ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — This week, America will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which claimed the lives of 2,977 people that day.
Most, if not all, who were alive on 9/11 remember where they were when everything changed, including WFXR’s sports reporter, David DeGuzman:
I was a sixth grader, growing up in Queens, New York. And unlike many who watched the events unfold on a television as it happened, I didn’t know what occurred until my dad picked me up from school.
My story is just one of millions who were in the city that day. And as we approach this milestone anniversary, I sat down with two people who had a much closer view to the attacks on the World Trade Center.
For Roanoke-native Josh Mattox, he was a 22-year-old training with Morgan Stanley in New York.
“It is hard to believe that it’s been 20 years,” Mattox said. “I was in the South Tower on the 61st floor.”
For my older sister, Doris de Guzman, she remembers working in lower Manhattan that day.
“I don’t really think much about the years,” de Guzman said. “I was running late, our office hours is usually 9:30 and I was really running late.”
As for myself, it was my fourth day in middle school.
“I remember waking up and the biggest headlines were that Michael Jordan was coming back, he was on his way back to the wizards and it was primary election day in New York City,” I recalled.
Mattox recalls making his way down the stairs when the South Tower was hit by United Airlines Flight 175.
“We had no time to think about it when the plane hit the building. And you felt it,” Mattox said.
De Guzman remembers being stuck in the subway as the towers collapsed.
“They opened an emergency door. And so we’re still under the tunnel. And so we had to file on a very small ledge and they led us all the way to one manhole. So all of us had to climb the manhole,” de Guzman said. “One of the buildings already collapsed by that time. We saw, everything is chaos. There’s a lot of ash falling.”
Hearing these stories 20 years later gave me added perspective on a day that unfolded while I was at school.
“I didn’t find out honestly until like noon when I wasn’t let out of recess,” I told my sister as we recounted the day. “They kept us inside. We thought it was so strange because it was such a nice day out.”
As dark as that day was, we also look back at moments of resilience and survival, ike when my sister made the trek home from lower Manhattan, over the Queensboro Bridge, to our apartment in Astoria.
“Everyone’s just trying to figure out how to get home. People are just trying to walk going home. And I remember just a lot of people with me. Just walking,” de Guzman said.
Another example is when Mattox finally found a payphone and made a call to the Roanoke office of Morgan Stanley to pass along a message to his parents.
“I’ll never forget when they answered, they said ‘Morgan Stanley’ and I said, this is Josh and she goes, ‘It’s Josh, He made it!’ And I could hear the whole office scream,” Mattox said. “To this day, I can’t tell that without getting goosebumps.”
And as we remember 9/11, we also see how we’ve grown as Americans and as people.
“Every year it just sinks in more, I can’t imagine if that was one of my sons in that building, what my parents must’ve went through in the hour or two before I was okay,” Mattox said. “I hope people don’t forget the little slogan that went around forever. ‘9/11 never forget.’ It’s still out there. I just hope people don’t forget how much they love their families. They love their freedom. All the things we take for granted.”
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