ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — As Americans prepare to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, WFXR sports reporter and native New Yorker David DeGuzman remembers being in the city as the day unfolded.
“I was just starting middle school at the time while miles away my sister endured a much different experience on September 11,” DeGuzman said.
He recently chatted with his sister, Doris, on Zoom to reflect on the events of that day.
“I didn’t even realize it’s already 20 years,” she said.
“I think everyone remembers that day being as crazy normal as possible, starting out,” David recalled. “You wake up and it’s just a really nice beautiful day. I think for me it was like the third day of sixth grade for me.”
Doris brought up that Sept. 11 coincidentally is also the birthday of their other sister, Donna.
“That day, I was thinking of going to the World Trade Center to buy her a gift because that’s where all the shopping malls are.”
Twenty years ago, Doris was working as a writer for an industry publication. Her office was based on Rector Street by the Trinity Church, less than three blocks away from the World Trade Center. She was running late on Sept. 11, 2001, but before she left their apartment in Queens, the North Tower had already been hit by a hijacked plane.
“I thought it was an accident. Like oh my God, there’s going to be chaos in downtown but we didn’t realize it’s a terrorist attack at the time that I left so I already left because I was in a hurry,” Doris said.
She was supposed to take the subway to the Rector Street station. However, her train never made it there. Instead, it got stuck past City Hall, two stations away from where she intended to get off.
“There’s already smoke coming inside the train. So we don’t know what’s going on and so the train stopped,” Doris said. “All that we heard was we have to get out of the train. 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 man hole. All of us had to climb the manhole going out.”
By the time she got out, the South Tower had already collapsed and the North Tower was minutes away from falling as well.
“We saw everything was chaos. There’s a lot of ash falling on the street,” Doris said. “People are just trying to walk going home and I remember a lot of people with me. Just walking. It’s pretty quiet actually. There’s not much of a chatter. It’s just everyone’s in shock.”
It took Doris nearly six hours to walk from Lower Manhattan back to their apartment in Queens. She remembers what it was like to come home.
“Everyone is quiet and just watching the news on TV,” she said. “I remember getting out of my clothes because it’s all dusty.”
Just days later, she went back to Lower Manhattan.
“We had to get our things from the office,” Doris said. “And we were able to get a clear view of the building and it was really really terrible.”
Now, two decades later, she’s still a New Yorker and has seen the city change and grow over the years.
“It’s incredible. All the buildings are up again,” Doris said. “The industry is booming again in downtown. New York is always resilient. I love the city. It has its ups and downs but it’s always going to be strong.”
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