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Woodbury Sept. 11 survivor reacts to bin Laden death

The announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed represented a somber moment for Scott Wallace.

As President Obama explained last week how a military strike team had killed the al Qaida leader, Wallace, a Woodbury resident, just pumped his fist.

"It was a thank you to the president that we got rid of this guy," said Wallace, a survivor of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks. "It just eliminated a very bad person from the world scene."

The news brought back a flood of emotions and memories, he said.

Wallace still recalls the events from Sept. 11 clearly.

He was on the 63rd floor of the World Trade Center's north tower waiting outside a conference room when the building swayed, throwing him up against a wall.

"There was a thunderous road above," Wallace said.

About 30 floors above him, horror was happening. A plane flown by bin Laden's foot soldiers had slammed into the building, the first to be struck in a series of coordinated hijackings that included an attack on the Pentagon.

Wallace, who was in New York City on a business trip, made his way to a stairwell along with others looking to escape the building, which, along with its sister building to the south, would later collapse.

Wallace recalled passing firefighters near the 20th floor. He said it appeared most of the fighters were carrying about 100 pounds of equipment as they raced up the stairwell.

They would later die during the collapse.

Wallace learned those firefighters were members of Rescue 1 - a unit whose fire station Wallace has visited in subsequent trips to New York.

While Wallace raced for safety, the world watched the events unfolding on television. His family was among those watching.

"It was almost harder for them," Wallace said of Sept. 11.

In his rush to evacuate the building, Wallace had left his cell phone inside. He had to wait to call them from a street-side phone booth.

As the nation prepares for the tenth anniversary of the attacks later this year, Wallace contemplates whether to mark the occasion by returning to New York City - a decision he'll wait to make.

"I don't know," he said. "I can't say one way or the other."

Wallace called bin Laden's death a remarkable achievement in the war on terror, but said Sept. 11 remains an open wound for him and his family.

"It doesn't close wound, but it gives you satisfaction that at least the perpetrator of this thing has been dealt with."

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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