Surviving Both Attacks: A Docent Recounts 2/26/93

  • February 16, 2022
Battered Port Authority/World Trade Center identification card with photo of smiling woman with short, dark hair on right and her name - WEINSTEIN, MYRNA R. - on the right.

Myrna Weinstein's Port Authority/World Trade Center ID card, which survived the attacks. 

A woman with short gray hair wearing sunglasses and a plaid shirt under a burgundy sweater smiles up at the camera

Myrna Weinstein today. Photo courtesy Myrna Weinstein. 

Myrna Weinstein, a Museum docent, is one of just two volunteers who survived both the February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks. In 1993, she was working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on the 61st floor of the North Tower. Read a previous interview with Myrna and the other docent — Vince Boneski — here.

Now, as we approach the 29th anniversary of that first attack, Myrna speaks openly about the harrowing ordeal, its ongoing personal impact, and lessons learned. Her words have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 


I often compare and contrast the differences between my experiences in '93 and 2001. In '93, we had no public address guidance to evacuate or what had happened in the building. When the smoke started to invade the office, we headed to the nearest stairwell. At some point, we were going down a stairwell in complete darkness. So in effect, you had to deal with hoping your feet would hit the next step going down. Additionally, you didn't know if you were descending into a fire or if you would be overcome by smoke inhalation. In '93, six people died from the explosion, and over a thousand people were injured. 

We finally emerged at the mezzanine level which led out to the plaza. We had soot over our mouths and nasal passages because we'd been inhaling all that smoke to get out of the building. There was an icy glaze on the plaza, and I promptly slipped and fell on my knees. I said to myself, "That's God telling you to be grateful you got out of there with your life." 

As a result of what happened in 1993, they upgraded the stairwells with battery-powered lighting, and reflective tape, and improved the reverse ventilation system. So on 9/11, you could still smell the jet fuel, but it was easier to climb down the stairs with the lights on. After climbing down 71 flights of stairs, I again reached the mezzanine level. But In 2001, the plaza was so covered with falling debris that it was unsafe to exit there. I had to go down another level to exit at the concourse level. I got drenched from the activated sprinkler system and I had to wade through a few inches of water that was collecting on the cobblestone on the way out of the concourse.  I thought I might fall again, but I told myself to just hold onto somebody so I could get out through the concourse on the east side of the complex. I had to stop a person I knew from the Engineering department for help; my shoes had leather soles and I was afraid I would slip. And that if I did slip, I wouldn't be able to get up off the floor. So I latched onto this guy, and thankfully he also got home safely. 

I want to emphasize that although there were first responders coming up the stairs, in each attack, there were also many co-workers and civilians who had no emergency training, helping people to escape. It's very important to me, when I discuss the attacks, to give people a realistic picture of what we faced while we were evacuating the building. 

Now, as a docent 29 years later, I hope that when I share the stories of the attacks, and the heroes, I exceed the visitor's expectations about what this museum offers.

Edited by 9/11 Memorial Staff

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