As he stared out the window, he saw what appeared to be a person going out a window. He turned to the man beside him. Did you see that? he asked. The man ran off without replying.
Then someone on the 61st floor announced an evacuation. Fitz-Patrick joined a throng that began walking slowly, methodically, down the stairs in Two World Trade Center.
A last call home
Forty-three floors up, Dan McNeal had also picked up the phone to call home.
He was about a year into a job as a financial analyst with the investment firm Sandler O'Neill + Partners. After Loyola, he went to Boston College, graduating magna cum laude. In 2000, he received his MBA at Georgetown University.
His sister, Kathleen Sheeler, describes Dan as the embodiment of Alex P. Keaton, the buttoned-down son from the TV series "Family Ties." He favored a suit and tie. He idolized Reagan and Republican values, so much so that he led a voter registration drive while a senior at Loyola.
His mother describes him as sincere, religious, honorable — and bright. "Very bright," she says. A natural leader, he served as president of his class at Loyola for six years, she says, and was elected student government president his final year.
McNeal and Fitz-Patrick weren't best buddies at Loyola, but they were friends. Fitz-Patrick says McNeal got along well with students across the jock-to-bookworm spectrum. "Phenomenal," he calls him.
McNeal called home around 9 a.m., minutes after the first plane slammed into the north tower. He first tried his mother in Towson. She was walking the dog, so he left a message.
"The crash was over in Tower One," he said. "Our building's filling up with smoke right now, sort of in the south. But I guess our building's secured now, is what they're saying. But I'm fine, and just probably going to be getting the heck out of Dodge for a few minutes.
"I'll try to get in touch with Dad now. Take care."
Next he called his sister, but again got voice mail. Then he called his father, Michael, who was in hospice care with a pulmonary illness. His father answered. But they were soon interrupted. Through tears, Kitty McNeal relates what happened next:
"Mike looked up on the TV and saw the plane hit the tower. He watched it happen."
"And then lost the connection," her daughter says.
This was the moment the second plane hit the south tower, the one Fitz-Patrick and McNeal were in. It was 9:03 a.m. The impact hammered the building between the 77th and 85th floors, trapping people on the floors above.
Fitz-Patrick had made it downstairs to the 44th floor by the time the second plane hit. The building shuddered. A barrel-chested man, he was knocked to the side. Some people fell down.
"I'm not being dramatic here when I say I thought I was going to die," he says. "I mean, I didn't think I was getting out of there."
No one in the stairwell knew what was happening. Rumors spread that a news helicopter had hit the first tower. Or maybe it was a Cessna. Whatever it was, Fitz-Patrick figured it was a terrible accident.