9/11: Woman reflects on decision to leave office before attack
Tomorrow marks two decades since 19 members of the terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four aeroplanes and conducted a coordinated suicide attack against the US. There were 2,777 victims of the attack as two planes flew into New York’s World Trade Center, a third crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a final plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Jerry Kehm saw the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers unfold and bore witness as the second plane pierced through the World Trade Center.
Traditionally, offices would hold a minute’s silence for significant moments in the day, including at 8:46am when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and at 9:03am when the South Tower was hit.
Mr Kehm, who lost friends in the event, told Express.co.uk: “I was lucky that day.
“I know exactly what those moments are – I can see those moments happening still, I understood the impact because I was there first hand.”
Of course this year the anniversary falls on a Saturday.
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Tomorrow marks two decades since the 9/11 attacks
There were 2,777 victims of the attack
He added: “My annual 9/11 therapy is on the anniversary, I watch old videos, testimonials and accounts of the day and recount my own steps – some of it brings back some sour memories.
“I do it every year and some of it’s a bit sadistic but I like to think it’s a source of healing.
“Whenever people share a traumatic event they usually migrate back together to recount the traumatic event.
“My children will also send me texts over the years, telling me they’re ‘so happy that you’re still around.’”
Jerry Kehm was a eyewitness as the twin towers were struck
Mr Kehm opened up on the two decades since the attack and shared his initial feelings of anger.
He said: “The first few years I felt anger – you don’t understand why it happened.
“The World Trade Center was a place I worked at in my first job out of college.
“I lived a block and a half away from where it was – it’s very iconic and symbolic as a New Yorker.
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Over 2000 first responders have died with illness which have been attributed to the attack
“It was like Tower Bridge or Big Ben – it’s iconic – and when it was struck, for such a terrible reason, it’s terribly disrespectful and definitely makes you angry.
“The guy that orchestrated 9/11 (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) is still in Guantanamo bay – I have no remorse and no sympathy for him at all, not one bit.
“The fact he spent 20 years in Guantanamo bay does not bother me.”
A number of events since quelled Mr Kehm’s anger including the opening of Ground Zero, which memorialised those that passed, and the US’ 2011 killing of the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Ground Zero commemorates the September 11 attack
Mr Kehm added: “The day that Osama bin Laden was captured and killed for me was a lot of closure – it was a lot of satisfaction that we finally got the scumbag that was orchestrating this.
“Another appeasement of anger was when they finished Ground Zero.
“They did such a good job of memorialising the people that were killed that day – they realised this was a graveyard.
“The fact there is one place to go to mourn, reflect and remember helps the healing process.
For weeks Manhattan was covered by a layer of ash
“I’ve become sadder over the years and now with the United States pulling out of Afghanistan you think, what the hell was the last twenty years about?”
In November 2012 Mr Kehm was diagnosed with throat cancer and had his treatment paid for by the 9/11 commission.
Though the former trader was reluctant to attribute the illness to the attack, 2,000 first responders and Ground Zero workers have died since from illnesses attributed to their time at the site.
Researchers at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine concluded that there is “evidence of increased risk for certain cancers among WTC-exposed responders.”
Mr Kehm, who was one of the few to return to Manhattan six days after the attack said: “I don’t know if it made me sick or not but there’s no way (breathing the air at the site) was good for me.
“The fire went on for at least a week, it was still smouldering and burning.
“I’d walk past firemen sitting in a group washing their faces because they were breathing in soot and the pulverised metal, furniture and equipment.
“After the week I was allowed to drive [to Manhattan] through all this dust – it was almost like a snowfall.
“You could write your name on the hood of my car when I drive home every night because of the dust.
“For 18 months I went to work down at the World Trade Centre every day, breathing in the air.”