A TELEVISION producer has revealed the split-second decision that saved him from being trapped in the blazing Twin Towers on 9/11.
The week before 9/11, Barra told his parents about how excited he was to visit the massive complex of skyscrapers.
“I’ve lived my entire life in New Jersey and I’ve never been to the World Trade Center,” he exclusively told The U.S. Sun.
But on the day of the scheduled interview, a world-altering tragedy struck the city.
A jet plane hijacked by a terrorist working with Al-Qaeda had smashed into the Twin Towers, leaving thousands of workers to die in the impact and impending catastrophe.
As far as John’s parents knew, their son was one of the people trapped inside the blaze.
Phone lines had gone dark throughout the tri-state area, and people were left glued to their televisions to try and understand what was happening.
Among the horrified onlookers was John, who made a last-minute decision to conduct his interview the day before.
He realized that it could have been him inside the blazing building, and tried to process his near miss while checking on family and friends.
“I mean talk about an ‘oh my God’ moment,” he said.
Over two decades later, he somberly remembers that fast-paced office space that was once brimming with bright-eyed employees each time September 11 comes to pass
“For someone who wasn’t directly involved in it, it has still affected my life and my friendships with those people who were in the van with me that day,” he said.
“I mean on one level, I cheated death.”
John still keeps in touch with the television crew that he was with the day before the tragedy, and has held onto his pass that he got at the World Trade Center door as a sobering reminder.
He remembers a now-heartbreaking conversation he had in the building with someone who he doesn’t know made it out alive.
“The most emotional part for me is when we were parking at the bottom of the Trade Center on the 10th,” he said.
“We were talking to one of the guards about the previous bombing that had happened at the Trade Center 10 years earlier, and the woman said, ‘This building can survive anything.”
After the disaster became apparent, John’s team was one of the many brave crews that ran directly into the fray to keep America up to date.
He caught wind of the news before he got to work, and recounted feeling wrecked over the decision to join them or stay put in New Jersey.
“I was torn between my job as a producer and my existence as a human,” he said, noting that he had no clue if the onslaught was over.
John remembers the sense of duty that overcame those working in the media as he watched their work from behind the screen.
“As odd as this sounds, it was art among tragedy,” he said.
“The footage was just tragically beautiful because if you really look at some of the photos that come out of it, it really shows the impact of what was happening in that moment.”
‘SMELL OF DEATH’
While it took John years to return to the site and finally confront his memories, his parents visited not long after the dust settled.
He recounted the moment they walked among the wreckage and said the smell of death was overwhelming.
“My father is a Vietnam veteran, so he definitely knows the smell of death and it made him flashback to that,” John said.
“So, although I wasn’t there, I definitely know what that must have been like.”
Nearly 3,000 people died from the attack, with throngs of individuals choosing to take their own lives by throwing themselves out of the windows of the skyscrapers.
Fire crews and other emergency responders spent over 24 hours sifting through the rubble to look for any survivors.
Around 27 hours after the towers fell, Genelle Guzman-McMillan was pulled from the wreckage after the North Tower crumbled around her, making her the final survivor.
Though the scars from the day are still painful, John said 9/11 united the nation in a way he’s never seen again.
“It was really strong in the tri-state area because it didn’t matter where you lived – in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey – you knew somebody who was in the building,” he said.
“And even people who didn’t know anybody in there was just like, ‘What do I do? I need to help. Can I donate blood?”
“There was this great positivity. People didn’t know what to do, so you had to rely on each other.
“That’s the last time I’ve really seen that.”
John now works as a television producer in Los Angeles, California.
He brought up issues ranging from the Covid-19 pandemic to the current SAG-AFTRA strike and said that reflecting on his lived experience helps him to keep moving forward.
“You go through a lot of darkness and pain, but you figure out how to move on,” he said.
“One of the most impactful moments was seeing people’s ability to rebuild and to keep going.”