Debra Gibbon went to work on the morning of September 11, 2001 like millions of Americans did.
It began as a normal day. Debra arrived at work on the 105th floor in the south tower of the World Trade Center like she had done countless times before.
At 8:46 a.m., hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11 crashed of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Port Authority officials reportedly broadcast orders to evacuate both towers via the public address system at 9:02 a.m. Tenants of the WTC’s South Tower were initially instructed to remain in the building, but thousands of people were already in the process of evacuating.
Debra’s niece, Andrea Lawrence, said she made it down to the 72nd floor when an announcement was made that the south tower was clear.
“When she was given the all clear, she automatically turned around. That one second decision is what you have to live with,” Lawrence said.
At 9:03 a.m., hijackers crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 75-85 of the WTC’s South Tower. Lawrence said her aunt made it above the impact zone before the plane hit.
“Her best friend got on the elevator, escaped and lived,” Lawrence said. “They were standing next to each other and in that one second, she got on and [Debra] turned around. She would have made it out. That’s hard for us.”
Two more planes crashed in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania that day, bringing the death toll to nearly 3,000 people. The events of September 11, 2001 resulted in the single largest loss of life from a foreign attack on American soil.
Debra Gibbon was 52-years-old and left behind three children that she loved immensely. Fourteen years later, her family carries on her memory as each year passes.
“She loved life and really enjoyed living,” Lawrence said. “Nobody has forgotten and we will never forget her.”
Lawrence lives in Benton and attends Bossier City’s 9/11 memorial at Liberty Garden every year. She purchased a brick for her aunt and brings a photo with her to set down beside it each time she comes.
This year’s ceremony was a lot more meaningful and emotional with the dedication of the 16-foot steel beam recovered from where the World Trade Centers fell at ground zero.
“I touched it and it took my breath away,” Lawrence said as tears filled her eyes. “The fact that I’m here in my hometown, touching it, is beyond words. You don’t get to touch things and be hands on at the memorials in New York.”
Lawrence encouraged everyone to take time on September 11 to reflect and remember the lives lost on that historic day. She also stressed that people should not take life for granted.
“The world gets crazy, but we have this one day every year to remind us of the important things to focus on,” she said. “Before you close the door to leave, hug your children, your spouse, your loved ones and tell them what they mean to you. Don’t think you’re guaranteed to walk back in that door at any moment.”