Brian Noody’s 9/11 Experience

September 11, 2001 is a date that is seared into all of our collective memories. Our perception of the world can be divided into the time before that fateful day and the time that has come after it. We all have our stories of what we were doing that morning when we first heard the terrible news. My story is like many others, but World Champion taxidermist Brian Noody’s account bears repeating. Brian was working on the 77th floor of Tower 2 when Tower 1 was struck by the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston, Massachusetts.

In 2009, on the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I sent a message to Brian asking if he had ever considered writing down the complete story of his experience in the tower on that day. I told him how I was deeply moved to find out that one of our members had firsthand experience of 9/11. I told him that I would love to hear the entire story from his perspective if he ever wanted to relate it.

He wrote back to me and let me know that he had always been a little reluctant to share a lot of what happened that day, more from the fact that he didn’t want people to think he was seeking sympathy, recognition or profit from what happened. As Brian told me, “Unfortunately I have seen a lot of people take advantage of the situation for personal gain which I find appalling.”

Brian continued, “Enough time has passed where I don’t think anyone would interpret a recount of the events as a vie for attention. Below is what happened on that day. Feel free to share this or post it if you like. I really don’t mind sharing what happened, I don’t want people to forget or become complacent. I just hope nobody ever has to go through anything like this again, but I doubt this will be the last terrorist act we will see on US soil.”

I want to thank Brian for having the courage to re-live the events of that terrible day so that we can have a record of his personal account of what he and others went through.

My experience on 9/11/2001: by Brian Noody

I arrived at work between 7:30 – 8:00. I managed a small services team for a financial services company named Baseline. It was my first day back at work after a hunting trip in Quebec for Caribou with my father and uncle. I was in my office at the time when the first plane struck Tower 1 showing my boss Carl Boudakian pictures from the hunt. We heard a rumble and felt a minor shake and we honestly thought nothing of it. Just suspected they were doing construction on the floor above and something big was moved.

Moments later the folks working for me came running to my office saying something happened to tower one. As I exited my office to take a look, straight ahead I could see papers and debris floating in the air. Tower 1 was down the hall to the left and we ran down to take a closer look at what had happened. When I got to the windows you could see a gapping hole straight across and a little above us that appeared to be 3/4’s the width of the tower and 3 to 4 stories deep. At that point I turned to my team and said I want everyone to leave the building.

Our office occupied the 77th and 78th floor of Tower 2. The elevators were an express from the ground floor to the 78th floor. As you entered our office space on 78 we had an escalator that brought us down to our floor, 77. As I was exiting to the escalator with the team another sales manager and I were trying to decide if we should take the elevator or the stairs. As we came out of our offices on 78 an express elevator opened and we decided to take our chances with 20 seconds in the elevator.

As we entered the elevator the upper elevators started coming down to the 78th floor and the sky lobby instantly filled with people. The sky lobby was the transition area where people on the upper floors transferred from our express elevator skipping the first 78 floors. This all happened in a matter of seconds. This lobby was empty when we came out of our offices and before the elevator doors could shut the entire lobby was shoulder to shoulder. We had to tell people to let the doors shut so that the elevator could go down to the ground floor. People were practically standing on top of each other in the elevator.

When we got to the ground floor there was burning debris all over the ground around the exits. Security was asking us not to exit yet as they looked for a safe route. As I was standing there I called my parents who live near Buffalo, NY to let them know the tower that was hit was not mine. I spoke to them briefly and they had no idea any of this was unfolding yet. I told them I was on the ground floor in my tower and we were looking for a safe exit. Moments latter the security directed us to an exit on the east side of the building.

As I exited our tower and crossed the street I couldn’t help but stand there and stare at Tower 1 and what was happening. It was a bit surreal and you weren’t fully comprehending the danger you were in. As I stood there I could see things falling out of the tower. At the time I didn’t realize it, but they were people jumping who could not stand the heat and smoke any longer. Someone ran past me and yelled something along the lines of, “What are you looking at? Get the hell out of here!”

