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9-11-01 Personal Accounts

Personal Accounts of the Attack on 9-11-01

These were sent to me by my Jokeline subscribers. I cannot verify for sure that they are true accounts, but based on other stories I have heard first hand, these seem to be accurate accounts.

I checked out at 8:30 am EDT and left my hotel room at the Mariott - Financial Center. I forgot to turn in my room key on the way out and decided to keep it as a souvenir for my daughter. As it turns out, it will be an amazing souvenir, since the hotel as I understand it is no longer there. Anyway, I was feeling upbeat and looking forward to a great day, as I walked up Liberty Ave. luggage in tow to CA's Office at 140 Broadway, just a few hundred yards from the World Trade Center. How little did I know that things would turn tragic so quickly. I reached our office and took the elevators up to the 49th Floor where our main office is at. Around 8:47 I got off the elevator, entered our offices and immediately heard a thunderous boom. People rushed to the windows facing west looking on in horror as flames and smoke leapt from the North Tower of the World Trade Center. No one knew exactly what happened.

Was it a bomb? Was it a terrorist attack?

Then someone said they saw a big plane hit the building. A plane, we thought incredulously? We didn't have a radio or TV in the office, but on CNN's Web Site they were reporting that a large commercial jet collided with the building. How could that have happened? Was it an accident? We simply had no idea and were shocked and confused. We continued to watch in disbelief as the fire and smoke engulfed the top 20 floors. Through the smoke we could faintly see people at the top of the building and some of them leaping out of the windows to escape the flames and smoke. We heard the screams of sirens from all directions converging on the WTC, in an effort to save as many people as they could.

Then just fifteen minutes after the first explosion, like a scene from a movie we heard a loud roar of engines to our left and looked over in time to see the second commercial airliner with four large jet engines. It was so close, I could tell it was painted gray with red and blue stripes, and even recognized "United Airlines" written on the right side of the plane. It came straight in and at the last moment banked left, so that it hit the South Tower at an angle obliterating as many floors as it could. Instantly we heard a shattering explosion and saw the fireball and debris shoot out of the other side of the building. The impact was so tremendous that the plane completely disintegrated and was replaced with a massive gaping hole around the 60th or 65th floor. Then someone yelled, "Everyone evacuate the building. We're the next tallest building in the area, everyone evacuate!" We grabbed our bags and quickly headed for the elevators. We made it down to the bottom and walked out onto the sidewalk mall in front of the building. As we stood outside or sat on the benches we looked up in disbelieve and horror at the flames and smoke billowing out of the South Tower. We were hoping that they had started evacuating the South Tower before it was hit, but no one knew for sure. Everywhere around us there were thousands of pieces of paper and ash falling from the sky like huge snowflakes. Some people moved closer to get a better view, some headed towards the subway, but I was fine just where I was or so I thought. I'm not familiar with NYC, so at least I knew where I was at. None of our cell phones were working, as people frantically tried to call their friends, loved ones or people whom they knew in the WTC.

Then about 45 minutes later, through the smoke we started to see huge aluminum strips of the building tumbling down the side of the building. Then all of the sudden we heard an awful screech of metal warping and twisting, then a massive explosion as the concrete supports failed. I knew instantly it was the building and looked up in time to see the top thirty floors of the South Tower dropping from the sky, huge chunks of the building blowing out away from it, as a huge ugly brown cloud of debris and ash engulfed the entire structure. We ran. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the twenty story volcanic like cloud rushing like a freight train up Liberty Avenue. In that single instant, I knew I was not going to outrun it, as fire-engines, people and the sides of entire buildings were quickly swallowed by the debris cloud. Up ahead just fifty feet in front of me, I spotted a bagel & hotdog stand. It was the nearest cover and I ran to it as fast as I could trying to outrun the roar of debris coming ever closer. I just made it and crouched behind one of the wheels of the stand, closed my eyes and covered my head. I was aware there were three others hiding behind the stand and one more person who dove under it. Then in a split second the wall of blackness hit us. The chunks of concrete and debris sounded like a heavy pouring rain hitting the front of the stand. Then an eerie deathly silence fell over the mall, as utter blackness reigned all around. Then after an eternal minute, we heard the sounds of cries for help, as the rest of us started to cough and gag for air, spitting out globs of dust and dirt. Yet, we couldn't see anything. The cloud was so thick, we couldn't even see our own hands in front of our face.

