Twin Towers survivor who was pregnant during 9/11 attack says horror day left her with one crucial family rule

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"The whole world has seen the tragic footage of what happened at the Twin Towers 20 years ago – but I was actually there and so was my future son.

When I woke up on 11 September, 2001, it felt like a really special day. For the first time in weeks, I didn’t feel instantly sick. When I got to my office at the South Tower, where I worked at a brokerage firm, I decided to treat myself to breakfast to celebrate this milestone moment in my first pregnancy.

I could have gone to the cafeteria on the 72nd floor as they had a lot more options, but I just didn’t feel like walking, so I went to the sixth floor before returning to my desk on the seventh floor. That decision potentially saved my life.

I was eating a bacon and cheese omelette at 8.46am when the first plane hit. I initially thought it was somebody moving a paper shredder, but then my boss ran out of his office screaming “Bomb!”

There was almost a delay in the reaction from everybody on the office floor, as I think a lot of us were in shock at what he was saying.

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I looked out of the window and could just see thousands of pieces of paper falling from the sky, before noticing the fire in the North Tower. There was no time to pick up any of our possessions – me and my colleagues just left straight away and walked down the switched-off escalators.

I’m pretty good under pressure, so I was feeling quite calm and focused on just finding the exit. In my head, I rationalised the situation, telling myself the issue was far up in the other building, so I was just going to get out, wait a while, and then be let back at my desk before lunch.

When we got outside, the severity became clearer. I looked up to see people waving their arms and rags out the windows, trying to signal for help, and jumping out.

Those images you never forget. Me and my co-workers were standing at the cemetery right across the street, and that’s when I saw the second plane hit at 9.03am. There was the loudest gasp from everybody on the street, followed by lots of screaming.

I was still trying to figure out in my brain what was happening. People began trampling over each other to get away as fast as they could. It was at this point our group all said goodbye.

None of us who were there that day work at the same company any more, but we still speak. We went through group therapy together and we’ve become a close-knit team who can lean on each other.

I still don’t fully understand the depth of that day or what I did for so many hours. I know that I took my friend to the hospital after she fractured her ankle in the chaos. It was a blur in there, with hundreds of people.

When we said goodbye I tried to get on a train, but they were all cancelled. There were no taxis around, so I decided the only solution was to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get closer to my house. I knew that I needed to get away from the immediate area, as the debris in the air could impact on my baby inside me, so I got a scarf from a vendor and covered my mouth, and then set out on my mission.

A woman was standing at the edge of the bridge asking passers-by if they were also going to Brooklyn.

I said yes. She was a perfect stranger, but we both needed each other. Without saying a word, we linked arms and walked across bundled into each other. People were acting manic on the bridge, screaming that another plane was going to hit us. I’m scared of bridges as it is, and I can’t swim. I was worried about what I was going to do if it went down, and how I was going to get my baby to safety. My bump was quite big for three months, so it was clear I was pregnant and I think my new friend wanted to make sure we would both get out alive.

The woman turned to me and said, “Can you walk really fast?” I nodded and we increased our speed.

She had people waiting on the other side for her, so we hugged and said goodbye forever. We’d only known each other for an hour, but we’d just played a huge part in each other’s life.

I had no phone or money, because I’d left the office so fast, so I walked for 12 blocks to find a payphone that didn’t have a ridiculously long queue, and rang my grandmother. I realised how panicked my family had been about me.

They all started crying on the other end of the phone when they heard my voice.

My father finally came to pick me up. He had been working at the World Trade Center when it was bombed in 1993, so he knew how I was feeling without having to say anything. My whole street and all my family was in my living room when I made it through the door at 11am. That’s when I saw the news and learnt it was a terrorist attack. I was absolutely stunned.

The next day, I went to the doctor to check up on my baby. I was flooded with relief that he was healthy, and today, happily, my son Colin is now 19.

I’m even more grateful for him because of what we went through together. My mum used to often look after him while I was at work, and when Colin was a little boy she was the one to tell him what happened that day. I truly feel he understands what I went through, and we developed a strong bond through this shared experience before he was even born. Colin is proud of me and posted about our story on social media. I even ended up making a new friend who was also pregnant at the same time. When his teachers found out about that day, they said, “We knew there was something special about you.” They are right – he is so special.

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Whenever the anniversary of the terrorist attack comes around, there are a lot of photos and videos everywhere. I cannot take it. They still disturb me and drive me crazy. Seeing the footage of the planes crashing into the towers is so triggering that even now I can’t stop crying when it happens.

On the day itself I will avoid the TV, switch off my phone, and just try to keep myself occupied to get through it. If I ever hear any kind of rumble, I instinctively grab my bag, because I was rushed out the office so fast that day I didn’t take any belongings with me. I want to be prepared if a similar thing happens to me, so I find myself thinking of a plan of what I could do to be safe.

I can’t always find the strength to even talk about the events of that day. I have a tendency to push it out of my brain, but when I reflect on it, I still get upset. I’m sorry that it had to happen and that so many people had to die for no reason.

I finally found the strength to visit the memorial site in 2019 and it’s so beautiful and emotional. When I read all the names and stood in the area, it hit me hard. I feel so lucky to be able to tell my story today.

That day gave me a greater appreciation for life. I refuse to ever leave the house upset with anybody in my family. If I’m in an argument with my husband, he’s not leaving the house until it is sorted. I wouldn’t want that to ever be the last memory.

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