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On 19th anniversary, 9/11 survivor recalls moment plane hit World Trade Center

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Somber sounds outside the Pentagon marking the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Nearly 3,000 people died when hijackers took control of four commercial airplanes and crashed them into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center towers, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

While the images from that day are something none of us will forget.

Thinking about what it must have been like to live through it is something few of us can even imagine.

9/11 survivor Kayla Bergeron spoke with KRON4’s Sanaz Tahernia about what it was like being in the North Tower when the plane hit and how she was able to make it out alive.

“I had voted that morning, it was a mayoral race in New York City. I had gotten off at the Fulton Street train, walked across the plaza. My office was on the 68th floor, beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty by the way. I’m at my desk preparing for a meeting, and all of a sudden the building sways about 10 feet forward, but then it comes back. And um, I saw debris coming from the top of the building. It was almost as if someone was cleaning out their desk, all kinds of papers everywhere. So I call both governor’s offices in New York and New Jersey to tell them what I thought had happened.

My initial thought was maybe a small plane veered off course and so, I sent some of my staff to the Marriot to set up a communications center. My job was Director of Public Affairs for the Port Authority and that meant educating the public of what was happening in all of our facilities. And the Port Authority built the World Trade Center. So I’m sending my staff to the Marriot, I’m going down, I run into a colleague from the aviation department.

We’re walking along and I had a Blackberry pager, someone sent a story that said a terrorist had hit the North Tower, so I didn’t want to cause panic, so I stopped my friend Patty. I said Patty, I’m going to show you something but don’t react. I showed her the story and then we were like, let’s get this line moving. And so as we were going down, the firemen were going up with their air tanks. And uh, got to about the sixth floor and I could feel that the South Tower had collapsed. The sheer magnitude and it caused the North Tower to twist and so it blocked my ability to get out of the stairwell, so um we thought that was the moment, the last moment, and uh, all of a sudden a Port Authority Police Officer named David Lim, he was a few flights of stairs above us and told us to come up.

We knew that the South Tower had gone down so there was reluctance to go up when the tower could implode at any moment but that was our only option so we ran up, he took us to another stairwell and at that point the lights were out, there was a very, it was almost like a wild river coming from above. It was the chillers that helped to cool the World Trade Center, and uh, we held, the group I was with, we held onto each others belt loops and um, we finally got to where I thought we were out of the building but it wasn’t, it turned out to be the lobby on the west side highway, it was as if there was fresh snow, the whole room was white, including the roof of the room. And the people I was with, we got lost and so, people started to scream in my group.”

9/11 survivor Kayla Bergeron

Kayla tells us she plans on being in New York next year for the 20th Anniversary.

Watch the full interview above.

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