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‘It was just smoldering’ - Dawsonville woman recounts witnessing 9/11 in Manhattan
Plumes of smoke pour from the World Trade Center buildings in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. - photo by Associated Press

Diana Delgross was walking toward her office in lower Manhattan 20 years ago when she saw a low-flying plane. It wasn’t long before she was leaving New York on a ferry full of silence and tears, looking back at a smoldering skyline that had been forever changed. 

“I thought to myself how odd that was,” she said, recalling that first memorable moment of Sept. 11, 2001. “I looked away, put my coffee down on my desk and when I looked back, I saw all the flames. I went to get the executive director to look out the window. We just didn’t know what to say or do. At the time, we still didn’t know it was a terror attack, we just thought it was a horrible accident.

Delgross, who moved to Dawsonville this summer, worked then in the AT&T building in lower Manhattan for a nonprofit called the Arthur Page Society.

“It was a Tuesday ... an absolutely gorgeous day,” Delgross said. “At the time, I lived in Madison, N.J., so I had to take the train into Penn Station. I was supposed to stop and get some office supplies at a place that I would go to regularly down by the Twin Towers, but on the way to the office, I thought that I would go in and get coffee first, then I would go get the stuff we needed.

She saw the first plane while walking toward the office.

It wasn’t long before she saw the second tower was on fire and knew it could not be an accident.

“It was sheer panic all around. When the towers fell, we knew we had to somehow escape,” she said. “We all got together and put cloths over our faces, because you could hardly breathe with all the dust. We thought people were throwing furniture out the window of the towers, but it was people jumping.”

They walked toward South St. Sea Port hoping to get a ferry.

“Oddly enough, it seemed like everyone went in single file. There was no conversation, no laughter or anything. It was so quiet,” she said. “We got a ferry to Hoboken. The ferry was dead silent and all you could see was tears running down people’s faces, staring at where the Twin Towers used to be. It was just smoldering. It’s all very vivid.” 

Once back in Hoboken, N.J., first responders in hazmat suits hosed off everyone coming from New York City. Delgross said she rode the train back to her home in Madison dripping wet.

“I was living with my brother who worked in New Jersey. For a while, we had telephone communication, but communication was shot after the towers fell. I got back to Madison, but it was like nobody knew what was going on,” she said.“Kids were playing in the street and people were casually chatting with each other. It was two worlds in one. I got home and was still in shock, so I just sat and stared because I didn’t want to listen to any reports. Those there knew that there weren’t going to be any survivors.

“The next day, I took a walk, because I couldn’t shake that feeling off and I didn’t know what to do. I lived right next to the Madison, N.J., train station and all the cars that were parked there from people that were never coming back were being covered with black covers by policemen and firefighters. Eventually, they towed them away.”

Delgross and her co-worker worked from home for the next month following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Any plane flying overhead creating discomfort. 

“The country did bounce back though, and we bounced back pretty well,” Delgross said.

Originally published at

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