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Windows on the World chef on his near-miss on 9/11 — he stopped off at the World Trade Center concourse to repair his glasses

Michael Lomonaco escaped along with his life on Sept. 11, 2001 all due to a detour on his method to work and a pair of busted studying glasses.

On that day, the New York Metropolis chef was headed to his job as culinary director of Home windows on the World, the famed dining space on the World Commerce Heart. He took on the place in 1997 after an already spectacular profession that included stints at such iconic Massive Apple eateries as Le Cirque and the 21 Membership.

However Home windows represented a towering subsequent step, actually and figuratively, because it was a high-profile restaurant located close to the highest of one of many Commerce Heart’s twin towers.

It was additionally an especially demanding job — the “restaurant,” unfold throughout the 106th and 107th flooring of the North Tower, was truly a couple of eating and ingesting spots rolled into one, serving as many as 1,000 prospects a day. And that meant Lomonaco sometimes put in lengthy hours, arriving at 8:30 a.m. and dealing by way of dinner. It additionally meant he had little time to attend to private chores.

‘I may see individuals waving tablecloths out the home windows of what I took to be the restaurant.’


— Michael Lomonaco on what he witnessed earlier than the Twin Towers collapsed

So, Lomonaco took benefit of no matter free moments fell his means. And on the morning of Sept. 11, he used one such second to get his glasses fastened, pushed to make an appointment by his spouse forward of an Italian trip the couple was taking the next week. He was at a LensCrafters retailer within the Commerce Heart’s buying concourse when the primary airplane hit.

MarketWatch spoke with the 66-year-old chef, who now heads Porter Home Bar and Grill and Hudson Yards Grill, two eating places in New York Metropolis, to speak about what occurred that day and the way he has since moved on along with his life.

8:46 a.m.: The primary airplane hits the North Tower

Lomonaco was initially scheduled to go to the LensCrafters at midday on Sept. 11. However as a result of he was operating forward of schedule as a consequence of a lighter-than-normal commute, he determined to pay a go to early that morning when he had an opportunity — “What chef doesn’t wish to save time?” — with the hope he might be accommodated. “I believed, ‘Let me see if I can do that now.’” The shop certainly had a gap.

When the primary airplane hit at 8:46 a.m., Lomonaco was nonetheless at LensCrafters. “We have been minutes away from being completed…They have been most likely about to promote me a brand new body,” he says. All of a sudden, he was jolted by the crash. “I simply thought, ‘Might that be the subway?’ It seems it was the impression of the primary airplane.“ The lights flickered after which went out within the retailer. And inside a minute or two, the constructing’s safety crew arrived and suggested that the concourse was being evacuated.

When Lomonaco acquired to the road, he noticed that “the sky was suffering from paper, like confetti. That was all from the workplaces.” He additionally noticed “smoldering, burning particles” on the bottom. “I took it to be a small automobile,” he says, however he realizes now it was most likely a part of the airplane’s fuselage.

He headed away to make calls at a pay cellphone since his cell service was out. He reached his spouse — “I stated, ‘I don’t know what’s occurred. I simply need you to know I’m exterior” — and the Home windows on the World possession. He began pondering of his staff on the restaurant. “I used to be making an attempt to make a psychological checklist of who was working.” He figured he’d return instantly to the Commerce Heart. “If I can assist in any means, I believed, ‘Let me go assist.’ It was not logical. It was emotional.”

9:03 a.m.: The second airplane hits the South Tower

However Lomonaco didn’t make it again to the scene. As a substitute, he was considered one of many bewildered New Yorkers on the road when the second airplane hit at 9:03 a.m. “I heard the roar of the jet engines. I appeared up in the meanwhile of impression,” Lomonaco recollects. After which, he realized the complete gravity of the scenario: “That is an assault. We’re beneath assault.” Somebody grabbed his arm and tried to drag him right into a constructing — “They provided me security” — however he walked north.

Finally, he stopped to see the injury. “It was terrifying and surprising all of sudden…I may see individuals waving tablecloths out the home windows of what I took to be the restaurant. I imagined they broke the home windows. I imagined the house was full of smoke.” At 9:59 am., the South Tower collapsed, adopted by the North Tower at 10:28 a.m. The Twin Towers have been gone, however Lomonaco remained protected.

The aftermath

Lomonaco says that 79 individuals who labored at Home windows misplaced their lives that day. So did 91 restaurant guests (the eating spot had its a.m. regulars and was additionally internet hosting a conference that morning). The Home windows workers was a various, worldwide group — to the purpose the crew referred to itself as the “little UN.”

Within the aftermath of 9/11, Lomonaco helped arrange the Windows of Hope fund to assist the households of Home windows staff who died, together with the households of different Commerce Heart food-service employees who perished.

“These are individuals who might be simply forgotten, ignored and uncared for, the individuals (usually) on the lowest strata of the financial pay scale,” he says. Thus far, the fund has raised $22 million.

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Michael Lomonaco (proper) with Home windows on the World founder Joe Baum throughout Lomonaco’s tenure on the World Commerce Heart restaurant.


Picture courtesy of Michael Lomonaco.

A brand new chapter in New York

After 9/11, Lomonaco held completely different restaurant and consulting positions. He additionally says he had some alternative alternatives to work in Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas and elsewhere. However he by no means thought of leaving the town publish 9/11: “I’m a local New Yorker and I used to be by no means going to maneuver after this.”

Finally, he acquired to understand a dream and set up his personal restaurant in Porter Home, a steakhouse with an upscale, gourmet-centric method. In some ways, the Midtown institution, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this yr, is a continuation of Home windows on the World, since Lomonaco borrowed some culinary concepts he started exploring at Wild Blue, the restaurant-within-a-restaurant on the Commerce Heart eating spot. Lomonaco additionally introduced aboard key workers individuals he had at Home windows.

‘I’m a local New Yorker and I used to be by no means going to maneuver after this.’


— Michael Lomonaco

Lomonaco recollects how individuals have been hesitant to return to eating places in New York after 9/11. And the identical has been true throughout the pandemic, albeit for various causes. It took him many months earlier than he reopened Porter Home. And he’s lastly reopening Hudson Yards Grill, his different institution, within the coming weeks. However Lomonaco stays bullish on the town and its eating scene. “New York could also be down, however you may by no means rely us out,” he says.

Lomonaco notes that he was hardly the one one to cheat loss of life on 9/11. Certainly, prospects left Home windows as late as 8:44 a.m., in accordance with one report.

“Many individuals survived that day in different methods, too,” Lomonaco says. However he considers himself “among the many lucky.” And ever since 9/11, he has aimed to look ahead. “I’ve tried to stability my life by by no means taking life without any consideration,” he concludes.

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A second likelihood at life: Chef Michael Lomonaco poses for a portrait at his restaurant, the Porter Home, in New York Metropolis on June 18, 2021.


Ed jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Pictures

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/windows-on-the-world-chef-on-his-near-miss-on-9/11-he-stopped-off-at-the-world-trade-center-concourse-to-repair-his-glasses-11631223081?rss=1&siteid=rss | Home windows on the World chef on his near-miss on 9/11 — he stopped off on the World Commerce Heart concourse to restore his glasses

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