GJ woman saw horrors firsthand

New Jersey native was in World Trade Center tower on day of attacks

9-11 Survivor Sally Benson pauses for a moment to gather her emotions as she recalls the images burned into her mind. Benson in the South tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, when the attack happened.

Sally Benson trembled through a remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks Thursday.

For Benson, the recollections of the day were too strong.

Even in the crisp, autumn breeze of the Rockies, as she stood in front of the Mesa County Courthouse,
Benson said she most remembered the acrid odor of the air outside the tower as she stepped outside, moments after it was struck by a fuel-laden jet.

“The smell was ungodly,” she said. “Sickening.”

She was in the south tower of the World Trade Center that morning, accompanying a friend to the center, Benson said.

None too fond of skyscrapers under any circumstances, Benson said she made it to the fourth floor of the south tower when she was seized by a sudden compulsion to get out, immediately.

Unknown to her, the north tower already had been struck by the first jet, which occurred at 8:45 a.m. EDT.

Papers and other debris were billowing through the air and “things were flying all over the place,” when she emerged from the south tower.

Another plane struck the south tower 18 minutes later.

Benson said she believes she was inside the south tower at the time, but she remembered feeling nothing resembling the impact of the jet into the building.

Still, the scene looked as though an earthquake had struck, she said, “a 10.10 on the Richter scale.”

A falling shard of glass gashed her right arm, she said, tracing a scar on the inside of her forearm with her finger.

When she stopped her elevator on the fourth floor and stepped out, three or four other people boarded it and headed skyward, she said.

Benson still is haunted by the fate of those people and the possibility that she might have saved them had she talked them into leaving with her, she said.

As it was, she talked her friend into accompanying her, presumably saving her life, Benson said.

She and her friend talk frequently, especially on every anniversary of the attacks, she said.

Getting out of New York City that day was a mess, she said.

“There were cars in the middle of the road, running, and no driver,” she said.

In the midst of the horror, she said, she was struck most by the reaction of New Yorkers.

“People stuck together and united,” she said.

A New Jersey native, Benson said she could no longer live among tall buildings and moved to Grand Junction in 2006.

Every day, she said, she remembers her close call on Sept. 11, 2001, and, “I thank God I’m still alive.”


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