manhattan hotel as the tower and its northern counterpart were felled in co-ordinated terrorist attacks, killing 2,783 people.

“As you’re looking out (from the observation deck), you can see little Cessna planes flying around at the same height as you, or you’re even looking down at some of them them, flying over Manhattan,” Egan, 48, recalls about sightseeing from the top of what was then the world’s sixth tallest building.

The next morning, Ehan was wakened by blaring sirens at the fire station next door to Egan’s hotel.

He went down to the lobby and watched as a Boeing 767 slammed into the tower he stood atop less than 24 hours earlier. He watched, from 50 blocks away, as the two buildings eventually gave way and collapsed to the ground.

“It was a beautiful summer day, and we looked down the street and we could just see this cloud of smoke, and we realized that this was real,” he says. “It was an eerie, eerie feeling that the roads that were packed with cars (the day before) were now empty. … There was just a steady stream of people walking up the road out of downtown.”

Egan, finance director with the Municipal Finance Authority of B.C., was in New York to discuss the province’s financial picture with credit rating agencies Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s at a meeting on Sept. 12.

That meeting was originally scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, says Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, who chairs the authority. Leonard asked to delay the meeting by one day so he wouldn’t miss a Monday night council meeting.

“I was supposed to be two blocks away from where it happened that morning,” says Leonard, who watched the events unfold from his Saanich home.

With transportation in and out of New York at a standstill, Egan spent the next few days either watching and listening to news or trying to avoid the relentless media coverage.

“I did a lot of walking around New York – I walked around Times Square twice a day, Central Park once every day. You’d see lineups of people volunteering to donate blood, or helping out at shelters or churches. … You could really see the New York citizens gathering, trying to help out,” Egan says. “It seemed that everybody was trying to do their best to cope.”

Ten years later, Egan says it feels like “a lifetime ago” that he was in New York, trying, along with tens of thousands of others, to get home while transportation in and out of the city was halted for days.

On Sept. 14 he caught a train to Toronto. Upon crossing the border, he recalls the entire train cabin breathing a collective sigh of relief.

“We were home,” he says. “I remember looking up in the sky and seeing a plane flying overhead, and it gave me a very eerie feeling in my stomach, thinking back about what had happened a few days earlier.

“To me it was a real life-changing event to be part of, even though I was 50 blocks away. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peninsula farm stands open for business with COVID-19 restrictions

Growers hopeful shoppers will support local farms

Income tax deadline looming

2019 individual tax returns are due June 1, June 15 for self-employed individuals

Langford’s City Centre Park cautiously reopens most activities as of Friday

Ice rink, bowling alley and restaurant to follow new regulations

VIDEO: Langford man battling cancer honored with hot rod, motorcycle procession

Friends and family support Patrick O’Hara on his 73rd birthday

‘Seven baths in two days’: Homeless adjusting to life in hotels

Victoria passes motion to allow camping 24-7 in parks until June 25

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read