Remembering 9/11 through a survivor’s eyes

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 8:52 PM MDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 11:32 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this Saturday, we reflect on the impact the terror attacks had not only on our country, but also family members left behind, and survivors.

One Grand Junction woman was inside one of the twin towers during the attack. But thanks to luck, instinct, and help from a canine hero, managed to get out and survive.

Her name is Sally Benson and she was just 46 at the time. But is still suffering to this day from multiple health related problems from the attack almost 20 years ago, asepsis in her lungs and a post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.

“I was covered in that white stuff, like everybody else, that was in the air,” said survivor Sally Benson. “First it was a dark black smoke and had a smell to it. And then the white came along. So I felt like I couldn’t see anything for a while.”

She was living in New Jersey at the time, only in New York City for a business meeting for work. Near the top of the second tower, Sally suddenly felt claustrophobic & the need to head down to get some air outside. So she told her boss she would be right back.

“I told my boss, I said hey Gary I’m getting a little stuffy in here I need to leave to get some fresh air, and he said we’ll meet you outside,” said Benson.

But none of her friends or colleagues made it out. In hindsight, she realizes that was her instinct telling her something awful was about to happen and she needed to get out.

“I went up with friends, coworkers, & I lost them,” said Benson. “I went out, the building collapsed, I saw light, & I started heading out. My coworkers & my friends never came out.”

As she was coming down the stairs, the tower was hit. Debris & airplane parts came crashing down, smoke and ash filled the air, and everything went dark. Sally came across a lone service dog, a yellow lab, who helped guide her down the stairs until they saw light up ahead and escaped outside.

“It was just, debris flying all over the place, plane parts landing in the sidewalks of New York,” said Benson. “How can you get that image out of your head. Especially when you’re smack in the middle of it. And every year it gets harder. And it being so smoky, I feel like I’m reliving the whole thing again.”

There will be a small 9/11 memorial ceremony put on by the Grand Junction Fire Department at 10 a.m. Saturday outside their administrative building in front of the memorial at 625 Ute Avenue.

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