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9/11 survivor shares story

7:54 PM, Sep 9, 2011   |    comments
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Credit: AP/file

St. Louis (KSDK) - Nearly 3,000 people died at the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.

Thousands more survived the tragedy and each has their own story to tell.

For St. Louisan Angela Brock-Bokern it's been a decade full of change, and as NewsChannel 5's Kay Quinn tells us, somewhere along the way she found happiness.

Journey, it's a fitting word to describe the last ten years of Angela Brock-Bokern's life. Since surviving the attack on the World Trade Center, she married the love of her life, left her home in New York and returned to St. Louis. It's here, blogging from Barnes and Noble, that's she's putting the past decade in perspective.

"It's just a way to tell my story, I guess there are people who want to hear that we were panicking and screaming and we weren't, there wasn't that," said Brock-Bokern. "So I feel it's more important to get it right, and from what I saw there was so much drama, and so much tragedy that the truth is enough."

Angela was working for Morgan Stanley on the 61st floor of tower two that day. About two hours after saying goodbye to her fiance, who was headed back to Missouri, Angela was in her office, and felt what she describes as a "significant jolt."

"When tower one was hit, and they way, you knew we were bombed, something inside you, the way the building shook you knew that a bomb was a possibility and then when you saw the paper, you knew something had happened," said Brock-Bokern.

Responsible for more than 350 trainees, Angela encouraged them to exit the building, then made her way to the stairs. When traffic in the stairwell stopped moving, she stepped out onto the 56th floor with five strangers.

"There I saw a huge massive hole in one World Trade Center, black smoke billowing upwards, paper flying everywhere, and people falling to their death," writes Brock-Bokern.

"The pressure to get out is when I see the man falling and I see the people look up at me and that this is real, you can't believe what you are seeing, and it's 100 percent real because your mind tells you this can't be real, it's just too much," said Brock-Bokern.

Ultimately, Angela would return to the 61st floor. It was the only way she knew to get out. A second jolt knocks her off her feet. United flight 175 strikes the building. Angela makes it to the stairs.

"Getting out, you know, do not panic, do not lose it, you know part of the time in the stairwell, I wanted to just stop and throw up, and I told myself don't get sick, now is not the time, keep going," said Brock-Bokern.

Forty minutes later she's finally out of the building.

"I quickly realized that the situation outside was just as dire as it was Inside," writes Brock-Bokern. "I looked up and saw the burning inferno, I saw the massive hole on the side. How the hell did I get out of that?"

"What lingers with me is the smell afterwards you know in New York where it like burns your nostrils," said Brock-Bokern. "I can't describe it, it's a mix of everything burning, you know, plastic and it just burns your nostrils, some call it the smell of death."

In the hours that followed, Angela would make it to her apartment, reunite with her fiance, who never made it to the airport, visit family in St. Louis and a few days later, return to a city still in chaos.

"I stayed in New York for a year after 9/11, and all the police activity really didn't calm down, and everything I loved about the city I stopped doing, I stopped taking the subway, stopped taking the cabs," said Brock-Bokern. "We had a weekend in St. Louis where I attended a Cardinals game and all of a sudden life was so much slower. I decided that I was the only one sitting here worried about a terrorist attack and that I probably in order to begin living again needed to step out of survival mode."

Now as the 10th anniversary approaches, Angela's blog, "Surviving September 11th: Healing through Living" reaffirms Brock-Bokern is doing just that.

"I'm completely grateful that I went through that because I'm in such a better place, my life is so much more rich than were I was," said Brock-Bokern. "So for me, I'm going to completely live my unconventional undefined life, the way that I intend to live it and not make any apologies to anyone, if people don't like what I do, sorry, I'm going to be happy."

Brock-Bokern says her spirit to survive that day comes from her grandfather.

To read more, visit her blog, Surviving September 11th: Healing Through Living


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