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U.S. News
Ryan Conti: Escaped from WTC

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

By Lynda Guydon Taylor, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

After Ryan Conti made it out of the World Trade Center alive last Sept. 11, he acquired a whole new focus.

He applied to join the FBI.

"I want to be able to be one of the people who helps bring down terrorists, so I'm hoping they call," Conti said of the FBI. "I think I would be a great asset to them. I give 110 percent."

Conti, 25, an Overbrook native, is a senior investigator for the New York Stock Exchange. That's who he was working for on the 30th floor of Two World Trade Center a year ago when the first hijacked airliner hit the opposite tower.

After the horror of seeing people jump and fall to their deaths and feeling his building shake when it was hit by a hijacked airliner, Conti made his way down the steps of the tower, using a cane because he was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery at the time. On the way down, he fell and injured his recovering knee. For about a week afterward, he could barely walk.

His mental state took a bigger beating. He lost a sense of security. He now fears heights and admits "it's still hard for me to look out the windows." Loud noises make him jumpy; he's more aware of his surroundings and is "constantly looking over his shoulder."

"It was hard. It still is. I didn't lose any personal friends but I know people who were killed during the disaster. Friends have lost friends. Everywhere you turned to, every news station constantly had stuff about Sept. 11. I stayed away from TV. I stayed away from newspapers."

Conti turned to a disaster relief counselor and to family and friends for comfort, and found solace in church. Imagery also played a role in the healing process. He imagined angels aiding his escape after the airliner had struck his tower.

Conti has experienced several changes in his life in the past year. He married his fiancee, Dorian, on April 20. They live in North Babylon, N.Y., where he proudly displays an American flag. He was promoted to senior investigator at the exchange.

And besides trying for the FBI, he applied to law school and to Fear Factor, a reality television show known for its daring stunts and one that Conti believed would help him overcome his nervousness and fear of heights.

Conti's determination to excel came to the Post-Gazette's attention in 1994 when he was named one of its All Star Achievers, an annual salute to top high school students. He had considered going to law school before the attacks, but never acted on it. Sept. 11 "gave me a boot in the butt."

His first try at getting into law school, which he hopes will give him an edge at being accepted by the FBI, did not succeed. Undaunted, Conti plans to try again.

His persistence and a belief he will prevail were born in part from his Sept. 11 experience.

"I look at things in a different way. I try to do stuff I've always wanted to do. Not knowing what will happen tomorrow, I live life for today."

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