MOULTRIE -- Colquitt County High School graduate Brad Bailey is coming home for his 10th year reunion this weekend.

That might not seem like much. But, in a year when many New Yorkers cannot attend their class reunions because of a fundamentalist plan to wreak havoc on America, it really is.

Bailey watched the attack on the World Trade Center as it happened Sept. 11.

Bailey worked a couple of buildings down from the World Trade Center. He usually looked up at the twin towers when leaving his home just across the river in Jersey City. That horrific day, his focus was on catching a train. He was late for work.

After the train got under way, the news began circulating through the concerned commuters.

"As we were going, we got a better look at what was going on at the World Trade Center," Bailey said. "One of the towers was burning, and while we were there on the train we actually saw the second plane hit from the window. Then everybody began freaking out, and at that instant, we descended into a tunnel -- if you can believe that."

The train went express and was the first train diverted from downtown. By the time he got back up to the surface in Manhattan, the first tower had already collapsed. It was then Bailey saw the second one fall, he said.

"Then, basically, all hell broke loose," he said.

And what did he do then? His survival instincts kicked in. Bailey ducked into a McDonald's and bought cookies.

"I didn't want to think about what I escaped by virtue of being a few minutes late," he said. "I assumed that everybody in my building was dead or that my building had been flattened. I didn't know. With the extent of the smoke, you would have assumed that all of lower Manhattan was laying in destruction."

After his chocolate sedative, he "high-tailed it" uptown to Harlem to a friend's place and was trapped in the city for the day, he said. It was much later until he found out what actually happened.

"People all over the world had more information that we did, really," he said.

To Bailey, fate was stalking him at a distance. He was in the Windows of the World restaurant at the top of the twin towers just three days before. Bailey's apartment window faces out on an Egyptian church that was under a bomb threat for a month after the attacks.

"If that building blew, my apartment would blow," he said.

Later, after the government arrested suspected accomplices to the attack, Bailey recognized one as the man who sold him Snapple every morning at a newsstand.

"It was pretty harrowing. For a good month after, it was a very unsettling time," Bailey said. "I was lucky to be diverted at the last moment. I have friends that weren't so lucky."

From the entire ordeal, what most sticks with Bailey is the smell.

"The smell was sort of frightening, because you knew it wasn't a normal burning smell. ... I can't describe it," he said.

In the months following the terrorist attacks, sentimentality appears to have been on the rise all across the nation. Locally, Bailey's classmates are traveling from as far as New York, Chicago, Boston, Germany and Russia. It's the largest turnout of the class since graduation, said Bailey, former class president and reunion organizer. The Class of 1992 reunites 7 p.m. Saturday night at the Sunset Country Club.

"Something like Sept. 11 makes me realize how much I appreciate my family and growing up in Moultrie," Bailey said.

Seven years ago, Ebony Magazine named Bailey as one of its 50 Future Leaders of Tomorrow. He later created his own political Web site. A highlight was when he interviewed then-presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

A political science graduate from Yale and a public policy graduate from Princeton, Bailey was about to make a triple play when he was accepted into another Ivy League school to study law. But his heart changed his mind.

Now, he wants to try his talent in acting. He landed an extra part in the movie "A Beautiful Mind" and is planning to start a cable political talk show in New York City.



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