A Winnipeg woman who was a block away from the World Trade Center on 9/11 is reflecting on the kindness she experienced amid the tragedy of that day.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Vera Chernecki and her husband were having coffee at their daughter’s apartment.
Their daughter, meanwhile, was at work on the 70th floor of the North Tower.
That’s when they noticed the TV screen.
“We thought it was a trailer for a movie at first,” Chernecki says.
“Then we realized it was her building … so we became very frantic at that point trying to count down from the top to see what floor the plane had hit.”
“It was a very, very taxing time. My husband and I actually didn’t think she was going to come out of it alive. We tried phoning; there was no answer.”
At that point, the building shook and the power went out momentarily as the second plane hit the South Tower.
Forty-five agonizing minutes later, their daughter and a colleague appeared at the front door, having walked down 70 flights of stairs “drenched to the skin” from the sprinkler system.
They grabbed backpacks, their passports, and made a run for safety.
“I can’t explain it. I guess what it’s like in a war zone, it was just people running and screaming,” Chernecki says.
They were evacuated to a number of different places, before making their way outside of the city to a town where her daughter’s company had set them up with a hotel room.
“Her company uses that hotel all the time, and they had people bunked together to be able to give us a couple of rooms so we could be there,” Chernecki says.
“People were so nice there. My daughter went to a massage therapist the next day because her legs were so sore from walking down those 70 flights, and the woman didn’t even charge her … people were so wonderful.”
There was also the stranger who offered them a ride to the subway station, the military members who escorted them back to their apartment to collect their things, and the many others who were just willing to listen.
“Even when we went out for dinners, people, they’d ask where we were from and when they found out … our daughter had been in that building, they were always so kind and understanding,” Chernecki says.
“People really pull together when there’s a tragedy like that.”