After a while, the cloud started to dissipate some, though we could still only see a few feet in front of us. We helped one another up and started walking through inches of debris and ash with our hands covering our mouths. As we came upon others, we did what we could to make sure they were OK and that they were walking in the right direction, away from the rubble and ruin of the South Tower. All of us were covered from head to toe in a ghostly white gray ash, and as we walked along I passed a man's shoe left behind by someone who was running for their life. After walking for a quite a while, we spotted a small grocer on the street corner, who was handing out water bottles to everyone. That's where I met Mike Tobin, a fellow business traveler from Chicago who had just arrived the night before. After introducing ourselves, we decided that since both of us were from out of town and we had no idea of where to go, that it was better for us to stick together. As we continued to walk and drink our bottles of water, we swapped stories and learned that both of us had stayed at the Mariott - Financial Center the night before. Thankfully we weren't still there. We finally reached the South Street Seaport where the air was clearer and we could breath again.

All along the street the various fish markets were open and the people who worked there came out with water for us, torn sheets for us to cover our mouths, and hoses and sinks for us to wash our faces in. Both of us were impressed as we started North how everyone was helping one another. Everywhere we looked, people were sharing water with strangers, helping people walk, making sure that everyone was OK, and helping in any way they could. As we continued North, we could tell that the entire City was mobilizing. People everywhere brought out cups of water, opened their offices and homes, and allowed us to use their restrooms and phones to call our loved ones. An off duty police officer who just returned from vacation, gave us directions to Midtown, and a bus driver stopped and gave us a ride. And finally, as the dust and smoke finally began to clear, rays of sunlight and hope shone through and it was a beautiful day. Thankful we were still alive.


My name is Adam Mayblum. I am alive today. I am committing this to "paper" so I never forget. SO WE NEVER FORGET. I am sure that this is one of thousands of stories that will emerge over the next several days and weeks. I arrived as usual a little before 8am. My office was on the 87th floor of 1 World Trade Center, AKA: Tower 1, AKA: the North Tower. Most of my associates were in by 8:30m. We were standing around, joking around, eating breakfast, checking emails, and getting set for the day when the first plane hit just a few stories above us. I must stress that we did not know that it was a plane. The building lurched violently and shook as if it were an earthquake. People screamed. I watched out my window, as the building seemed to move 10 to 20 feet in each direction. It rumbled and shook long enough for me to get my wits about myself and grab a co-worker and seek shelter under a doorway. Light fixtures and parts of the ceiling collapsed. The kitchen was destroyed. We were certain that it was a bomb.

We looked out the windows. Reams of paper were flying everywhere, like a ticker tape parade. I looked down at the street. I could see people in Battery Park City looking up. Smoke started billowing in through the holes in the ceiling. I believe that there were 13 of us. We did not panic. I can only assume that we thought that the worst was over. The building was standing and we were shaken but alive. We checked the halls. The smoke was thick and white and did not smell like I imagined smoke should smell. Not like your BBQ or your fireplace or even a bonfire. The phones were working. My wife had taken our 9 month old for his check up. I called my nanny at home and told her to page my wife, tell her that a bomb went off, I was ok, and on my way out. I grabbed my laptop. Took off my tee shirt and ripped it into 3 pieces. Soaked it in water. Gave pieces to my friends. Tied my piece around my face to act as an air filter. And we all started moving to the staircase. One of my dearest friends said that he was staying until the police or firemen came to get him. In the halls there were tiny fires and sparks. The ceiling had collapsed in the men's bathroom. It was gone along with anyone who may have been in there. We did not go in to look. We missed the staircase on the first run and had to double back. Once in the staircase we picked up fire extinguishers just incase. On the 85th floor a brave associate of mine and I headed back up to our office to drag out my partner who stayed behind. There was no air, just white smoke. We made the rounds through the office calling his name. No response. He must have succumbed to the smoke. We left defeated in our efforts and made our way back to the stairwell. We proceeded to the 78th floor where we had to change over to a different stairwell. 78 is the main junction to switch to the upper floors. I expected to see more people. There were some 50 to 60 more. Not enough. Wires and fires all over the place. Smoke too. A brave man was fighting a fire with the emergency hose. I stopped with two friends to make sure that everyone from our office was accounted for. We ushered them and confused people into the stairwell. In retrospect, I recall seeing Harry, my head trader, doing the same several yards behind me. I am only 35. I have known him for over 14 years. I headed into the stairwell with 2 friends.

