Miraculous Escape from World Trade Center Two
TRUST IN GOD !!!!!!!!!!!
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, what began as an ordinary workday ended in the renewed realization that the miracle of life is anything but ordinary. As I prepared to begin my workday on that fateful morning, the anxious and urgent voice of a young man pierced what was otherwise a quiet morning.
The tall man, whose face I do not remember, shouted repeatedly and excitedly: "Get out of the building! Get out of the building!"
Initially, as I ran following the group towards a fire exit, I thought that perhaps a gunman was on the loose. Who has not read or heard about lone gunmen who assault their places or former places of employment? As we hurried down Tower Number Two's 73 flights of stairs, I heard rumors that there was a fire. "Oh," I thought to myself, "the fire department will quickly take care of it and we'll go back to our offices and resume work."
But, shortly after, a young man on a cellular phone said that a plane had hit the tower. I thought to myself: "Maybe it's one of those small planes piloted by an amateur or inexperienced pilot. My God! I hope no one got hurt."
Then another man interrupted my thoughts saying, either the pilot did not know what he was doing or this was no accident. "This was no accident. This was no accident! Then what?" I thought. For never, never would I have thought that America was under terrorist attack! After all, how could that be possible?
I do not recall asking or asking myself which tower was struck, but I do remember being overcome by an indescribable sense of fear. Shortly after, the second attack occurred. An airplane crashed into our building. It felt as if the building had jumped, come right back down and wobbled. I remember thinking: "This is it. The building is going to collapse."
After wobbling for what seemed like an eternity, the building finally steadied. A man shouted: "Everybody stop! Everybody stop! Stay calm! Stay calm!"
We paused for a few moments and then continued. Considering the severity of the situation, people remained relatively calm and considerate towards one another, offering help to those who grew weary, anxious and tired. At times, I felt my knees buckling and I thought I was going to fall, that I could not continue. But those around me encouraged and assisted me.
Some people decided to take the elevator. (To this day, I wonder if they made it to safety.) Now, I sensed that it was only a matter of time before the building came crashing down. Now, it was a matter of getting out in time, getting out alive. It seemed like millions and millions of things went through my mind. I thought about my family, friends, and church family. I thought about my life, the journey that bought me to the city that never sleeps, my plans for the future.
What does one who knows that his/her life is in grave danger think about at such a moment? What does one do? One has plenty of time to think while trying to make it to safety by going down 73 flights of stairs. I turned to the one thing that has never, never failed me: prayer. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed out loud. I prayed for my family, my friends. I prayed for the people around me, their friends, and their families. And I prayed for myself. I prayed for that peace that surpasses all understanding. I prayed for strength. I prayed for comfort.
The Lord brought Scriptures to my remembrance, such as, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." I kept repeating over and over again: "I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil. For you are with me. For you are with me. For you are with me. The Lord is my Light and my Salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
I kept repeating: "Of whom shall I be afraid. Of whom shall I be afraid? Of whom shall I be afraid.? I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. My help comes from the Lord. My help comes from the Lord."
I was reminded of the Scripture that says: "Heaven and earth will pass, but My Words will by no means pass away." For no matter what happens: His Word is True. So, when He said that He would not leave us nor forsake us, that means He will not leave us nor forsake us. So, I hung on on to that marvelous knowledge, finding comfort and strength in the assurance that no matter what happened, he would not leave me, nor forsake me. And so, in the midst of my fear, anguish and desperation, God renewed me with strength and imbued the necessary peace in me to be able to sustain such traumatic ordeal.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, I reached the Lobby area. There, firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel instructed everyone to run, run, run towards a particular direction. The scene outside the building was like one taken out of a movie. Chaos, hysteria, panic and pandemonium. Men and women, young and old, running, running everywhere.
Several burned and bloodied men desperately seeking help and refuge. Faces that reflected the sheer horror and terror of what was to become the nation's largest catastrophe.
Again, I felt my knees buckle as if I was going to fall. A police officer carried me a distance and asked me if I needed medical assistance. The images of the burned and bloodied victims were still on my mind, so I told him that I was all right. He instructed me to run. I ran as fast as I could and when at a distance, in shock and in a daze, my eyes rested on Tower Number Two. All I could think of was God help us all, God help us all.
And then, approximately 25 to 30 minutes after I managed to get of the building and before my disbelieving eyes, Tower Number Two fell, crumbled, disintegrated, fell like a sandcastle.
Panic and pandemonium broke loose. A thick white cloud of dust descended over the area. We were instantly covered in white dust, as if dipped in flour. I thought: "Are we being attacked again? Human instinct is to run in the face of danger. And so we did, but to where? We could not see.
I ran as fast as I could, and, on my way, I encountered a woman, frozen, like a statue, with a look of horror on her face. I grabbed her arm and told her to come with me as she kept repeating a female person's name. I kept telling her: "God is taking care of her, God is taking care of her," as I tried to pull her away. It felt as if I was trying to move a deep-rooted tree.
