Canton woman traveled to New York, slept on park benches to help in search after 9/11

Posted at 4:37 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 17:56:04-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — On September 11th, 2001, the skies were clear and blue but soon after, those skies filled with ash and smoke, changing a nation. "Every year, it's tough. Everything comes back," said Founder of Hands of Light in Action Nancy Malone.

Twenty years ago, Nancy Malone was a physical therapist and a single mother of three children living in Canton, Michigan.

She was on her way to work to a patient's house, and as soon as she opened that door and walked in, she watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center, changing her life forever. "At that moment, I can't even describe it. With everything I was, I knew I had to go, and I had a lot of friends in New Jersey, and they said you'll never get in," said Nancy.

Photos courtesy Nancy Malone

Nancy dropped everything that she was doing, and she headed east to New York. She slept on park benches and worked side-by-side to work with firefighters and police officers.

Rubble, debris, mangled steel, and ashes all over the streets of lower Manhattan. People crying, searching for loved ones and answers
First responders were frantically searching for colleagues and survivors. Nancy joining in one of the rescue efforts, helping wash their eyes out from the dust.

"Whatever anybody needed. We were trying to help and talking to a lot of the firefighters. When anyone would sit down and the police officers, you would sit down beside them, and they had a story to tell, and they really needed to tell it. A lot of them had tears because they were supposed to work that day, and their buddy took over, and now, they can't find their buddy," she said.

After experiencing the extreme loss and devastation, Nancy came back to Detroit and started Hands of Light in Action, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization helping those in need during a time of disaster.

In the 20 years since the brazen acts of 9-11, and because of her work at Ground Zero, Nancy receives calls from all over the country to head to disaster zones. Her missions have taken her to places like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Nancy says her experience in New York put her life and her purpose into perspective, "9/11 changed my life. This was not my plan. But 9/11 changed my life."

Like Nancy and for so many others, the anniversary of 9/11 will forever be in their hearts.