I really wanted to try and find my team expecting we would be going back into the office in a couple hours once it became known what the cause of the accident was. About that time the second plane hit my tower and people started running everywhere. If you look at pictures of the towers you could see it almost looked like a couple bands around the towers where the architecture changed. Our office was at the second band where that plane struck and I knew immediately there was nothing to go back to.

I still did not know what caused the explosions, but at that point you knew it was deliberate. I live on Long Island so I need to take a train from Manhattan to Long Island. Penn Station is a major hub in mid town which just felt like a potential target. I jumped on a subway into Brooklyn to get a train to Long Island from Flatbush. It is a run down station that isn’t in the best of neighborhoods, but I didn’t think anyone would be targeting it.

Once on the railroad with no way to get in my house and no railroad ticket I decided to get off at my mother-in-law’s house. My bag with my tickets and keys were still in my office. My wife was working as a consultant at the time and was in Minnesota on an assignment. While on the train some people were getting news that it was planes that struck the towers. Then I heard that the Pentagon was also hit. The last thing I heard before getting off the train was that one of the towers came down.

Shortly after getting to my mother-in-law’s house I learned both towers were down. It wasn’t until around 11:00 – 11:30 before the phones lines cleared enough for me to get calls out to my parents again to let them know I was out before the second plane hit and the buildings came down. My wife had not heard from me until that time as well and had no idea if I was still in the towers or not. She had to watch everything unfold on the news with no idea where I was other than I was back at work that day. My mother-in-law drove me to my house and let me in and that afternoon I spent the rest of the day making and receiving phone calls.

The one message on my machine that still sits in my mind as the most memorable was from my archery hunting buddy Tony. It went something like this: “Hi Bri, It’s Tony. Just calling to make sure you are still on that hunt. I’m pretty sure you are still there and not at work. Just want to make sure your are not there, call me when you get back, I want to know where you are, Tony.” I didn’t even think Tony realized I worked in the towers, he is a commercial lobster fisherman and the last thing you catch us talking about is work and the city.

That night I got a call from my boss who was still on the 77th floor when the second plane struck. He was making a last round to make sure everyone was out of the office when it hit. He and 11 others made it down the stairs and out just before the building collapsed. He explained what happened when the plane hit. On the 77th floor the south side was blown out and much of the ceiling caved in, including my office. I later learned that the plane actually directly hit 78 through either 82 or 84. Enough time has passed and I’m a little foggy on the upper number.

This is when I realized the decision to go up to 78 for the elevator almost killed me, minutes separated me from being in that lobby when the plane hit. Everyone that was standing in the lobby waiting for an elevator was instantly killed. The other thing that haunts me to this day was the dozens of firefighters and police officers that I saw heading into that building as I exited. They are real heroes and deserve a thanks from all of us everyday for putting their lives on the line everyday to protect all of us.

It’s been 8 years now, I’m sure I’m forgeting some small details, but that is really what my day was like.

The following Monday I started commuting to Philadelphia where we had a small development office. We frantically worked to put the business back together. I think it was a good distraction that helped keep my mind off of what could have happened that day. I worked there until the beginning of Feb when we finally had space back in Manhattan.

I still work for essentially the same firm today, although my role and responsibilities has changed many times. We have gone through a lot of mergers and today we are known as Thomson Reuters. I have been doing taxidermy since I was 13 years old. Had a business on the books by the time I was 17 and it was taxidermy that put me through college. I used to compete a lot at the state level when I was in college in the Empire State Taxidermy Association of New York. I never stopped doing taxidermy but it is more for friends and family these days. Another taxidermist has really given me the competition bug and I plan to start competing again next year. Hopefully we will get a chance to meet one of these days.

—Brian Noody, Garden City, New York

Since that time, Brian Noody has gone on to become one of the most respected taxidermists in the country. He has won all of the top taxidermy awards, including the World Show’s Simon Blackshaw Award for the Judges’ Choice Best of Show, National Champion titles, North American Champion titles, World Champion titles, the NTA’s Distinguished Taxidermist Award, WASCO Awards, and the Challenge of the Art of Taxidermy. Just this July, Brian was the recipient of the Pearl Henderson Lifetime Achievement Award at the NTA convention in Gatlinburg. I have had the chance to visit with Brian on multiple occasions and I am proud to consider him a friend. I even got to meet his Dad once, when he accompanied his son to an NTA convention.

