September 11 20th anniversary: 9 incredible stories of people who survived

File photo of people covered in dust on September 11
A photo of people, covered in dust from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, on September 11, 2001. Suzanne Plunkett/AP
  • Today marks 20 years since a series of coordinated terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001.
  • A total of 2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington, DC, and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  • Those who survived had their lives transformed by the attacks. Here are some of their stories.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Genelle Guzman-McMillan was the last person pulled alive from the rubble
Genelle Guzman-Mcmillan 9/11 survivor
Genelle Guzman-McMillan was trapped for 27 hours before she was rescued. ABC 7 News
Guzman-McMillan and her colleagues decided to take the staircase down after the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. When they reached the 13th floor, the tower collapsed on them.

Guzman-McMillan, now 50-years-0ld, was the lone survivor among her colleagues and was miraculously rescued after spending 27 hours trapped under the rubble. 

Source: startTV

 

Brian Clark was one of only 18 people in the South Tower to escape from a floor above where the plane struck
Brian Clark 9/11 survivor
Brian Clark worked for the international brokerage firm Euro Brokers, which lost 61 employees on 9/11. BBC News
During his descent from the 84th floor of 2 World Trade Center, where the office of his international brokerage firm was, Clark stopped to save the life of a man — Stanley Praimnath — who was trapped.

Praimnath was pinned underneath some debris behind a wall that had stood firm, and Clark, who is 74-years-old, was able to hook his arms around Praimnath and lift him over.

Source: PBS, Independent

Tom Canavan dug upwards and crawled out of the rubble
Canavan, who worked at the First Union brokerage firm, was buried alive when the first tower fell on 9/11. He was saved from death, he told Reuters, because a large cement wall fell over him which created a safe pocket in the pile of debris.

He began crawling and digging upwards, out of the rubble, and eventually got to safety.

In footage shared by National Geographic from September 11, 2001, Canavan describes his escape with remarkable calmness.

Source: Reuters

 

Captain Jay Jonas survived because he stopped to rescue a fallen woman
Jay Jonas 9/11 survivor
Jay Jonas attends the 2008 Viennese Opera Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City on January 25, 2008. Dan Herrick/Getty Images
Captain Jay Jonas, and five of his firefighters from the Ladder Company 6, were exiting a search and rescue mission in the North Tower shortly after the South Tower collapsed.

While Jonas and the unit were on their way down the stairs, they spotted Josephine Harris — a 59-year-old bookkeeper who had fallen and was unable to continue her descent — and stopped to help get her to safety.

Shortly after, the North Tower collapsed around them, but Harris and the men were not crushed.

“You cannot say that something that happened to you is a miracle,” Jonas told The New York Times. “But we had the courage to do what we did, and you can say that if she was not there for us to save her, we probably would not have made it.”

Source: The New York Times

 

 

 

 

Lauren Manning had burns over 80 percent of her body
Lauren Manning 9/11 survivor
9/11 survivor Lauren Manning delivers remarks on the second day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Manning was arriving for work at the North Tower moments before the first jet crashed into it. As she entered the elevator that would take her to her office, she was met by a fireball.

She was burned over 80 percent of her body and spent almost two months in a medically induced coma. Manning made a recovery that surprised doctors.

In 2013, then-President Barack Obama cited Manning as an example of American people who “bounce back.” 

In July 2016, she gave a widely-acclaimed speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Sources: NewsdayThe New York TimesThe Washington Post

Brian Birdwell survived the attack on the Pentagon and later became a state senator
Texas Sen. Brian Birdwell
Texas Sen. Brian Birdwell speaks in the senate chamber on February 28, 2017. Eric Gay/AP Photo
Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell, 60, was a lieutenant colonel in the US and was working at the Pentagon when it was struck by the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 on September 11, 2001.

He was left with severe burns over 60 percent of his body and was the lone survivor in the E ring at the crash site, Birdwell told KWTX.

Birdwell was awarded a Purple Heart in 2004 and spent the 13 years after that running a non-profit organization to support critical burn survivors.

In a June 2010 special election, Birdwell was elected to the Texas State Senate. He has been re-elected three times since.

Sources: The Texas Senate, KWTX

Sarah Rudder had her leg amputated and later competed in the Invictus Games
Sarah Rudder Invictus Games
Sarah Rudder, right, crosses the finish line at the 2016 Invictus Games in Kissimmee, Florida. John Raoux/AP Photo
Rudder, who was in the US Marines, was at the Pentagon on September 11, awaiting her promotion ceremony. She was unscathed in the attack and was able to help others get to safety.

She returned to the Pentagon two days later to assist in removing victims’ remains and, during this effort, got her ankle trapped and crushed beneath a concrete barrier.

After several reconstructive surgeries, her leg was eventually amputated in 2014.

In 2016, Rudder competed in the international Invictus Games for wounded and injured servicemen and women. The 9/11 survivor won six medals.

Source: Tampa Bay Times

Will Jimeno was buried under 30 feet (9.14m) of rubble
Will Jimeno 9/11 survivor
Will Jimeno describes his experience of the September 11, 2001 attacks during an interview in his home in Chester, New Jersey. Richard Drew/AP Photo
After seeing the first plane crash into the North Tower, Jimeno — a rookie officer with the Port Authority Police Department — rushed to the World Trade Center with 20 other officers.

Shortly after he arrived, the South Tower collapsed, and Jimeno was trapped under 30 feet (9.14m) of debris. He was one of two officers to be pulled out of the rubble alive but spent weeks in the ICU undergoing 13 surgeries.

Source: CBSN New York

John McLoughlin tried to send a radio message for Jimeno’s pregnant wife
Firefighters look for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center in 2001
Sgt. John McLoughlin was the last man pulled alive from the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. Todd Maisel/NY Daily News/Getty Images
McLoughlin, a sergeant with the Port Authority police, was trapped with Jimeno under the rubble. He tried to use his radio to send a final message to the rookie officer’s heavily pregnant wife, asking that she fulfill Jimeno’s wish that they name their unborn child Olivia.

McLoughlin survived being buried underground for 22 hours. After being placed in a medically induced coma for six weeks, he returned to Ground Zero four months later to witness the removal of “the final column” at Ground Zero.

Source: CBS News