Shoes Symbolize Acts of Compassion During 9/11 Evacuations

Shoes Symbolize Acts of Compassion During 9/11 Evacuations

Fred Segro, a 9/11 survivor at the WTC, recently donated these shoes to the Museum. (Photo: Jin Lee)

The 9/11 Memorial Museum recently acquired a new pair of men’s shoes for its permanent collection. The brown oxford shoes were donated by Freg Segro, a consulting IT recruiter and survivor of the 9/11 attacks. Ordinary in appearance, the shoes symbolize the acts of compassion and kindness extended in the face of disaster.

On 9/11, Segro was at work in his office located on the 77th floor of the North Tower. When Flight 11 hit the building at 8:46 a.m., the glass entrance shattered, injuring the pregnant receptionist, Julie, who was at her desk nearby. After tending to Julie’s wounds, Segro and a group of colleagues began a stairwell evacuation.

The stairs were slippery with water from the overhead fire sprinklers, making the descent difficult for Julie, who was wearing high heels. Concerned for her safety, Segro convinced her to leave her shoes, joking that he would later buy her a new pair. Once the group reached the lobby level and saw debris and glass on the floor, Segro removed his own brown oxford shoes and placed them on Julie’s bare feet.

Once safely out of the building, they took the advice of an EMT and made their way to Beekman Downtown Hospital to seek care for Julie’s injuries. Noticing a pair of abandoned women’s shoes along the way, Julie claimed them and returned Segro’s shoes to him.

Julie was treated for her minor injuries and medical staff confirmed that her baby was unharmed. With Julie taken care of, Segro evacuated home to New Jersey via ferry. The shoes changed hands a last time when Segro met with curators on February 23, 2015 to make the donation to the Museum.

Assistant Curator Alexandra Drakakis explains, “They are different from other shoes in the collection because while they don’t show the tell-tale signs of struggle, they represent one person’s commitment to the survival and safety of whoever was wearing them, and that is extraordinary.” 

By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Museum Content Strategist