We were moving down very orderly in Stair Case A. very slowly. No panic. At least not overt panic. My legs could not stop shaking. My heart was pounding. Some nervous jokes and laughter. I made a crack about ruining a brand new pair of Merrells. Even still, they were right, my feet felt great. We all laughed. We checked our cell phones. Surprisingly, there was a very good signal, but the Sprint network was jammed. I heard that the Blackberry 2 way email devices worked perfectly. On the phones, 1 out of 20 dial attempts got through. I knew I could not reach my wife so I called my parents. I told them what happened and that we were all okay and on the way down. Soon, my sister in law reached me. I told her we were fine and moving down. I believe that was about the 65th floor. We were bored and nervous. I called my friend Angel in San Francisco. I knew he would be watching. He was amazed I was on the phone. He told me to get out that there was another plane on its way. I did not know what he was talking about. By now the second plane had struck Tower 2. We were so deep into the middle of our building that we did not hear or feel anything. We had no idea what was really going on. We kept making way for wounded to go down ahead of us. Not many of them, just a few. No one seemed seriously wounded. Just some cuts and scrapes. Everyone cooperated. Everyone was a hero yesterday. No questions asked. I had co-workers in another office on the 77th floor. I tried dozens of times to get them on their cell phones or office lines. It was futile. Later I found that they were alive. One of the many miracles on a day of tragedy.

On the 53rd floor we came across a very heavyset man sitting on the stairs. I asked if he needed help or was he just resting. He needed help. I knew I would have trouble carrying him because I have a very bad back. But my friend and I offered anyway. We told him he could lean on us. He hesitated, I don't know why. I said do you want to come or do you want us to send help for you. He chose for help. I told him he was on the 53rd floor in Stairwell A and that's what I would tell the rescue workers. He said okay and we left. On the 44th floor my phone rang again. It was my parents. They were hysterical. I said relax, I'm fine. My father said get out, there is third plane coming. I still did not understand. I was kind of angry. What did my parents think? Like I needed some other reason to get going? I couldn't move the thousand people in front of me any faster. I know they love me, but no one inside understood what the situation really was. My parents did. Starting around this floor the firemen, policemen, WTC K-9 units without the dogs, anyone with a badge, started coming up as we were heading down. I stopped a lot of them and told them about the man on 53 and my friend on 87. I later felt terrible about this. They headed up to find those people and met death instead. On the 33rd floor I spoke with a man who somehow new most of the details. He said 2 small planes hit the building. Now we all started talking about which terrorist group it was. Was it an internal organization or an external one? The overwhelming but uninformed opinion was Islamic Fanatics. Regardless, we now knew that it was not a bomb and there were potentially more planes coming. We understood. On the 3r floor the lights went out and we heard & felt this rumbling coming towards us from above. I thought the staircase was collapsing upon itself. It was 10am now and that was Tower 2 collapsing next door. We did not know that. Someone had a flashlight. We passed it forward and left the stairwell and headed down a dark and cramped corridor to an exit. We could not see at all. I recommended that everyone place a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them and call out if they hit an obstacle so others would know to avoid it. They did. It worked perfectly. We reached another stairwell and saw a female officer emerge soaking wet and covered in soot. She said we could not go that way it was blocked. Go up to 4 and use the other exit. Just as we started up she said it was ok to go down instead. There was water everywhere. I called out for hands on shoulders again and she said that was a great idea. She stayed behind instructing people to do that. I do not know what happened to her. We emerged into an enormous room. It was light but filled with smoke. I commented to a friend that it must be under construction. Then we realized where we were. It was the second floor. The one that overlooks the lobby. We were ushered out into the courtyard, the one where the fountain used to be.

