Remembering September 11: Acts of Kindness and Losing My Shoes


Everyone who lived through 9/11 bears the emotional scars of the day, whether we witnessed the scenes in person or simply watched them on television.

I still jump when a low plane flies over, and I will never forget the tragedy I witnessed that day. But I’m trying to focus on a little act of kindness that got me through it.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at my desk in the Wall Street Journal office building across from the World Trade Center. After the impact of the planes, our building was evacuated and the small staff who had come to work early gathered outside. We were dazed and devastated by what was going on around us, but it helped us focus on our work, to report the events of the day.

My mission was to walk to the towers to interview people on the ground. I spoke to a woman who worked in the North Tower, who told a poignant story of feeling the ground buckle when the plane struck her building. She said she felt like she was on a roller coaster as the whole ground rippled in waves, up and down. As she told me about her escape down more than 70 flights of stairs, I heard a strange throaty growl.

We were about a block from the north tower and slowly turned around to the noise and saw the tower start to collapse. Crowds of terrified people were running towards us. It was hard to figure out what was going on, but it reminded me of a scene from a Godzilla movie. The woman I had spoken to understood that before I did. “It falls !” she screamed and grabbed my hand. “To run!”

I started to run but wore heels and could only hang out. So I took off my shoes and ran barefoot.

The massive debris cloud consumed us and people began to disperse, trying to get inside nearby buildings. A doorman of a building was waving his arms, beckoning us to take cover. Once inside, the residents welcomed us into their homes, giving us water to drink and wet towels to wipe up the ashes. A woman named Phyllis noticed my bare feet and gave me a pair of Birkenstock sandals that were just the right size. She was from Atlanta and told me to keep them.

It turned out that I needed these shoes. During the day, as I tried to get home, I ended up walking almost 10 miles. First, evacuation boats took us across the river to New Jersey, away from the dangers of Lower Manhattan. I met a man who was also trying to get home, so we walked north together along the water, trying to find a ferry or a bridge that would allow us to meet our families in town. Everything had stopped for safety reasons, but we kept walking and finally reached the George Washington Bridge at the top of Manhattan. It was late at night before we were allowed to cross over and come home.

When I finally walked into my Brooklyn apartment around 10pm, my 2 year old was wide awake waiting for me. “Mum has new shoes,” she exclaimed.

I didn’t know how to contact Phyllis from Atlanta, so I was never able to return the shoes, which were covered in soot and ash. But I still think of her every year around this time, and I’m thankful that her first instinct in times of crisis was to help a stranger.

Listen to a related audio story from my colleague Dan Barry:
What does it mean to never forget?


This week, a reader on Twitter asked me for advice for adults or children who are exposed to someone who tests positive for Covid-19. The advice changes depending on whether you are vaccinated or not vaccinated, or whether you tested positive or negative after passing an infected person.

To help you determine what to do next, I recommend this helpful decision chart from Michigan Medicine. Even if you are vaccinated and are wearing a mask while being exposed to an infected person, you may still need to be tested and take precautions.

Read the organization chart:
You have been exposed to Covid-19. Now what?


While we should all be doing our best to take reasonable precautions against Covid-19, I think we’ve reached a point where vaccinated people are too anxious about the risk of a breakthrough infection.

Like Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, recently tweeted: “Last month’s post to the United States served primarily to terrify those vaccinated and make eligible unvaccinated adults doubt the effectiveness of vaccines.”

My colleague David Leonhardt recently explained the real risk of a breakthrough infection. He wrote:

What are the chances that the average vaccinated American will contract Covid? Probably about one in 5,000 a day, let alone for people who take precautions or live in a heavily immunized community.

The estimates here are based on statistics from three places that reported detailed data on Covid infections by vaccination status: Utah; Virginia; and King County, which includes Seattle, Washington. All three are consistent with the idea that about one in 5,000 vaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid every day for the past few weeks.

The odds are surely higher in places with the worst Covid epidemics, such as the South East. And in places with far fewer cases – like the Northeast, as well as the Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco areas – the odds are lower, probably less than 1 in 10,000. Here’s one way to think about one. Daily chance in 10,000: It would take more than three months for the combined risk to reach only 1%.

Of course, we should always take precautions even if we are vaccinated. I wear a mask at the grocery store and at the doctor’s office. I mask myself when I am inside and I do not know the vaccination status of those around me. But I am comfortable spending time indoors, without a mask, with my friends and family vaccinated. (If a vaccinated friend or family member has recently traveled or spent time in a crowded bar or club, I would rather meet them outside or have them use a quick home test before spending time unmasked inside with it.)

I think Dr. Robert M. Wachter, professor and head of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, best summed up the risk of the Delta variant for vaccinees: “The risk is low enough to experience the disease. life. , high enough to be careful.

Learn more about the breakthrough risk:
One in 5,000


Here are some must-see stories:

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Stay well!



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