Neil Isford, CEO of e-services company Plural, was in his office at 115 Broadway, about two blocks from the World Trade Center, when the first plane hit.
"The building was shaking. When the second plane hit, we evacuated everyone from the building," said Isford. "No one could believe what they were seeing, at least initially."
The last one down 14 flights of stairs, Isford described the chaos when he hit the street. People covered in dust and cement, running for their lives. That's when everything went dark.
"It was totally black, totally black. It was unbelievable," said Isford. "And we just didn't know where everyone [Plural employees] went."
The employees he could find, he said, assembled and divided up the list of employees and phone numbers. It took two days, but with the help of an MSN community board, they finally found everyone.
He said he is relieved no one on his staff was killed, although one employee was injured when he was hit by falling debris. And while Plural employees are physically safe, they are also obviously shaken and in mourning.
"We've got employees who lost a brother-in-law or a boyfriend and there are a number of people [clients and business associates] we know who are dead or missing," said Isford. "So many of us have lived in this area for such a long time and now we are facing a second wave of dealing with funerals and memorials."
Isford said he checked out his office for the first time Tuesday morning, Sept. 18. He is cautiously optimistic the building is structurally sound, but the real issue is making sure One Liberty Square, impacted severely and in danger of collapse, is OK. Meanwhile, Plural has moved its headquarters temporarily to its Stamford, Conn., offices. Getting back to work, he said, is helpful if not just for the routine at the moment.
Isford said Microsoft is leading the effort on the software side to help clients, and Plural's IT staff is working 24 hours a day.
And some Plural employees are really going the extra mile to help clients deal with the disaster. In one instance, Michael Becker and Paul O'Connell of Plural's Washington office headed north with help right away, said Isford.
Becker stripped his wife's van, loaded it up with $1 million in hardware and drove six hours from D.C. to Plural's temporary headquarters in Stamford, Isford said.
"We had all the backup files in New York, but we didn't have the hardware to put it on," he said. "These guys didn't have to do that, but that's the kind of thing we've been seeing. They drove back at 7 p.m. that night."