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Dinwiddie woman remembers how she and coworkers escaped on 9/11: 'I know what it felt like'

Dinwiddie woman remembers how she and coworkers escaped on 9/11: 'I know what it felt like'
Posted at 11:54 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 08:58:21-04

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- A Dinwiddie woman spent 9/11 frantic after she spent hours trying to reach her mother who was inside one of the World Trade Center towers.

"It's something I will never forget," Gail Menendez, a World Trade Center attack survivor, said. "I know what it felt like. I don't think somebody else would know how we feel."

As the world remembers the 20th anniversary of 9/11, many of those who had family members or loved ones involved in the catastrophe remember waiting for news.

"She's probably dead. I kind of braced myself for it," Michelle Menendez Olgers said.

Michelle would wait for more than four hours before she heard her mother's voice.

"I was shocked. Again, I had just made a scenario in my head, I was braced. Obviously, I was very grateful and I think I was still shocked," Michelle said.

Hours after the attack, Gail explained how she escaped the building on that fateful day.

"I work on the 67th floor. The elevator took us to the 44th floor and from the 44th floor we had to walk down all these flights of stairs," Gail said.

Gail said that while making her way down the stairs, she felt the moment that the second plane hit the tower she was in.

"The lights dimmed. The whole building shook and you sort of fell forward," Gail said. "That's something I will always remember."

Over the days, weeks and months, Michelle would slowly learn exactly what her mother experienced.

Gail had just stepped into her office on 9/11 when she heard a yell. Over a loudspeaker, the employees were told to shelter in place.

"I used to go to the meetings and know what to do, God forbid anything ever happen," Gail said.

"To her credit, she contradicted the instructions on the PA system and told everybody to go," Michelle said.

Before Gail ran, she began to scream to those around her to do the same.

Get Out.


Michelle said that she couldn't help but feel immeasurably proud for how her mother took the time to make sure that her colleagues also made it to safety that day.

"Very much so and I think in just talking to her, she really downplayed the role she was credited with by her colleagues for getting them all of the floor," Michelle said.

And Gail's colleagues were also quick to thank her for her quick thinking.

"Everybody came over to me, hugging me and in my mind, I was saying, are they crazy? Why are they hugging me? And then I'm thinking, maybe it's because I yelled 'get out, get out' and they made it out okay," Gail said.

However, it's not those who survived who Gail remembers from that day. She said she tries not to read, watch or listen to anything dealing with 9/11, haunted by those who lost their lives that day.

"The average person doesn't know those people I worked with, you know. To them, I guess it's just another person that died. But to me, knowing some of the people in the building died, I think it's a little harder for me," Gail said.

By the time Gail made it outside the building, like thousands of other people, she simply started walking.

"I was living in Brooklyn at the time. I walked over the bridge, nobody's running," Gail remembered.

She made it home where she would stay for about a week.

"I didn't want to be in the house by myself, I wanted to be with other people," Gail said.

Gail said that besides being sensitive about the events of 9/11, she doesn't think that the events of that day changed her.

Michelle agrees that her mom is the same and said that it might be better to remember that day from a distance with respect while moving forward with life.