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Jeanette Gutierrez: Inside a Perspective of a 9/11 Survivor by Thilen

About The Author

Hi! My name is Thilen. I am a freshman in high school and I am Nepali American. I love to play tennis and watch football (soccer). My favorite team is Tottenham Hotspur and me and my father watch every single game. My favorite subjects are Math and Science. I like to stay at home and chill. This is one of my writings and I hope you enjoy it. Thank you!

Jeanette Gutierrez: Inside a Perspective of a 9/11 Survivor

by Thilen

8:46 A.M. Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower.

9:03 A.M. Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower.

Hundreds of firefighters rush to 9/11. After the towers collapse, asbestos-filled dust darkens the streets. People scream for help. Smoke billows from both towers. Many sobbing over the horrible tragedy. Many lost their loved ones. 343 firefighters and paramedics lost their lives. Another 2,977 people died. Thousands later suffered from health problems. The world held its breath on this fateful day. This is 9/11. 

The asbestos dust that hung over the buildings lasted for over 3 months. Many people have medical diseases due to this toxic smoke.

However, 9/11 didn’t begin this way. It started as a sunny day with clear skies. Many people were on their way to work. Many were on their phones while walking. You could see the skyline of Manhattan from the rooftops of 5-star restaurants. The World Trade Center, which had 110 floors, was a landmark like no other. Cars were honking and beeping. Parents were dropping off students at their schools. It was a normal day but it turned out to be a nightmare. Many people experienced it all and Jeanette Gutierrez was one of them.

The skyline of Manhattan from a 5-star restaurant

Jeanette Gutierrez is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. She is 61 years old. She did not talk about 9/11 for 9 years. She is a 9/11 survivor who travels around the world to share her personal experiences. She is an Administrative Assistant in the financial services industry in New York City. She also volunteers at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum to contribute to and honor those who didn’t make it. She and many other survivors are a part of the 9/11 community. I interviewed her because of how she wasn’t uncomfortable speaking about her experience. Jeanette’s story was touching and inspirational in terms of spending time with your loved ones.

Thilen: Where were you on the morning of September 11?

Jeanette Gutierrez: I was at my desk in my office across the street from One World Trade Center in the American Express building at what was known as Three World Financial Center. So in the morning, I was at work already for a while. The first attack was at 8:46. I was usually at my desk before seven, I mean, a little after 7:30. And I always call my sister before I start working. And we would just catch up about life every day. And I was working. 

Thilen: What was happening from your perspective during the attack?

Jeanette: So after the first plane hit, I did look out the window, and I saw what everybody sees now when you watch it. But I didn't know it was an attack. I called my older sister, who also worked downtown, not in the immediate area, but she worked downtown, and she told me that it was a plane that hit the building, an accident. And then when the second plane hit, she found out before I knew it, and she called me back and told me another plane hit. And I thought about another accident. She's my older sister, and she knows I'm not a very brave person, and she didn't want me to be scared that we were under attack. So she didn't say it. And you have to understand that back then, I didn't have TVs or Google or even a cell phone to look to see what was happening. I relied on what my sister was telling me. And so when the second plane hit, she told me to get out, and I said no because I didn't want to go outside. I could hear the sirens and everything outside. Being very busy, I didn't want to be out there. Not because I was afraid, but because I knew that there were a lot of people out there that needed help, and I wasn't one of them. And then she convinced me to leave, and I did. She convinced me by telling me she would meet me. And then when I went outside, I realized that it was more than I initially thought. It was not an accident. And I realized that somebody was trying to kill me. All of that happened before the collapse. It was a little after that time when I was walking to meet my sister that I realized I thought somebody was trying to kill me. That's when it started getting personal. 

Thilen: What were you doing after the attack?

Jeanette: My sister and I got home that night. We both live in Staten Island. It was dark by the time I got home and finally sat in front of the TV and watched it because it was playing over and over again. I was home by myself after I left my sister. I don’t know what time it was. I just know it was dark and that was the end of a horrible day. 

Thilen: Do you feel worried or scared if anything like 9/11 ever happens again?

Jeanette: Sure. Absolutely. Certain things give me pain in my stomach like I'm afraid of certain sounds, but as far as another attack can happen? Of course, it could. I doubt it would be the same kind of attack because now things are so different. You don't even need people anymore to do it. But I learned soon after 9/11 that I couldn't let that fear stop me from living my life because that would allow the terrorists to win. So right after 9/11, I was afraid to go outside, for obvious reasons, because it happened right outside. I was afraid to stay home because I was alone. I was afraid to go to work because then I'd be in the city, but I was afraid to stay home because I was alone. So everything, I was afraid of everything. And then I decided that I needed to just be afraid but do something while I was being afraid because doing nothing was making them win. 

Jeanette (left) and her sister Gail (right)

It has been more than 20 years since the terrorist attacks and the deaths of many innocent people. This day is impossible to forget. Everything got demolished during 9/11 but one tree still held on: The Survivor Tree. This tree, which is still alive to this day, symbolizes a sense of hope in humanity to all beings. It gives people desire and belief across the world by the survival of the special symbol. It is truly fascinating how that one tree survived the whole tragedy of the buildings collapsing and all the smoke lasting for over 3 months. Now, it is in the heart of the 9/11 memorial, and it blooms in the spring like it was reborn again.

Jeanette is like that tree. She is one of the many people who experienced this unfortunate event. She is also a part of the people who survived. Also like The Survivor Tree, Jeanette has given hope and belief. When I interviewed Jeanette, I could see her joy and the happiness in her eyes. Likewise, when I saw the survivor tree for the first time I could feel a similar calm and hopeful presence. They both are truly fortunate to be alive and give us a sense of gratitude and hope.

The Survivor Tree | 9/11 Memorial Park

Before this interview, I saw 9/11 as a tragedy for many loved ones. However, after I spoke with Jeanette, I saw the perspective of a 9/11 survivor who was confused at that time. She only had a phone with her during the attack. Her sister was on the other end, telling her all of the events that had occurred. She had to rely on her sister. The same with The Survivor Tree. The tree did not have anywhere to go nor did it have anywhere to hide.  Despite these traumatic experiences, Jeanette held on like the leaves of the Survivor Tree. So when you hear the question “Why is 9/11 important?” tell them this story. Remember not only the misfortune of families and friends who lost their loved ones but also the resilience of survivors who never gave up.

Marking 22 years since 9/11 with tributes and memories.

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