CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While standing across the street from the World Trader Center 10 years ago, David Glowatzke remembers thinking it must have been a small two-seater airplane piloted by someone who did not know how to fly very well that just hit one of the twin towers.
He couldn't imagine it being anything else.
"In retrospect," he said, "it was someone who knew exactly how to fly."
Glowatzke, who now lives in the Charleston area, had been teaching a seminar at the Marriott at the World Trade Center -- a hotel that sat in between the twin towers -- on Sept 11, 2001.
Ten years later, Glowatzke still has vivid flashbacks of that day.
"I have nightmares. Not often, but it's always the same. The building has collapsed, there is only [a tiny space], I'm on my stomach and I'm crawling trying to get out," he said during a recent interview at his home.
The day the world changed
Glowatzke was no stranger to the hotel at the World Trade Center. Traveling across the nation for work, he stayed in New York numerous times a year, and always chose that Marriott.
The morning of Sept. 11, Glowatzke woke happy: "I was at my favorite hotel in the United States."
The conference room on the third-floor where he was going to teach a seminar on behavioral styles had a wall of glass windows facing west.
"You looked out and saw the Hudson," he said. "The sun was shining."
Glowatzke purposely started his class five minutes late -- at 8:35 a.m. -- to give people plenty of time to find a seat and get some coffee.
Minutes later, the lives of every person in that classroom changed.
"When the first explosion happened, the building quaked and at the same time you could look out the window and it was hailing glass and concrete, paper and debris," he said.
Glowatzke and his students started to talk very quickly, but "we knew that something severe had happened and also that we needed to get out of the building."
He led his students down the fire escape to the first floor lobby, where a hotel employee was telling people not to exit the building.
"You looked out the windows and here was coming down all of this glass and concrete and in my mind I was like 'you're right. I am not exiting this building,'" he said.
Then, a split second later, the building started moving again.
"I think that is the time when, probably for the first time in my life, death was looking me in the face," he said.
Glowatzke faintly remembers crossing the street to stand in front of the American Express Building and seeing debris litter the road.
Not knowing otherwise and thinking it was still just a small airplane that had hit the towers, Glowatzke asked his students to write down on their business cards what they left in the classroom so he could retrieve it later. All but one student left.
"I was naïve at that point," he said. "Who would ever know I would never get back in the building?"
From that point, Glowatzke said the horror of the day only got worse.
"The woman who stayed with me, we both talked during the experience that it was like being on a movie set, watching this all happen," he said. "It was surreal. I think it was certainly a defense mechanism to help us deal with the shock at the time."
Suddenly, someone in the crowd of people on the street yelled out 'someone is jumping. They're on fire!'" Glowatzke remembers.
"And it looked like they were. These people were committing suicide from 70 and 80 floors up," he said. "It almost appeared like they were small, like a match, but on fire."
Eventually, it got to be too much.
"I stopped watching people when I saw a couple jump. You could actually see them hold hands and they were both on fire," he said. He turned his eyes away.
"We were still not expecting the second airplane to hit. When it hit, we were sure there must be something more going on than someone not knowing how to fly a Cessna," he said.
He remembers a bomber circling the towers. "I remember saying 'I wonder if it's ours,'" he said. Anything seemed possible at that point.
Then the first building came down.