The words 9/11 and Good News don't really go together.
But as the country commemorates the eleventh anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, we decided to look for those few tales of positivity and hope that emerged in the aftermath of the event.
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These are stories of men and women who escaped the twin towers under seemingly impossible circumstances: surfing down 15 stories of debris, being pulled from beneath a collapsing building, crossing a three-story deep chasm of metal.
These lucky few then went on to make a tremendous impact in their communities and in the lives of fellow trauma survivors -- they volunteered, told their stories and proudly and boldly displayed their battle scars.
Take a look.
Sujo John was working on the 81st floor of World Trade Center 1 when the building was hit. Although he was able to quickly descend the stairs to safety, his mind remained on his pregnant wife's who worked in the second tower. "I thought I would die," John told CBN News. "The building was swaying and we could feel the building tilting to the left, fighting our way through the fire making our way to the stairwell." Miraculously, John's wife arrived at work just moments after it was hit by the second plane, and was never allowed to enter the building. "I saw it. I was standing right under the buildings. I felt the heat and the debris falling all around me," she commented. The collapse of the second tower, however, buried John under a pile of debris while his wife could only watch. Somehow he found the strength to burst through the rubble. He was the only one of his cohort to survive the blast. Both John and his wife credit God with their amazing survival. Since those frightening hours in 2001, the couple has been traveling the world sharing their incredible stories of survival. The effort has turned into a full-time ministry, with more than 30,000 disciples for Christ.
Eighty-two percent of Lauren Manning's body was severely burned on 9/11. Headed to her job as a managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 106th floor of the North tower, she got only as far as the lobby when the elevator exploded, setting her on fire. "I prayed for death, in that unspeakable way that people who are experiencing unimaginable pain can." But then she thought of her 10-month-old son, Tyler: "I can't leave my son. I haven't had him long enough ... I can't die like this, stumbling into the streets in flames, surrendering my life in a gutter"Manning told USA Today. Manning was able to reach a narrow strip of grass outside the tower, where a heroic man ripped off his jacket to smother the flames that engulfed her. Although the EMTs initially labeled her as unlikely to survive, after three months in the hospital and three months in rehabilitation, Manning was able to return to her normal life. She underwent more than 25 operations and skin grafts, the tips of four fingers had to be amputated, and she had to relearn how to stand and walk. Greg, her husband, also worked at the World Trade Center, but at the last minute decided to help a friend rather than go to work that day. "It is a true miracle that my son isn't an orphan." Manning said. Manning is a true fighter. In 2004 she was chosen to participate in the International Olympic Torch Relay; she ran three blocks in Manhattan.
Jay Jonas was a captain in the New York Fire Department on September 11. He was among 14 people -- 12 of them firefighters --who were trapped on a stairwell between the second and fourth floors after the North Tower collapsed. After waiting for three hours in the dark, Jonas and his fellow survivors precariously crossed a three story deep trench of metal to reach safety. Instead of retiring after the traumatic event, however, Jonas swore to help the NY fire department rebuild in the wake of the tragedy. "I didn't want anybody to chase me out," Jonas told ABC. "I'm living my lifelong dream. I've wanted to be a fireman since I was a little kid."
Pasquale Buzzelli, 43, a structural engineer for the Manhattan Port Authority, was one of the last people to exit the North Tower on September 11, 2001. Just as he reached the 22nd floor, however, the building crumbled beneath him. Amazingly, Buzzelli was able to surf the debris down to the 7th floor, where he was rescued by firefighters. 'I was totally numb,' Buzzelli told the Daily Mail. 'I felt nothing at all. I just opened my eyes and saw blue sky. I really thought I was dead until I started to cough and I started to feel pain in my leg. At that point I started calling out: "Help. Help." Firefighters Mike Lyons and Mike Moribito, who disobeyed orders to search the wreckage, found Pasquale just when he was in danger of being burnt alive. Although Buzzelli suffered from survivor's guilt for years after the attacks, his family has helped him cope with the traumatic aftermath. 'With the birth of Mia [my daughter] I was finally able to experience those feelings and not feel guilt. In that sense I've realized that the best way to honour those that didn't make it, is to be the best person that I can be.' Buzzelli said. See more of Buzzelli's story in the Discovery Channel documentary, 9/11 The Miracle Survivor, which will be screened on the year anniversary of the tragedy.
Nicole Simpson was a financial planner at Morgan Stanley on the 73rd floor of the second tower when 9/11 changed the course of her life. Simpson's split second decision not to enter the elevator right before the second tower was hit saved her from the tragic end of her assistants. "My first thought when I saw the doors and windows was to get out, but we weren't allowed to because it was unsafe, because of things falling from above and people jumping out of windows," Simpson told AOL. Simpson, who is married with two children, suffered from survivor's guilt, sleeping only 3-4 hours every night for 10 years. In 2005, however, Simpson decided to rebuild her declining career in the financial sector, but this time she was determined to help people like herself, who were dealing with the consequences of tragedy. In 2010, she began Harvest Wealth Financial, a firm that offers financial and disaster planning with a compassionate twist. Simpson has gone on to author two books, whose proceeds benefit a 9/11 survivors fund. She also volunteers her time as a financial planner to 9/11 survivors. "I began to dream again. In encouraging others, a spark was ignited to me. I had to start believing in myself again. In addition, I began to share my story with individuals while encouraging them to not allow catastrophic and/or traumatic events to define their destiny." she said.
Lee Lelpi, president of the 9/11 Tribute Center, was on the ground 11 years ago in search of his son, who was part of New York Fire Department's Squad 288. Miraculously, three months later, he found him. Lepli decided to turn his personal tragedy into a day of appreciation and giving, founding the 9/11 Tribute Center. Every year, over 500 volunteers from companies affected by 9/11 come together to build bicycles for the children of military families. Organized along with USO, the annual day of service honors those involved in the ongoing effort to protect the United States. "These men and women did a great thing and this is our way to give back," Dan Squire, 46, of the New York Fire Department Ladder 4, who was on the ground 11 years ago and lost 15 men, told the Epoch Times.
Ron DiFrancesco is the last known survivor to have exited the South Tower of the World Trade Center before it collapsed and is one of only four to have survived from above the 81st floor. "Time does heal a bit, but it doesn't make you forget what happened. And I think, for our generation, it's our marking point in history. It changed the world that day," DiFrancesco told the Survivor's Club. DiFrancesco rushed down nearly 80 flights of stairs while struggling for oxygen, only to be hit by a fireball from the building's collapse. When he woke in the hospital, he had a broken back, lacerations to his head, and burns all over his body, but he survived. In return for the months in which kind volunteers and family-friends took care of his wife and children while he recovered, DiFrancesco is giving back by riding bicycles for cancer victims and their families with Camp Trillium. "I love the peacefulness of the road, riding my bike, and riding in a pack ... [it's] a bit of healing for me," he said. "I find it cathartic."