Friday, September 21, 2001

Race from Tower One harrowing

Mt. Healthy grad escaped collapse by five minutes

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Marvin Pickrum, Mount Healthy High class of '86, is an accomplished and mentally tough guy.

        Always has been.

        But the 33-year-old Mr. Pickrum finds new mental tests in each minute of each day since he frantically scrambled down 85 stories in the World Trade Center Sept. 11 — then turned around to look.

        “I'm still on edge,” he said Thursday from his home in Jersey City, N.J. “Today was a tough day. Five minutes after we got out, I'm with a co-worker, and I turned around and said, "Heidi, look.' No sooner than we turned around, (Tower) One collapsed.”

        Mr. Pickrum has returned to work as a trader for SMW Trading Co. — mostly out of necessity. SMW is a small company. It can't absorb the devastating financial losses the way a much larger firm could.

        But each day is a struggle on the cramped floors of the trading center.

        “I'm angry, and it's hard to get back into that situation. What these guys did was try to take down the American financial market, so we have to get back.

        “I'm ready to go kick some ass,” he explained. “But from my standpoint, I'm not going to let these guys get me out of my routine. Once we get up and running, I need a month on the beach somewhere.”

        He was an honor student and standout athlete in football, track and wrestling at Mount Healthy High.

        He graduated from Ohio State, then Hastings Law School in San Francisco, then went into the Navy SEAL program.

        Three months ago he took a job as a trader in the world's financial district. “By the grace of God,” his father, Harvey Pickrum, said, “he made the decision to go down, as opposed to up. Fortunately, they found a stairwell that wasn't burning.”

        The elder Mr. Pickrum, a senior scientist in the health care and technology department at Procter & Gamble, said his son's military and academic training helped him keep his cool amid the chaos.

        “He was engulfed in flames and debris,” the father said in a shaky voice from his home in Hamilton. “(The) only thing he saw was the outline of his body in front of him. He described to me, in detail, what happened. I'm still emotional. It took me a couple days to adjust.”

        But now, his son envisions returning to the military, in some special-operations unit.

        “Let the people of Cincinnati know I love 'em,” the younger Mr. Pickrum said. “That's my roots.”


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