In 2014, this walleye earned him awards for the North American Champion, Warmwater Fish Skin Mount, the North American Grand Champion, 2nd Place, the Challenge of the Art of Taxidermy, First Place, the Distinguished Taxidermist Award, The Polytranspar Award, the McKenzie Taxidermists’ Choice, Best Fish Award.

My story of 9/11 is like many others. On that sunny morning, Sallie Dahmes, Rick Carter and myself were in the WASCO deer research pen, waiting for the veterinarian to come and administer a shot of Rompun to our three-year-old whitetail buck, Woody. Having rubbed his velvet off the week before, we were scheduled to saw off Woody’s hard antlers for safety. When the vet arrived, he mentioned that the radio had reported a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

None of us thought too much about it at the time. I mentioned to Rick about the airplane that accidentally struck the Empire State Building back in the forties, and thought the damage would not be that extensive. We continued on with the procedure on the deer, shooting some close-up reference photos while he was unconscious.

My wife, Gayle, was unable to get in touch with us so she drove up to the deer pens to let us know what was happening. We got to a television just in time to see the first tower collapse. The feelings of shock, disbelief, anger, and sadness were overwhelming. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach lasted for days, which turned to weeks, and eventually months. To this day, the memories and emotions can come flooding back when I am reminded of it.

On September 11, 2001, The Taxidermy Net had its fewest number of visitors ever (only 563, instead of the normal 2,500 at the time). People around the world were glued to their televisions for days. As the shock wore off, taxidermists turned to their industry support-group for comments, discussion, and comfort. You can go here and scroll down to find Forum submissions made in the immediate aftermath of September 11:

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The Old Lion: Akeley & Roosevelt

Winning the Taxidermist of the Year Award at the National Taxidermists Association convention has always been a top honor. Last month at the NTA convention in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, this honor was kicked up into the stratosphere by the creation of a special trophy created by sculptor Doug Eck of North Dakota. As this beautiful new trophy was introduced to the members at the NTA Awards banquet, it was clear to see that the spirit and meaning of this sculpture ran deeper than anyone could have anticipated.

The Theodore Roosevelt Lion, inspired by the work of Carl E. Akeley, sculpted by Doug Eck. This was introduced in 2015 as the trophy for the NTA Taxidermist of the Year.

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The 2015 NTA Convention

        Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
        And I just hit town and my throat was dry,
        I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew.
        At an old saloon on a street of mud,
        There at a table, dealing stud,
        Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me “Sue.”

                                                        –Johnny Cash

Well, the streets weren’t muddy, but the National Taxidermists Association hit the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee smack-dab in the middle of July for their annual convention. Each NTA show has its own particular feel and personality, and this one was no exception. The Gatlinburg convention, which was the 44th time the NTA has gathered for a show, was jam-packed with the usual fun, camaraderie and excitement, yet it was unlike any other NTA convention before. It will go down as a unique, memorable event in the annals of NTA history. Read the rest of this entry »

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NTA 2015 Major Award Winners

Last week in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the National Taxidermists Association met for the 44th time to hold their annual convention and competition. For most of those conventions, I have had the privilege to serve as the show photographer which allowed me close access to see every mount. During the awards banquet, we project photos of the winning entries on the big screen as the winners are announced.

Although the number of entries was slightly down from previous years, the quality of the taxidermy work in Gatlinburg was outstanding! Here are the studio photos of the major award winners from the 2015 NTA competition as they were shown when the awards were handed out on Saturday night, July 18, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

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Texas Show 2015 Winners

I just returned from the Texas Taxidermy Association Inc. convention held in Tyler, Texas. It was one of the best state conventions that I have ever attended. With nearly 200 entries, the competition was an impressive display of beautiful taxidermy. But the warmth, enthusiasm and hospitality of the organizers and members made it an especially great experience.

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