As we approach the 20th anniversary of the most devastating terrorist attack on American soil, we are reminded of the string of tragedies that occurred that day. Four hijacked planes. Two imploding skyscrapers. The home of the most powerful army on earth went up in flames.
Nearly 3,000 people died that day in plane crashes, collapsing buildings and desperate leaps from burning buildings. Still, such disasters tend to leave only a few people standing out as unlikely survivors.
On the morning of September 11, Joseph Lott woke up at the Marriott Hotel sandwiched between the two World Trade Center towers. A sales representative with Compaq Computers, he was participating in a presentation that day at Windows on the World, the renowned restaurant and conference venue occupying the North Tower’s uppermost floors.
Little did he know that his quirkiest hobby would soon save his life. Lott has an affinity for “art ties,” neckties featuring famous masterpieces. And when he arrived at the hotel lobby for a pre-presentation breakfast with colleagues, one of them, Elaine Greenberg, had a gift for him: a Monet tie. Lott loved it, and said he’d wear it when he spoke at the conference that morning.
Greenberg’s fashion consciousness spared Lott’s life: “Well, not with that shirt. You’re not going to put on a red and blue tie with a green shirt.”
After breakfast, Greenberg went up to Windows on the World while Lott went up to change his shirt. He was leaving his hotel room when the first plane struck. Lucky tie in tow, Lott was among the first to evacuate to safety. Everyone at Windows on the World—including Elaine Greenberg – died that day.