By Frank Lewis
September 12, 2013
PDT Staff Writer
Nathan Lorentz has held onto a receipt from Dunkin’ Donuts for 12 years. To some people that may appear a bit strange, but to Lorentz it is a reminder that minutes after he bought his cup of coffee in New York City, terrorist planes struck the World Trade Center where he had just worked until 2 a.m.
“It’s dated and has the time on it,” Nathan’s father Dr. John Lorentz, of Minford, said Wednesday morning. “It was 15 minutes before the first plane hit. They had grabbed a cup of coffee and a donut and a cab and were on their way to Laguardia when the plane hit.”
Lorentz, a computer technician had been working in the World Trade Center for several days, and normally would have left at about 10 p.m., and finished up the job the next morning at the time the attack occurred, but chose to instead work until 2 a.m. and catch a flight back to his company in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, half a world away, Lorentz’s parents were shopping.
“We were in Geneva, Switzerland, at the time, my wife and I,” Lorentz said. “Our son was in New York, and he was in the World Trade Center. He was a computer networker at the time working at the computer operations center of the business he was working for at the time. We were actually strolling in downtown Geneva, and I heard it from a shopkeeper.”
The shopkeeper told them planes had hit the World Trade Center. That’s when the agony of not knowing began to set in. Like everyone else there, the Lorentz’s went to where they could watch TV, and that is when they began to see the images on CNN.
“Immediately we tried to call, but at that time all communications had been shut down,” Lorentz said. “We went to the police station and tried to get them to get through, and there was just no communication. The only thing that you could know was CNN kept repeatedly playing the planes hitting the buildings, so that’s what we were left with.”
Over the next several hours the Lorentz’s attempted to get through, and decided to try to email Nathan because he always answered his emails. This time he didn’t.
“That was the worst day of our lives, not hearing, not knowing,” Lorentz said. “As far as we knew there was altogether the possibility that he was there in the building when it happened. The hours drug by and drug by and drug by, and it was not until 4 a.m.”
Things began to look up when they received a call from Nathan’s girlfriend who had finally heard something. Lorentz said they were told Nathan was literally blocks away when the buildings were hit and was on his way to the airport.
“It was just a stroke of good luck or the intervention of God that he and his team had decided the night before to work until 2 a.m., then return to Washington D.C.,” Lorentz said. “They were close to finishing the job, and they decided, let’s just go out and have a steak and a bottle of wine on company, have a nice dinner and come back tonight. Then we’ll take off in the morning if we can get a flight. And they were able to get a flight out of Laguardia. If they had decided to knock off and come back and work in the morning, they would have been there.”
Lorentz and his son are well known in the documentary scene, having worked on several projects together, including the “River Voices,” documentary about the 1937 flood, and will soon be releasing a new project surrounding the city’s murals.
Lorentz describes the event on 911 as “life transforming.”
“It was just completely indescribable,” Lorentz said. “It’s a constant feeling of the preciousness of each moment of life, when something so precious to you is nearly gone and you have that intense feeling that you must value every single moment you spend together.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.