Sept. 11 Survivor Thanks Firefighters In Aurora

Bernie Tafoya
September 11, 2019 - 1:26 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Aurora remembered the nearly 3,000 people killed during the terrorist attacks on America 18 years ago on Sept. 11 with a ceremony outside the Central Fire Station.

First Deputy Fire Chief John Gilbert opened saying, “Hard to believe it’s already been 18 years.”

Later, he spoke of how special the number 343 had become to firefighters. That’s how many firefighters were killed trying to help others in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

The main speaker was Shaila Zerin-Anwar who is an Aurora resident, an American-Muslim, and a 9/11 survivor. Zerin-Anwar was a 23-year old just-out-of-college software engineer for Lehman Brothers when the first jetliner hit the World Trade Center tower she was in. She was on the 38th floor.

Zerin-Anwar said she’s been carrying faces with her ever since. The faces of firefighters who were going up the World Trade Center stairway as she and hundreds of others were making their way down. 

“Their faces were red. I mean that I could see them burning up from coming up. I remember them smiling and telling us, ‘You’re doing fine. You’re okay. Just go down. Do what you’re doing. You’re doing fine. We’re here. We’ll take care of you,'" she said.

“I remember some of us broke down the vending machines and took out drinks and juices and we passed it down to the first responders, the firefighters, and they kept going up.”

Zerin-Anwar eventually made it out of the tower and was blocks away and looked back as the other tower began to come down first. She said when that happened, all she could think of was those faces.

And, because she couldn’t say it to them, she said it Wednesday to Aurora firefighters.

“Thank you. Thank you for everything you do. Thank you for keeping us safe," Zerin-Anwar said.

After the ceremony, she said, “It’s amazing how, knowing the danger, they were still there and they helped us. I think a lot of us survived because of them.”

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin honored Zerin-Anwar with a plaque and flowers, and during his remarks remembered that tragic day.

“Those images are seared in our minds and souls and will be forever. But I also remember the image of unity and strength as flags flew on houses on every block in every neighborhood in cities all across the nation.”

Police Chief Kristen Ziman spoke of how first responders continue to do the job, putting the lives of others before their own.

“Cops and firefighters remain the first line of defense for the city of Aurora and beyond and the best way to honor those we’ve lost is to continue to hold the line,” she said.