My first thought was of a TV movie I saw once about nuclear winter and fallout. I could not understand where all of the debris came from. There was at least five inches of this gray pasty dusty drywall soot on the ground as well as a thickness of it in the air. Twisted steel and wires. I heard there were bodies and body parts as well, but I did not look. It was bad enough. We hid under the remaining overhangs and moved out to the street. We were told to keep walking towards Houston Street. The odd thing is that there were very few rescue workers around. Less than five. They all must have been trapped under the debris when Tower 2 fell. We did not know that and could not understand where all of that debris came from. It was just my friend Kern and I now. We were hugging but sad. We felt certain that most of our friends ahead of us died and we knew no one behind us. We came upon a post office several blocks away. We stopped and looked up. Our building, exactly where our office is (was), was engulfed in flame and smoke. A postal worker said that Tower 2 had fallen down. I looked again and sure enough it was gone. My heart was racing. We kept trying to call our families. I could not get in touch with my wife. Finally I got through to my parents. Relived is not the word to explain their feelings. They got through to my wife, thank G-d and let her know I was alive. We sat down. A girl on a bike offered us some water. Just as she took the cap off her bottle we heard a rumble. We looked up and our building, Tower 1 collapsed. I did not note the time but I am told it was 10:30am. We had been out less than 15 minutes.

We were mourning our lost friends, particularly the one who stayed in the office as we were now sure that he had perished. We started walking towards Union Square. I was going to Beth Israel Medical Center to be looked at. We stopped to hear the President speaking on the radio. My phone rang. It was my wife. I think I fell to my knees crying when I heard her voice. Then she told me the most incredible thing. My partner who had stayed behind called her. He was alive and well. I guess we just lost him in the commotion. We started jumping and hugging and shouting. I told my wife that my brother had arranged for a hotel in midtown. He can be very resourceful in that way. I told her I would call her from there. My brother and I managed to get a gypsy cab to take us home to Westchester instead. I cried on my son and held my wife until I fell asleep.

As it turns out my partner, the one who I thought had stayed behind was behind us with Harry Ramos, our head trader. This is now second hand information. They came upon Victor, the heavyset man on the 53rd floor. They helped him. He could barely move. My partner bravely/stupidly tested the elevator on the 52nd floor. He rode it down to the sky lobby on 44. The doors opened, it was fine. He rode it back up and got Harry and Victor. I don't yet know if anyone else joined them. Once on 44 they made their way back into the stairwell. Someplace around the 39th to 36th floors they felt the same rumble I felt on the 3rd floor. It was 10am and Tower 2 was coming down. They had about 30 minutes to get out. Victor said he could no longer move. They offered to have him lean on them. He said he couldn't do it. My partner hollered at him to sit on his butt and schooch down the steps. He said he was not capable of doing it. Harry told my partner to go ahead of them. Harry had once had a heart attack and was worried about this mans heart. It was his nature to be this way. He was/is one of the kindest people I know. He would not leave a man behind. My partner went ahead and made it out. He said he was out maybe 10 minutes before the building came down. This means that Harry had maybe 25 minutes to move Victor 36 floors. I guess they moved 1 floor every 1.5 minutes. Just a guess. This means Harry was around the 20th floor when the building collapsed. As of now 12 of 13 people are accounted for.

As of 6pm yesterday his wife had not heard from him. I fear that Harry is lost. However, a short while ago I heard that he may be alive. Apparently there is a web site with survivor names on it and his name appears there. Unfortunately, Ramos is not an uncommon name in New York. Pray for him and all those like him. With regards to the firemen heading upstairs, I realize that they were going up anyway. But, it hurts to know that I may have made them move quicker to find my friend. Rationally, I know this is not true and that I am not the responsible one. The responsible ones are in hiding somewhere on this planet and damn them for making me feel like this. But they should know that they failed in terrorizing us. We were calm. Those men and women that went up were heroes in the face of it all. They must have known what was going on and they did their jobs. Ordinary people were heroes too. Today the images that people around the world equate with power and democracy are gone but "America" is not an image it is a concept. That concept is only strengthened by our pulling together as a team. If you want to kill us, leave us alone because we will do it by ourselves. If you want to make us stronger, attack and we unite. This is the ultimate failure of terrorism against The United States and the ultimate price we pay to be free, to decide where we want to work, what we want to eat, and when & where we want to go on vacation. The very moment the first plane was hijacked, democracy won.

This next one was sent to me by one of my Jewish Humor subscribers. There are Hebrew words in this one that many of you will not know the meaning of, but trust me, you don't have to understand Hebrew to get the message.

