9/11 Survivors Reflect on World Trade Center and Pentagon Attacks as 10th Anniversary Nears

Several reflect on how their lives have intersected since surviving attacks.

September 6, 2011, 1:08 AM

Sept. 7, 2011 — -- Florence Jones remembers the deli, the farmer's market from which she got her breakfast and the fire station where she'd greet two or three men every day with a "Good morning."

"You know because they always had a smile on their face, always had something nice to say," Jones said. "It was just keeping a report on them. You never know when you might need them."

She was working for Baseline Financial 10 years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center when planes piloted by terrorists plowed into the two towers in downtown Manhattan. Jones was on the 78th floor of the South Tower.

ABC News invited Jones to tour ground zero last month from within the fences for the first time since that day.

"I remember distinctly saying what a beautiful day this started out to be and it descended into hell on Earth," Jones told ABC News' David Muir as she walked around. "I really thought the end of the island was just going to fall into the East River."

Of the last 25 people out of the South Tower that, she was No. 18. She and several survivors spoke with ABC News about what they remembered and what their lives were like now as the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil approached.

Sept. 11: After Fall, Stairwell Stands

Jay Jonas was a captain fort the Fire Department City of New York on Sept. 11. He was among 14 people -- 12 of them firefighters -- who found themselves trapped on a stairwell between the second and fourth floors after the North Tower had collapsed.

In 2002, during an anniversary special, Jonas told ABC News that he and the others waited three hours in the darkness until the dust and smoke settled. Then they slowly crossed a three-story-deep trench of twisted metal.

Now a deputy chief, Jonas said he didn't retire because he wanted to help the fire department rebuild.

"I didn't want anybody to chase me out," he told Muir. "I'm living my lifelong dream. I've wanted to be a fireman since I was a little kid."

"If you look at the chain of events that happened that day for us," he said last month. "It is very unlikely that we would survive that but we did. I look at the footage of the building coming down and I shake my head. You know, I don't know how I survived that."

Jones said that the first five years were difficult for her as she battled survivor's guilt.

"Like, what could you have done? What could have you said? Could you have made any changes?" she said she wondered. "Then, after the fifth anniversary, it was kind of like, enough, you know. ... You can't change the events. You can't change what you did that day. You couldn't have made any other people leave that day but you don't have to live with fear."

Pentagon Survivor: 'I Was Spared'

Sheila Moody, who suffered third-degree burns to her hands and injuries to her face when a plane was flown into the Pentagon, said that 10 years later, she'd finally let go of the fear and was able to forgive.

"A lot has happened in my life in the last 10 years," she said. "I praise God that I'm still alive, still amazed that I survived."

It was her second day on the job and Moody was sitting in her cubicle when the plane hit, sending a fireball flying past her.

"I should have been consumed immediately from either the fire, the smoke, the fumes, the heat," she said. "I was spared."

Although Moody had known her co-workers for only a day, she said, she still thinks of the colleagues who perished.

"There are so many things that they missed in the past 10 years," she told ABC News' Muir. "The daughter whose dad couldn't walk her down the aisle or couldn't see her graduate from college. The grandbabies that are being born that are going to miss a grandmother or a grandfather."

From Chance Encounter and Tragedy, Friendship

Moody eventually returned to work, to that same office. "All the faces were different," she said. "Not only were the people gone, but even the memories that they brought to work with them, where they kept their family close by, all of that was gone."

These days, when Fred Eichler's and Jonathan Judd's families visit each other, the atmosphere is full of laughter and smiles. It has become a tradition borne from tragedy. The two strangers were stuck in the offices of Eichler's insurance company Sept. 11 after the first plane hit the North Tower.

Judd had gotten off the elevator on the 83rd floor at the moment of impact. He ran into the first office he could find, where he encountered Eichler, who told him what had just happened.

"All I remember from that day was walking down the steps with Fred and saying I was 36," Judd told ABC News. "I said, 'I finally got married and I finally had a baby and now I'm going to die.' ... I was completely in a panic. ... It was horrible but he was comforting me the whole way down."

10 Years Later, Celebration of Life

They eventually separated as they reached the lobby and rescuers. After Sept. 11, the two were reunited after their bosses spoke with each other.

Eichler said he was especially close to Judd's daughter, Jordana, who was 6 weeks old when the Twin Towers fell.

"We've [the Judds and Eichlers] gotten together every year on the anniversary," he said. "So saw her when she was 1, 2, every single year. Watched her grow up. She was definitely a very integral part of my world since Sept. 11. To see her every year -- now she's 10 -- it's amazing."

Sept. 11 -- 'Don't Forget'

Florence Jones said she donated the dress, the jacket and even the shoes -- "the shoes still have the debris on them" -- that she wore Sept. 11 to a museum.

Around the time of the ninth anniversary last year, she spoke at a school and answered students' questions.

She said her message to Americans on the 10th anniversary would be "don't forget."

"If you're going to remember, do something in a positive vein," she said. "Plant a tree in somebody's memory, donate to the museum. ... When you come to New York, make a donation to the memorial to keep it going."

Moody said, "I hope Americans, first of all, never forget. Always keep the families of those people who we lost that day in their prayers. Always count their blessings. Realize that when you gather with your family, cherish that."

Sept. 11 Like a Second Birthday

Judd said each year, Sept. 11 was like a second birthday.

"I get phone calls from everyone I know that day [saying], 'We're glad you're here,'" he said. "Specially people from out of town that we know, that weren't here in the city that day. They want to share their compassion for you.

"It's a weird day because you want to remember those who died, but you also want to remember the fact that you're still alive," Judd said. "Getting together with Fred [Eichler] and his family every year is the perfect way to celebrate that we're still alive.

"We do toast each other to life," he said, "and we also remember the people that didn't make it out."

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