The lucky few: A close account of 9/11


Photo Provided By: Tamara NierDuffy

Smoke rises out of the twin towers after planes crashed into them.

2,983 names are inscribed into the bronze slabs surrounding the 9/11 memorial. Lives all lost on one of the most horrific days in American history.

But two names are missing.

Mine is one of them.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, my mom and dad woke up in their New Jersey apartment as usual and kissed each other goodbye.

The white Nike shoes that Tamara NierDuffy was wearing on September 11.

My mom, four and a half months pregnant, jumped in the shower, slipped on her white New Balance sneakers and hopped on the Hoboken train to the World Trade Center, while my dad drove to his office building in Manhattan. Both were completely unaware of the fateful events that would unfold that day.

8:46 a.m.

The train pulls into the bottom of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. My mom steps off the train and hears someone yell “Fire!’ Not too concerned, since there had been a small trash can fire the week before, but wanting to avoid a stampede, she decides to take an unfamiliar side exit onto the street.

One of the twin towers after a plane crashed into the upper level floors.

Immediately, she is struck by the scene in front of her. Smoke, papers, concrete debris. Finding shelter under scaffolding across the street, she looks to the top of the tower.

This is no trash can fire.

People are jumping out.

Something is not right.

She just starts to run.

Meanwhile, my father is sitting at his desk, munching on a bowl of fruit. He overhears Virginia at her desk, “A plane hit the Twin Towers?!”

He checks his watch, trying to remain calm. Thinking, Tamara should be there by now. He calls the apartment, no answer. Her office, no answer. Her cell, no answer. Then, he dials them all again, still no answer.


The second plane hits.


The panic setting in, he receives a horrid voicemail from my mom. “I don’t know where I am…there’s people jumping out of the building…”.

“I don’t know where I am…there’s people jumping out of the building…”.

— Tamara NierDuffy

Frightened, he keeps dialing. Until, he finally hears her voice.


She is hysterical, confused, lost, yet relieved to hear his voice.

My father asks, “Do you know where you are? Do you see the Hudson River?”

“Yes. Yes, I think I’m right by it.”

“Follow it until you see a gas station. I’ll be there in three minutes.”

The North Tower begins to collapse, and she begins to run again.


My dad reaches the gas station, as thousands of people are walking by. Jumping out of his car, he begins walking against the crowd, screaming “Wife! Wife! Wife!” He hears, “Husband! Husband!”

Within five minutes, they have found each other. As they drive away, the South Tower begins to collapse.

I was born five months later.

Grateful. Incredibly grateful. That’s the only way to describe how I feel. Why were my mother and I spared that day when so many others were not? Why do we live while others are without their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters?

I don’t know the answer, but I choose to try and make the most of every day I get, in their memory. Every year, as the victims’ names are read aloud, this anniversary reminds me how fragile life is.

Don’t hesitate to tell your loved ones how you feel. You never know when it’ll be your last chance.