On the 11th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks, the Brother of the Sole Turkish Victim, Zühtü İbiş, Speaks…
In the United States and in what is known as the largest terrorist attack in world history, the 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of 3,225 people. Mehmet İbiş, the brother of Zühtü İbiş, the only Turkish victim who lost his life in the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, spoke to Özlem Özgüt Yörekli, the ABD Post New York correspondent.
Özlem Özgüt Yörekli – abdpost.com / USA (IGFA) – Although 22 years have passed, the pain is still fresh for Mehmet İbiş, who said his brother had a dream of working in the Twin Towers and described it as the “peak of the world.”
Here is the interview conducted by Yörekli with İbiş…
In the attacks carried out using four hijacked passenger planes targeting some strategic targets in New York and Washington cities by 19 Al-Qaeda militants, according to official statements, a total of 3,225 people lost their lives, including 2,753 in New York.
Among those who lost their lives in the 110-story World Trade Center Twin Towers, which were destroyed during the largest terrorist attack in U.S. and world history, was Turkish citizen Zühtü İbiş. Mehmet İbiş, the brother of İbiş, who worked as a computer programmer in an office on the 103rd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) during the attacks, spoke to Özlem Özgüt Yörekli, the ABD Post New York correspondent.
Mehmet İbiş, who said his brother’s dream was to work in the Twin Towers and described it as the “peak of the world,” talked to Yörekli…
Let’s start with the story of your family’s journey to America. What year was it?
I think your father came first. My father came in 1983, and then my brother came in 1993. My sister and I came in 1996, and our family came together when my mother and my brother’s wife also came. In 1996, my late brother pursued his dream of studying computer engineering here.
You mentioned that his dream was to work in the Twin Towers. Can you tell us more about that?
After he finished school, he started looking for a job. Even during his school days, he worked while going to school. Later, he started working at a company in New Jersey, and while traveling, he would tell me, “My goal is to work here, and he used to describe it as the ‘peak of the world.’ He referred to it as the pinnacle of the world economy and economic management, and he had set it as his goal to get in there.
Then he realized that dream. Which company did he work for?
He worked at Cantor Fitzgerald.
So, on that morning, he called his wife Leyla. Of course. Can you tell us about that process?
“That morning, I was at work, as usual. A friend informed me over the phone. He asked, ‘What are you doing?’ It wasn’t someone who normally calls at that hour. I said, ‘I’m fine.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to panic you, but your brother was working in the Twin Towers, right?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ Then he said, ‘I think there has been a minor accident, don’t you know?’ I said, ‘No.’
Then I went online while on the phone. There had been an accident, smoke was rising, but I didn’t pay much attention. After that, I called home, and I learned from his wife. She said she had called him and said, ‘Don’t worry; there has been an accident, a plane hit the building.’ She called to let us know he was okay. After we talked for about a few minutes, she said, ‘Anyway, I have to hang up; the firefighters have arrived, and they are evacuating us. So, I have to go out. We’ll talk later.’ That was the last contact.”
He was on the 103rd floor; the plane hit somewhere in the 70s, and it collapsed, didn’t it?
I don’t remember exactly, but it should have been like that. Because the first hit was the North Tower. It hit from quite a high point. It hit the South Tower more in the middle. Despite being hit about an hour and a half later, it was the first one to collapse.
Do you have any doubts about it? Can you tell us about them?
Through investigations conducted by the government, they produced a report in the form of a book. They based the findings on extensive evidence and conducted a very detailed investigation. It wasn’t a building made of wood; it was a reinforced steel building. Therefore, they said that because elevators were not working, firefighters could not reach the upper floors, where the fire was, and therefore, they could not intervene. So, the fire continued for a long time, and the steel that made up the building’s main skeleton melted, leading to the collapse due to not being able to bear the load above. My brother’s remains were numbered according to the building’s projection, square by square. They showed me when I went to pick them up, saying, ‘This piece was found in this numbered square,’ and all the pieces were in the building’s projection.
We see that the firefighters reached their floor very quickly. Yes, indeed.
Were there any other Turks there now? Only your brother died in that building, but were there other Turkish employees? Did you have a chance to meet and talk to them?
Yes, many Turks were working there. I had the opportunity to meet some of them and talk to them. The most interesting thing is that two brothers – if I remember correctly – were working between the 50th and 70th floors. I met them in 2003, and they told me that after the incident, they descended to the lobby floor, and when they descended, the firefighters and police directed all the people descending from above to underground camps below the ground level for their safety. My friend told me, ‘After we reached ground level, we couldn’t see anything outside. There were pitch-black smoke and various objects falling from above.’ So, the firefighters and police there did not allow or recommend people to go outside, considering the safety of the people. The friend I talked to said that after going down to the lobby with his brother, they were directed. Then, he said, ‘My brother and I looked at each other, held hands, and ran outside. We just ran without knowing where we were running. We ran until we emerged from that smoke and dust. That’s how we survived,’ they said.
What about your feelings at that moment? When you received the news, did you first think, ‘It’s not something serious,’ and then did you realize the severity of the situation when you watched the news? What did you do that day?
I opened the news but didn’t take it seriously because it was very fresh. There was only smoke coming from one corner, and it was black smoke. I tried to reach my brother by phone. I tried calling his office and so on. I couldn’t get an answer, of course. Then I called home, spoke with his wife, and talked to my parents. They were crying and following the developments on television. My parents said, ‘Come to us, son.’ So, I closed my workplace and went there.”
Your brother was buried in his homeland in Turkey, right?
Yes, that’s correct.
Anniversary events are held every year. Do you prefer to attend these ceremonies in the 22nd year? How do you feel?
No, I choose not to attend. I attended in the early years, and all the politicians come; they’re all there. After a while, it goes beyond the scope of the event; politics are politics everywhere. I don’t like that, so I don’t attend those ceremonies. Apart from that, we visit during quieter times.
Your brother’s name is at that memorial pool, where there are two pools, where both towers were built. Do you go there to visit, like a grave?
Not like a grave. I specifically wanted him to have a grave in our hometown. I made it with my own hands and placed him there. It’s not like a grave; it’s just to commemorate that day. We go there to remember him