9-11 Survivor From Tucson Recalls Attacks

Posted: Updated:

It's that day of the year where everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing, when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.

One Tucsonan was actually there, inside the Twin Towers during the attacks.

The journey to the Eller School of Management for Mark Finelli began eight years ago, on September 11th, 2001.

"I didn't see the plane, I didn't see flames, but I did see the explosion," he says.

Finelli was on the 61st floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. His first thought - some sort of pipe bomb. His first instinct - run.

"I remember distinctly I was the third person to hit the stairwell," Finelli says.

By the time Finelli reached the 11th floor, the second plane hit his building.? But it didn't feel like much. And nothing had sunk in yet.

"Until I got out of the building, I didn't understand the whole gravity of what happened," Finelli says.

Finelli kept running until he reached the Hudson River. And that's when the building he exited moments earlier crumbled to the ground.

"The ground, Manhattan, actually bounced. And then you heard the roar. And I looked and saw that crumbling and mushroom cloud of dust and debris coming at me," Finelli says.

Anger overcame him. Finelli wanted revenge. At that moment, he says he decided to join the Marines. He served a tour overseas, fighting in Iraq. Still, no battlefield he saw matched that of ground zero.

Now 8 years later, Finelli is living a normal civilian life working on his MBA. But not a day goes by he doesn't think of 9-11.

"I realize how lucky I am to be alive. I realize I had the great honor and privilege to become a Marine because of that," Finelli says.

And now, the privilege to attend a nationally-ranked school in Tucson free of charge thanks to the GI Bill.

Today, Finelli remembers the New York City firefighters; remembers that we're still at war.

And will never forget that day eight years ago that brought him here today.