For more than 4 years, I’ve worked for the 9/11 Memorial. I’m a senior development officer and I raise money for building and sustaining the Memorial, which opens next year.
In 2001, I witnessed the Twin Towers fall. Then I worked in banking at Lehman Brothers near Ground Zero. The boss who hired me had just retired from the firm. My days there were numbered and I knew it. Typically, new bosses bring in their own people. On September 11, 2001, I arrived late to work and headed straight to my desk without a care. Suddenly, I felt the floor tremble. Soon after a woman nearby yelled, “A plane hit the trade center.” The South Tower had just been struck.
From a sixth-floor window, I looked up to see the gaping hole and smoke. Quickly things out of the ordinary began to happen. I can still see the terrifying images: From above, I could see a group of people hand in hand falling from the sky. Down below, a man with blood on his hands and face passed my view. My gut said leave. Thank God I did. I grabbed my purse and left, joining thousands of others fleeing along the city's west side. We all watched as each tower crumbled, knowing people remained inside.
I had never felt death. I mean real tear-your-gut-out-my-heart-is-breaking death until about two weeks ago today when I lost my sister to cancer. She was 32. Since her death, I have a deeper, more personal understanding of why this country needs the 9/11 Memorial. During telephone calls, I explain to people who want to donate how important it is to remember the innocent lives that were stripped away.
Unlike most of the 9/11 victims family members, I had a chance to say goodbye to my sister, whom I love. Losing the ones you love is horrible enough, but when you’re not afforded the chance to say goodbye is a feeling beyond the pain of a breaking heart.
To learn more about the 9/11 Memorial, visit national911memorial.org. For more information on how to support the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, click here.
By Blake Beatty, Sr. Development Officer for the 9/11 Memorial