Witness to WTC disaster happy bin Laden is dead
Kimberlee Sword felt pretty good when she heard Osama bin Laden was killed.
"I'm relieved, joyous, victorious. There are so many words to describe that first emotional hit Sunday night," she said. "It was a longtime coming."
Sword, a native of Nesquehoning and 1985 graduate of Panther Valley High School, was two blocks away from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 when the historic terrorist attacks occurred.
She was locked in her building for hours that dreadful day and saw first-hand the havoc, destruction, and death caused by al Qaeda, a fanatic organization based in Afghanistan.
Sword, the daughter of the late Alfred and Dolores Sword, feared for her own life, especially when the Trade Center towers collapsed. She said had the towers not imploded, and had instead fallen outward, the building in which she was located also might have been brought down possibly taking her life.
"The fear that was in people's eyes was amazing," she recalls of that day.
Of hearing on TV Sunday night about bin Laden's demise, Sword said, "I thought it was about time and I thank God for it."
Asked if the word "hate" would sum up her feeling of bin Laden, she replied, "I'm a Roman Catholic and a good person. I guess I would have to say 'yes.' It's tough because I never met the person, but he changed so many lives."
Sword, who lives in Patterson, N.J., said she has friends who worked in the World Trade Center when the coordinated suicide attacks by al Qaeda occurred. About 3,000 lives were lost.
Fortunately, Sword said, all her friends managed to escape the inferno without injury.
She said she is "absolutely" glad the American forces killed Osama.
"I feel relief that he is gone," she said. "I do believe he had delusions of grandeur. He wanted the recognition and the power. I am relieved that he is gone. There are other people that may try to follow him, and we must be aware of that and never let our guard down.
"I don't believe it's a Muslim thing," Sword continued.
"I never once blamed a group of people for what a few will do," she explained. "I compare it to the Oklahoma City bomber, whereby if you hate all Muslims, you'd hate all white men."
The Oklahoma City bombing was a bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April19, 1995. It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the Sept. 11 attacks. The Oklahoma blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6.
The bombing was carried out by two white Americans.
Sword said she knows people who had worked in New York City at the time of the attacks, and who quit their jobs because they couldn't endure going into the city any more.
She is employed by the Federal Reserve and works in the same building that she did on Sept. 11.
That dreadful morning, just a short while before the attacks, she had commuted through the World Trade Center to get to her job. When she walked into her office, someone said to her, "The World Trade Center was attacked."
She responded, "You're full of it. I was just there."
"At first I was not alarmed," she said. "I thought a commuter jet flew into it." Then the second plane hit.
The employees in the building were herded to either the cafeteria on the 12th floor or to a Gold vault. She was one of the people sent to the cafeteria.
The workers were ordered to not leave the building, which was placed in lockdown mode. Nobody thought the WTC towers would collapse like they did.
"My girlfriend Judy and I stayed together," she said. "Then someone started screaming, 'People are jumping (from the WTC).' I didn't turn to look"
The Federal Reserve Building shook when the first tower fell. Debris flew into the windows of Sword's building. Exterior doors were closed and towels were placed at the bottom of them to keep the dust and smoke from coming inside. Alarms inside the building started blaring.
"The fear that was in peoples' eyes was amazing," said Sword. "I started to cry. My girlfriend is African-American and a Jehovah's Witness. I am white and Christian. We sat on the floor and prayed. This is so symbolic of that day."
She remembers her father calling her and telling her, "You need to get out. We're being attacked."
She told him she was trapped "and I told him I love him."
When finally released from the building, she couldn't believe the deep soot and loose papers that were in the street.
"I was covered in soot from head-to-toe," she said. "It was like walking in a snowfall. It was just mid-shin deep in soot."
An amazing thing occurred.
"That day, people were so unbelievably kind to each other," she said.
Sword explained that people were giving money freely to strangers for cabs or basic necessities. There is a shoe store close to where she works that was handing out sneakers to women observed wearing high heels. Some people were handing out bottles of water. Sword hadn't eaten all day and someone handed her some Entemann cookies.
"It was amazing to experience pure evil and pure goodness all in the same day," she said.
It was about 4 p.m. on Sept. 11 that she was permitted to leave the building. It took about four hours to get back to her home in New Jersey.
She had to walk to where ferries were transporting people, then boarded a regular New Jersey transit boat. Some people were hopping onto garbage barges to be taken across the Hudson River. Individuals were using personal boats to transport people.
Obviously Sword will never forget that day.
"Like when Kennedy was shot, you remember every minute," she said. "Obviously I'm too young to remember when Kennedy was shot, but this is something I'll always remember."