Dear Yossi,

I write this with thanks to the Ribbono Shel Olam, to be able to write it, and not be written about! As we were dispatched to the Twin Towers for a fire, not knowing what we were getting in to, I rode in the Hatzoloh ambulance to Manhattan. We were able to clearly see the upper portion of the towers on fire from the Prospect Expressway on the way into the Battery Tunnel. As we got out of the tunnel and turned on to West St. I saw body parts all over the street. I saw a part of the airplane, it looked like a engine behind a burned car. As we got closer, we were told to park the ambulance right near the towers. I think we were originally right behind the towers.

Then there was a report that a 3rd plane may be coming into the building, so we got back on the ambulance and started to drive a little further away. Then we were told it was all clear and that we should park the ambulance on the street behind the towers. We were parked and waiting for directions from the Command Center which was being set up in the lobby of the towers. While we were waiting a lot of Hatzoloh members gathered near the ambulances watching the towers burn. All that was between the towers and us was 1 building. As we waited, we started to see people jumping out of the windows of the towers below the fire floors. I guess their choice was frying in the building or jumping to their deaths. A site I don't think I well ever forget. We just started to say Tehillim. How helpless we all felt knowing that there is nothing that we can do, besides watching them fall to their deaths. As we were waiting for instructions. We heard this loud rumble, I looked up and saw the tower starting to come straight down on itself. I along with every one else ran for our lives. About a half a block down there was this tremendous cloud of smoke, dust and debris that caught up with us. At that point it became dark, so dark you couldn't see an inch in front of you. I wasn't able to breathe, the smoke and debris was so thick. I can only compare it to putting a vacuum cleaner bag full of dust over your head and trying to see and breath with it on. It was impossible to keep my eyes open, they were burning from everything in the air. As I was running I started to get very short of breath. The air was so thick you can cut it!

It was like Makos Choshech. *

As we were running another Hatzoloh member tripped, I stopped to help him get up, B"H he was able to get up. I think he would have been stampeded on by all the masses of people running. At the same time I noticed a 2-way radio on the floor, in all the chaos for some reason (Hashgocho) I picked it up. About a half a block down the smoke and debris caught up to us. We couldn't see a thing nor were we able to breathe. I knew that I had to find shelter some how, not knowing what was coming off the tower or how far it was flying. I considered hiding under a fire truck, but It was getting hard to breathe. I was getting out of breath and knew I had to get into a building. I ran into an alley way and stopped running. It was getting very hard to breathe and I was breathing very fast, from running. I sat myself down and thought to myself that this was probably going to be the end! I figured if I keep running I will definitely not survive. I will need too much oxygen and there wasn't much. I knew there was a building somewhere in this courtyard I just had to calm down and find a window to break and climb in. At this time I heard people yelling if any body was around and I answered. We were still unable to see a thing. It was so quite, not a sound. Some big guy tripped on me while I was sitting trying to calm down. He asked if I am person. I told him to hold on to me and together we will survive. We held on to each other and felt our way to a wall of a building. We were able to feel a big window and then followed it hoping to find a door. There was a big plate glass door. it was locked. I went to grab my Hatzoloh radio and break the window but couldn't find it, I grabbed the radio that I found in the street which "happened to be" a Hatzoloh radio that someone else lost and started to bang on the glass hopping to break it. It wouldn't break. B"H I had that radio, cause it was approximately. twice the size of my regular radio. I don't know if anybody would have heard me banging on the glass with that radio. Somebody came to the door from inside and motioned to me to stop banging. He opened the door and let us in. The lobby of this building was a little better than out side. There was light and water. We were all choking on the debris and smoke. We stayed in this lobby approximately.15 minutes or so, till the second tower collapsed.

