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Page 4352 of Mr. Graham’s deposition settled delicately onto the sidewalk, coming to rest along a leafy stretch of brownstone apartment buildings in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. Shredded and covered with a sickly gray layer of concrete dust, the page described an objection a lawyer named Mr. Frank had to a leading question of his opponent, a Ms. Brodie, in what appeared to be a contract dispute. Like thousands of other pages that slowly drifted to the ground in lazy pirouettes on the morning of Sept. 11, this legal confetti would be all that remained of scores of law firms and lawyers who worked in the two World Trade Center towers that burned to the west, on the other side of the East River. Many lawyers would not emerge alive. But it seems that now, in the aftermath, many more did. In the northernmost of the two stricken towers, Geoffrey W. Heineman of New York’s Ohrenstein & Brown was one of them. After American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into his building at 8:45 a.m., Heineman, managing partner of the 58-lawyer commercial litigation firm, led 15 lawyers and support staff in a desperate descent down to the street from their offices on the 85th floor of One World Trade Center. Heineman, 43, had been at work since nearly 8 a.m., coming to work early from his home on Long Island so that he could leave early that day for his son Matthew’s 11th birthday. His wife had called that morning to discuss buying another present for Matthew, and afterward he had made a call to a New Jersey lawyer concerning a legal malpractice matter. He had just hung up the phone when the building shuddered violently. “My immediate reaction was that the building had been struck by a helicopter or a commuter plane,” he said. But as flaming debris fell past the windows of the firm’s offices, attorneys and staff began to panic, asking Heineman what they should do. So he checked on all the areas of the firm’s offices, which span much of the entire floor, and after learning that the main entrance was filled with smoke, led his staff through a filing room to a stairwell. “A number of the women were crying and screaming,” he said. “The person working in the filing room had things fall on her.” Two support staff members, a data-entry person and a secretary, who usually arrived at 9 a.m., remain missing, said Heineman. He believes that they were in the elevators when the plane struck. As they descended into the breathable but intensely hot stairwells, Heineman’s staff was stopped cold seven stories down, at a stairwell door that was locked. Forced out through the 78th floor’s “sky lobby,” where express elevators go to the main lobby, a building employee “didn’t know” any other way down, said Heineman. Frantic, he discovered a second stairwell on the building’s east side, and continued downward, only to be stopped by yet another locked door. This time, he said, someone had a key. As they reached the 66th floor, people were pouring into the stairwell. Unbeknown to them, by this time a second airliner had plowed into the south tower, while the intense jet fuel fire 30 stories above them was beginning to weaken the north tower’s steel skeleton. “It was like bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway,” said Heineman of the packed stairwell. “Looking down, I saw only rows upon rows of hands on the railing. There were people trying to carry people, and when they reached a landing, five or six people would scoot by them.” As they reached the lower 20 stories, water began pouring down the stairs. By the time they reached the sixth floor, New York firemen, doomed to die in the collapse that would follow, were bravely climbing past the descending crowds, forcing them into single file. “They all looked like healthy young guys,” said Heineman. “People were patting them on the shoulder.” While navigating past a plaza that “looked like Beirut” and hugging a wall to avoid falling debris, Heineman said, he had become separated from many of the staffers. He exited the complex through a waterlogged shopping concourse and headed up Broadway. Five blocks north, near City Hall, he stopped and called his wife on the cell phone, realizing only then that the second tower was on fire. And then the south tower collapsed. Shortly thereafter, barely 25 minutes after he had left it, the north tower vanished as well. Heineman spent the rest of the morning wending his way through Manhattan, eventually catching a ride back to Long Island and to his firm’s small Garden City branch before the city went into lockdown. From there, he tracked down missing firm members, spoke to computer consultants about getting new equipment and began the process of finding temporary space for his 90 displaced employees. The firm has most of its files backed up, and also keeps document logs that will allow them to know which documents are missing. “We will be back in business next week,” said Heineman. On Sept. 13, he had secured space in Garden City and in Manhattan, near Grand Central Station. A firm-wide meeting that was to be held that day, however, had to be cut short due to a bomb threat. Heineman, who as a New York native spent most of his life in the shadow of the twin towers, says the experience had already soured him on the twin towers before the north tower collapsed. “I called my wife and told her I’m alright, I’m alive, I’m out, and I’m never going back up,” Heineman recalled. “Now I don’t have a choice.”

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