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Survivors, loved ones tell three tales of terror from the towers

Two manage to flee to safety while another is pulled from the rubble badly injured.

By Times staff and wire reports

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001

Wednesday brought tales of terror and relief from those who survived the destruction of the World Trade Center and their loved ones. Here are three:

* * *

Edna Malinski knew she had to get out of Two World Trade Center. She had important plans for Saturday: the wedding of her "baby," her 35-year-old son, Kevin.

So when she reported for work Tuesday morning at Guy Carpenter and Co. on the building's 53rd floor, and then saw debris falling outside her window, she grabbed her purse and three co-workers and rushed for the stairs.

The run saved her life.

And now Malinski will be sitting in St. Catherine of Bologna Church in Ringwood, N.J., watching her son marry Jackie Todd on Saturday afternoon.

"My first words when I got to the street were, "Thank you, Lord, for sparing me,' " Malinski said Wednesday night at the wedding rehearsal.

* * *

Marie Pisciotta was in her car, on her way to her telemarketing job in New Port Richey on Tuesday morning, when she heard of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Before she had time to think about what she was hearing, she remembered: Her brother worked there.

Pisciotta knew only that her brother, Vincent "Jimmy" Cirelli, a 35-year-old stockbroker with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, worked on the 37th floor. She didn't know which building.

Just as she walked into work, she learned that another plane had hit the second tower. Then both towers collapsed within minutes of each other.

"I ran out screaming, "My brother! My brother! I have to see if my brother's alive!' "

She went home and started dialing her brother's wife and her father, who lives in New York City. At noon, she finally got through to her father.

"He confirmed that my brother had been at work," recalled Pisciotta, 38. "They didn't know where he was. Nobody had heard from him."

At 3 p.m., the phone rang. It was her father. Jimmy was alive.

Pisciotta's brother, she said, was in the tower that was hit second.

Cirelli was among the first survivors to be pulled from the rubble, Pisciotta said. He was in what was left of the lobby, near the entrance, covered with dust, furniture, and several bodies, she said.

His right leg was broken in three places and he was covered with bruises and cuts. The last Pisciotta heard, her brother was in critical but stable condition at a Manhattan hospital. That was at 7 p.m. Tuesday. By late Wednesday, she hadn't been able to get through for an update.

* * *

Justin Girard, 22, was on the 51st floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck by an airplane Tuesday morning.

He had arrived in Manhattan on Sunday to start a three-week sales training course with his new employer, Morgan Stanley, in the south tower.

At 8:50 a.m. Tuesday, while the class was taking a break, the financial adviser heard a boom from the adjoining tower.

His wife of three months, Mandy Girard, 21, was working on a school project at her kitchen table in Boynton Beach, The Today Show playing in the background, when the words "World Trade Center" caught her attention.

"When the first plane hit, I panicked," Mrs. Girard said.

Shortly after Girard heard the first crash, the notice came to evacuate the building. Office workers had gotten to around the 51st floor, Girard said, when the second plane crashed into their tower.

"When you're in a stairwell, without windows, the whole building feels like it's falling over. So people started booking it down the stairs."

He escaped without a scratch.

At 10:30 a.m., Justin Girard's mom, Della Girard, phoned Mrs. Girard to say that he had called her because he thought his wife might be in class. At 11:30, he finally got in a quick call.

"I told him, "I just became alive; I couldn't bear to lose you now,' " his wife said.

-- Times staff writer Cary Davis contributed to this report.

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