Councilman recalls ‘surreal’ day on 9/11

Plane struck tower shortly after he arrived at his 14th-floor office


Michael Trenga is thankful each and every day that he is alive to tell his story seven years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Michael Trenga Michael Trenga “That day is as vivid as yesterday … it was so surreal,” said the South River councilman.

Around 8:45 a.m., Trenga, who had been an account manager at a company in New York City for two years at the time, arrived at his office on the 14th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. About a minute later, American Airlines Flight 11 would crash into the north face of the tower.

“I was just getting ready to start my day turning on my computer,” said Trenga, now 44. “I remember standing up from my desk when the first plane hit the tower. The force threw me back, I looked out the window and all I could see was debris and glass falling.”

Trenga immediately called his wife, Beth.

“I stayed on the phone with my wife for the whole time,” said Trenga, who said because he did not lose connection with his wife that day, he would never switch his phone service from Verizon. “I was probably the only guy with cell phone service. She was screaming and frightened and I was trying to calm her down.”

At 9:03 a.m., Trenga and his co-workers observed United Airlines Flight 175 crash into the south face of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Trenga, along with his co-workers and people from other businesses on the 14th floor, started filing down the 14 flights of stairs.

“Elevators were out, smoke was coming out from the vents,” he said. “It was a scary day.”

Once out of the building, Trenga said, he ran towards the World Financial Center and towards the water.

Trenga said surprisingly people around him were talking calmly, looking up at the buildings.

“I think it was because not everyone understood what was going on and people wanted to try to stay level headed,” he said. “I immediately thought it was a terroristic

attack.” Trenga caught the last ferry out of New York City into Jersey City. “Literally, 12 steps off the ferry, I turned back and saw the South Tower collapse,” he said. The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., followed by the North Tower at 10:28 a.m. Trenga caught

the last train out of Newark’s Penn Station into the MetroPark Train Station in Iselin.

“I usually get dropped off at the South Amboy Train Station. My wife had left work and picked me up,” he said.

It was around 2 p.m. when Trenga arrived home in South River.

Hours later, he watched the whole day of Sept. 11, 2001 unfold on television over and over again.

“It was so surreal and unbelievable, watching the planes hit the towers on television,” he said. “My neighbors came over and were so gracious.”

Trenga, who has remained as an account manager at the same company, said he had no real fear going back to work in the Big Apple.

“I had no reservations going into New York; I was comfortable with Rudy Giuliani [mayor of NYC at the time] and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s leadership,” he said.

His company relocated to Parsippany for three months after 9/11, before returning to midtown Manhattan.

Trenga, who was elected to his first Borough Council term last November, said he keeps his bathroom key from the World Trade Center and his subway token from the subway station that ran underneath the Twin Towers on his key chain.

South River will hold its Day of Remembrance ceremony at 7 p.m. tonight at the 9/11 Monument in Dailey’s Pond Park. The borough will remember those who were lost, including one of their own, Christopher M. Dincuff, 31, who was employed as a commodities trader with Carr Futures, a global brokerage firm, whose offices were located on the 92nd floor in the North Tower. Dincuff was one of 69 Carr Futures employees who died on 9/11.