B"H I had picked up the radio, and I was able to communicate to let the other Hatzoloh members know which building I'm in and that I am alive (300 Albany Street). It was horrendous listening to fellow Hatzoloh members yelling for help on the radio not knowing exactly where they were or if they will survive. One member was yelling and crying that we was trapped and surrounded by fire all around and he doesn't know where he is. Thinking back this was a period of time, just listening to the Hatzoloh radio that we knew that we were being judged up above. At that point we were told to get out of the building for fear that it also may collapse. Someone handed out dust masks they found. I grabbed a shirt and wet it and ripped it in half. I gave one half to a fireman so that we would have something to try to filter our breathing. As we ran out into the street back into this chaos, we didn't know what would fall on us. I saw an Hatzoloh Ambulance, I jumped into it, there other members on it already. We all needed oxygen badly. We were covered from head to toe in this debris. The ambulance was covered inside and outside with all this matter. The ambulance I was on was the one I came with to the city. I had my paramedic equipment on it was also covered with this stuff. (I have no idea where my equipment is now. Approximately 30 thousand dollars worth.) We all put on oxygen masks, we had to share it since we all needed it and there was only so much. We took turns, each wanted the other one to have it, each saying you need it more than I. MI KIAMCHO YISROEL! I put on a pulse oximeter on myself to see how much oxygen I was getting, it read 93-94 a little low, normal is 97-100. The ambulance wasn't able to go any further. We were at the waterfront a block or two from the towers. the police brought in boats, to ferry people off Manhattan to Liberty Park in Jersey. I knew I had to get out of there, I had a hard time breathing.

I got off the ambulance and went toward the boats. They were allowing woman and children on first. I went to the front of the line and told them I was a Paramedic, they let me on the boat. The helplessness I felt standing there without any equipment trying to help people. There was a fireman that couldn't see. He had so much debris in his eyes. I found a bottle of water on the boat and tried flushing out his eyes. There was a woman from the Chief Medical Examiners office on the boat, she had a broken leg. The Chief Medical Examiner had some lacerations to his hand. I told him I am glad I can meet him standing up! There was a person having a asthma attack. I tried my best to help the ones I was able to. When we got to Liberty Park, there was a huge tent set up to triage patients coming off the boats. I helped some firemen. there was Fire Chief Murphy whom was having chest pain. I gave him some oxygen and got a ambulance crew to get him to a hospital. He was very thankful to myself and Hatzoloh. I helped with some other patients for about an hour, when it all started to catch up with me. I haven't eaten all day. I had been in shul in the morning and was up to Borochu when I answered a Hatzoloh call. From the call I took my sons to yeshiva and then went straight to the city. On the way into the city I reminded my self to say S'hma. I said Shmona Esrei about 1 or 2 in the afternoon, while I was being treated for exhaustion and smoke inhalation. They took me to Bayonne Hospital where the staff was unbelievable. They couldn't believe that we survived. One Jewish Dr. walked into the room and looked at me and said Boruch Hashem!

My roommate in the hospital was a paramedic from Metro Care, that was in their Command Center when it got hit from debris from the building as it collapsed. He doesn't know how he got out of it. After all the dust settled, that Command Center was on its side in flames. He was banged up, and will be OK, IY"H. At the hospital, I was quickly assessed in the emergency room and then sent up to a room, where they did blood tests and chest X-ray. B"H all looked ok. I was discharged about 4pm. Some Hatzoloh members made their way to the hospital, and we were more than happy to see each other alive. 2 of these guys were on the way into the building when it collapsed. We had to get back to Brooklyn, but all the bridges and tunnels were closed. We went up to the cops and told them we are paramedics that were just heading back to the city, they asked for some ID, and let us through all the way to Brooklyn. The nissim that we all experienced as individuals and as a group of Chevra Hatzoloh is indescribable. the chesed we all saw from the Ribbon Shel Olam is boundless. B"H all Hatzoloh members are accounted for, some with broken limbs and scratches and bruises - NONE THE LESS ALIVE! We should all say Tehillim and Daven for those injured, and those still trapped and unaccounted for, as of yet. Rabbi Price, a Hatzoloh member said yesterday, that now we have some understanding of Aveinu Malkeinu Kosveinu Bsefer Z'chuyos! There are numerous stories of nissim and chesed, that we were zoicha to witness and be a part of, in this unfortunate situation. Chasdei Hashem Ki Lo Somnu Ki Lo Cholu Rachamov! When I got up this morning and said Modeh Ani, It had a whole different meaning. The Brocho of M'chayae Hameissim has a different meaning. Modim took allot longer than usual. I wasn't in a rush to leave shul this morning. Life is to short and precious. Unfortunately it sometimes takes a situation like this to wake us up. May we all have a K'siva V'chasima Tova, and may we know of no more tragedies and be witness to B'ias Goel Tzedek B'imheira V'yameinu, Amen. Shamai.