Finally, I managed to move her and placed my arm around her as we ran from the scene. Shortly after, several co-workers met us, and they explained that she was trying to find another one of their co-workers. I gave them each a hug and continued on my way.
At that point, I wanted desperately to find a telephone to call my parents to let them know that I was safe. I could only imagine what they were going through, hoping and praying that I would be okay. A few minutes later, I heard a young man telling another: "They attacked the Pentagon."
"Oh, my God!" I thought, "What is happening?" I thought about one of my cousins, Gary, and one of my best friends, Beverly, both who work at that location. I prayed that they were safe.
I searched and searched for an available telephone. The lines were long, filled with people desperate, anxious to inform their friends and loved ones that they were safe. I stopped at several stores and asked if I could use a telephone in an attempt to contact my parents. At each business, owners were willing to allow people make telephone calls on their business phones.
Each time I managed to locate an available telephone, I found that the lines were busy. Finally, I reached my parents' home and spoke to them and to each one of my brothers. It was very emotional but at the same time relieving and comforting. I remained in that establishment, not really knowing what to do or where to go. All I wanted to do was get out of Manhattan.
The owners of the establishment who also live in Brooklyn offered to take me home. I felt that I could not wait. I had to get home. I left the store and started walking, and God sent me a group of angels who approached me and asked me if I needed any help. (Again, God will not leave you nor forsake you!)
When I tried to respond, I found that I had lost my voice! Finally, I managed to mouth: "I want to go home." They must have noticed that I did not have a purse. (I left my purse in the office in my haste to leave the building.) One of the angels insisted that I accept a $20.00 bill and another gave me her new Metro card. They insisted that I hang out with them until we figured out how I was going to get home. (The subway stations were closed at the time.)
We walked towards the Subway Station on Astor Place and found that it was still closed. I decided that I wanted to check out the station on 14th Street. One of the members of the group offered me a place to stay in the event that I was not able to get home that day. Another one asked me to accompany them to lunch. I thanked them profusely but told them that I really wanted to get home. At that point, the group separated with two of the angels accompanying me to the 14th Street Subway Station.
When we arrived at the station, we found that it was still closed. I told them that I would hang around until it reopened, and I insisted that I would be fine. Feeling very thirsty, I entered a café to purchase something to drink. As I was waiting in line, I noticed two nurses watching me. They finally approached me and asked me if I was all right.
At that point, I burst into tears, and they told me that I had to go with them. As it turned out, a medical center (where they were conducting grief counseling) was located next to to the café. The nurses took my vital signs and encouraged me to talk to a psychiatrist on site for they felt that after such an ordeal, it would be helpful to talk about the experience.
I related the experience to the psychiatrist who expressed that it was very important that I have a support system at this time. I told him that I was blessed to have family and friends in my life who have been and I know will always be a source of love and encouragement. Plus, I told him I had, have and will always have Jesus!
I rested for a while and asked the psychiatrist to please let me know when the subway station reopened. At the station, I encountered an elderly lady who asked me if I been at the World Trade Center. (She had noticed that I was covered in white dust.) She held my hand and sat by me. Finally, I reached my stop. I saw two police officers standing at a distance and approached them with the purpose of asking them to help me find a taxi that would take me home. Again, when I tried to express my request, I could not speak! All I could do was mouth the word: Taxi.
One of them put his arm around me and asked: "You were there, right?"
I nodded, "Yes."
He then said, "Dont worry. We'll get you home."
We walked towards the street where he hailed a taxi. About 5 minutes later, a cab stopped and the police officer instructed him to take me home, free-of-charge. I managed to give the taxi driver my address. The driver peppered me with questions about the ordeal all the way home. I was not able to answer most of the questions, because I felt numb with pain and anguish.
Finally, I got home! It was then that I realized that my legs were hurting so much that I had difficulty walking. I sat down and watched the video footage of the attack. First, the plane crashing into Tower Number 1 and then minutes later another plane crashing into Tower Number 2. I could not believe my eyes! I fell on my knees, sobbing and thanking God for having had Mercy upon me.
The following days were ones filled with sadness, grief, shock, anxiety and disbelief mixed with gratitude and a renewed appreciation for the gift of life.
Questions: "What if I had delayed my way down the stairs?" "What if I was still on the 73rd Floor when the plane crashed the tower?" "What happened to the police officer that carried me away from the building? Is he alive?" "What happened to the police officers, members of the fire department and emergency personnel who guided us out of that building?"
Faces of people whose names I do not know, but who I regularly saw from day to day, flash through my mind. Are they alive? Why did people on floors below me did not manage to get out of the building alive? Why did God spare my life? But only He knows the answers to these questions.
With the passing of each new day, I feel God strengthening me and renewing my spirit, filling it with comfort and peace. I could not do it without Him. And I have been blessed with the encouragement and support of family, friends and church family. I have had the blessing of sharing my experience in hopes that it will serve as a true testimony that no matter what circumstance or circumstances you face, no matter what crisis, or situation you may face, the Hand of God will always be upon you giving you strength, comfort and peace.
All you have to do is: BELIEVE.
Lisa M. Rivera