9/11 survivor testifies to her life “stolen by terrorists”

On September 11, 2001, the United States was hit hard by terrorism. Within hours, the world’s leading power fell to its knees after the hijacking and crash of several airliners in New York, Washington and Shanksville. The images of the Twin Towers disappearing from the landscape in a few seconds and of the gutted Pentagon go around the world and make a lasting impression.

These attacks, of unheard-of violence, come close of 3,000 dead and thousands of injured – not to mention the number of patients, mainly cancer, which has been accumulating since: more than 41,000 cases have so far been deemed legitimate to receive compensation, including 2,131 concerning dead people, and 900 are filed each month. Many of those who survived this tragedy also developed very serious psychological sequelae: depression, post-traumatic stress, suicidal thoughts. Kayla Bergeron, survivor of the North Tower, is one of them. On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the attacks, she agreed to look back on this tragic day and talk about her fight against the disease.

“We had an exceptional view of the Statue of Liberty”

In September 2001, Kayla Bergeron was responsible for public affairs for the New York Port Authority, whose offices are in the heart of Manhattan, in the World Trade Center complex. She remembers a sunny day and a city in full political turmoil: “It was the day of the primary for the municipal election in New York. I started my day by going to vote. As I left the polling station, I ran into then-mayor Rudy Giuliani and candidate (and future mayor) Mike Bloomberg. ” Kayla then returns to her workplace. “I took subway line 5 going downtown and got off at Fulton Street station in the heart of the business district. I remember as I walked out into the street, I admired the sky, which was a dazzling blue. I bought my usual coffee, then walked across World Trade Center plaza towards the North Tower to reach my business premises. They were on the sixty-eighth floor. We had an exceptional view of the Statue of Liberty. ”

It was 8:46 a.m. when the first plane crashed into the north tower. Kayla Bergeron has just moved to her workstation, located about twenty floors below the point of impact. “I was sitting at my desk and preparing for a meeting which was to take place around 9am when the building was hit. The tower swerved 3 meters forward. I quickly realized that a plane had struck the building, but I thought then that it was an accident and not an attack. ”

Kayla Bergeron during the evacuation of the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. | hannon Stapleton / Reuters

At 9:03 am, a second plane struck the south tower. Kayla Bergeron sees the scene from the window and awaits the arrival of the instructions. “At 9:30 am, a security guard came to my office and told us we had to leave. Before the evacuation, I walked through the sixty-eighth floor to make sure no one was left behind. Luckily, the arrival of the employees of the New York Port Authority was still staggered and a number of my colleagues were not yet present at the time of the attack. When we entered the stairwell and began our descent, I found the evacuation to be orderly, calm and professional. After the bomb attack at the World Trade Center in 1993, our employer regularly organized evacuation drills. So New York Port Authority staff were more or less prepared for this. ”

Years of medical follow-up

During the descent, a collaborator informs him of the terrorist nature of the events. At the same time, the south tower collapses. Arriving on the sixth floor, Kayla Bergeron notices that one of the doors is blocked and begins to panic. The lights hardly work anymore, which makes orientation very difficult. She finally sees a policeman who shows her the way to follow and manages to leave the building. His face and his clothes are covered with dust. At 10:28 a.m., a few minutes after its release, the North Tower also disappears from the New York landscape.

“I am one of the so-called ‘lucky ones’, despite the post-traumatic stress disorder that I developed as a result of these attacks.”
Kayla Bergeron, survivor of September 11

In shock, but, relieved to be alive, Kayla Bergeron does not yet measure how much her mental health has just been affected. “I am one of the so-called ‘lucky ones’, although my life has been stolen by terrorists. I developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of these attacks. ” Since the diagnosis, she has been supported to overcome this trauma. “Thanks to individual and group therapy, treatments and a long recovery program, my life is slowly getting back on track. Horse assisted therapy played an important role in my recovery. ”

Today, Kayla is mobilizing to help those struggling against alcohol and drug addiction. She also tries to save the Special Equestrians of Georgia association: “I fundraise for them. Their very special therapy program is threatened by the Covid-19 health crisis, which has caused significant loss of income. So I launched a gofundme to try to help the body keep itself alive. Your readers can also participate in this pot if they wish. ”

Since 2001, September 11 has been a very special day for this survivor. “On this date, when I’m not in New York, I do a videoconference with my former collaborators and colleagues to discuss this moment. We always meet at 10:30 am. It helps me a lot to converse with those who have lived through this tragedy. ”

Keyla Bergeron is now awaiting the declassification of documents relating to the attacks announced by Joe Biden at the beginning of the month: “I am grateful to the politicians who made this decision. Hopefully the declassified files are complete. ” The families of victims and survivors have been calling for this action for several years. Many wish to shed light on the role of some senior Saudi officials in these attacks. The Department of Justice now has six months to publish them.

Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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