Michiganders share firsthand accounts of survival, recovery on 9/11

“In spite of this horrific attack, it was the goodness of people that I came home feeling.”
Posted at 5:37 AM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 08:20:13-04

(WXYZ) — It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Lower Manhattan. Patrick Anderson was in New York for an economists conference at the World Trade Center.

"Myself and others from Michigan, there were quite a few people from Michigan who were there," Anderson said. "We just happened to be there when the attacks came."

He barely escaped.

“I felt the first plane hit," Anderson recalled from his Lansing office at Anderson Economic Group.

He ran, along with thousands of others, desperate for safety.

“I ended up escaping, running out literally as the second plane came right over my head into the building that I was leaving.”

A group of firefighters helped make sure he made it out safely.

“Another few seconds and I might not have made it.”

Back in metro Detroit, Kevin Cubitt was still trying to get answers, and understand exactly what had happened. He was also starting to worry about his friend 42-year-old Lisa Marie Terry of Oakland Township, who was traveled to New York for business at the Trade Center.

Terrywas a Vice President at Marsh & McLennan's Michigan office.

“You really are kind of panicked. There’s no way to reach out, we didn’t all have cell phones," Cubitt said. He knew Lisa had one, but didn't have the number memorized.

The two met about a decade earlier in the early 90s through their love of horses; their shared passion soon made them close friends.

“She was just an open, warm person," he said.

As more and more details came out, Cubitt started to feel helpless. He was more than 600 miles away with no real way to reach his friend. A mutual friend of theirs had called about Lisa, but no one had heard from her.

Unsure of what to go, or where to go, Cubitt walked to the barbershop for a haircut.

“I was sitting in the chair, and it was live when the second plane hit. I didn’t know at the time that that was the tower that Lisa was in.”

Fast forward to years later, and that news footage grew to become images he couldn't scrub from his mind.

“We converted a horse show that she ran, that was her show, into a memorial show," he said.

During the shows, a memorial video plays which includes are archived footage of that day.

“I often get in my car and drive to the other side of the fairgrounds so I don’t have to hear it."

Lisa's name is now on a list of Michigan lives claimed that day.

Five years after the attacks, Anderson helped create the Michigan Remembers 9-11 Fund, in an effort to help identify more people lost that day, specifically those with Michigan ties.

“When we first started we were able to come up with about 12 names and then it grew to 15 to 16 to 17 to 18," he said.

Thanks to some additional archives made available two years ago, that number is now 42, but Anderson believes it will continue to grow.

“And of course it’s a bittersweet thing, to find another name," he said. "We want to remember, but every single one of these is a loss to a family.”

Dr. Pamela Hammel of Grosse Pointe was working in metro Detroit as a forensic dentist in September of 2001.

Moments before the second plane struck the South Tower, she received a phone call from a naval captain in D.C. to activate her as a member of D-MORT or Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team.

Two weeks later in the second wave of members deploying, Dr. Hammel arrived at the New York Medical Examiner's Office to begin her work; helping to collect everything from teeth to facial bones from body bags, ultimately in an effort to help identify victims from Ground Zero.

Her first experience working with D-MORT was after Flight 255 at Metro Airport, so she knew in some ways what she'd be up against. But the volume she said, was something she had just never seen.

“It was endless," she said. "The morgue line was endless to bring me remains. And it was also the level of devastation.”

Body bag after body that came in, as a shift commander it was her and her team's job to conduct postmortem dental profiles.

“The respect that people had, all of us had, for the dead is just immense," she said.

She remembers how the remains of those believed to be first responders were covered in an American Flag, and even in the midst of the chaos, personally escorted by another service member to each station at the morgue.

She bonded with a lot of strangers over those two weeks working at the morgue, including a police officer who was escorting someone in a body bag.

“He stood up and he hugged me. I’ll never forget the hug. And he just sobbed on my shoulder. And he said that’s my brother," she said. "And I didn’t know if it was his sibling or his fellow officer. And I didn’t ask," she said.

Michigan Remembers 9-11 Fund has added new names as recently as two years ago.

“We wanted to record contemporaneously what actually happened, who was actually there," Anderson said. "Including tales of heroism.”

Just this week, forensic scientists were able to identify two more victims of the attacks from DNA previously collected Ground Zero. New technology, Dr. Hammel said, is making further DNA matching possible.

“They have over 22,000 I believe, different cases that have some sort of bones in them, a tooth maybe, that has DNA. And they’re still testing them all.”