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Witness to WTC attacks says, 'I never stop thinking about it'

Published September 12. 2011 08:28AM

Kimberly Sword, a native of Nesquehoning, said Sept. 11, 2001, was one day in her life she thought she was going to die.

She was only two blocks east of the World Trade Center when it was attacked by terrorists and collapsed into a colossal cloud of dust and dirt. She was kept inside her office building for over six hours, and didn't know if that building was going to become a target of the attackers.

The event made such an impact that she placed the clothing she wore that day, including the shoes, into a special time capsule for safe keeping.

She will never forget the events of that dark day in American history.

"I never stop thinking it," she said. "Working in the city, it's always there, from the day it happened watching the buildings come down to watching the buildings going back up."

She agreed that the anniversary is "a moment to reflect; a moment to be grateful."

Sword is the daughter of the late Alfred and Dolores Sword.

She has the same employer today that she had in 2001, and works at the same location.

On Sept. 11, 2001, she had commuted by subway into the World Trade Center, took an escalator to the mall, and then walked to her office building. She had just gotten to her desk when the plane hit.

"At the time, we knew something hit the World Trade Center," she said. "We thought it was a private jet."

People were watching out the window of her building when the second plane hit. Papers were flying everywhere amid the flames, smoke, and debris.

One girls screamed, "Oh my God, they're jumping," referring to people in the WTC leaping from the inferno dozens of stories above ground.

Sword didn't see either plane hit.

Tearfully, she recalls getting a phone call from her father.

"He's the one who told me we were being attacked. He said, 'Get the hell out of the city.' I said, 'I'm on an island and can't leave.'"

She was forced to stay inside the building because of fears New York was being attacked.

After being allowed to leave her building, she recalls the dust being everywhere.

"It was a gray ash," she said, "and a smell I will never, ever forget. Shoes and papers were everywhere. It looked like a bomb had gone off."

She went to the shore where she was taken by ferry to Jersey City. She remembers people evacuating the area any way they could, including jumping onto garbage barges.

Two days later, when she returned to New York, there was a military presence patrolling the streets. There were also volunteer firefighters and other emergency personnel streaming in from around the country.

In her building, the cafeteria was opened and the volunteers were given free food.

The attacks have had a life-changing impact.

"I don't take anything for granted. What I remember most is that was the only time in my life I thought I was going to die," she said.

The 9/11 attacks also showed how fragile life is - how a person can go to work in the morning and not return home.

"I'm not jaded," she said. "I don't hate a group of people. I'm not afraid. I know people who quit their jobs because they were afraid to go back to New York City. I still blame those who did it and not a group of people."

The events of 9/11 also affected the way people relate to each other.

"I saw New York come together. Everybody suddenly became neighborly, whether you knew them or not."

It made her think back to growing up in a small town, where neighbors know and have a concern for each other.

Despite the horror of that day, Sword never considered leaving the big city,

"Manhattan is still such a marvelous place. That was the only day I realized it was an island," she said.

She is a 1985 graduate of Panther Valley High School and a 1990 graduate of East Stroudsburg University.

Thanks to social networking like Facebook, she keeps in touch with a lot of her high school friends.

And, she's close enough to return home periodically to spend some time with them.

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