Local woman reflects on working in World Trade Center on September 11

NORTH STRABANE, Pa. — For those who survived the attacks on September 11, 2001, the painful memories of that day never fade.

A small delay that day saved Sara Botkin’s life, and it changed the trajectory of her life.

The North Strabane woman was running late for work that day for her temporary job in New York City.

Her office was on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower.

When the first plane hit, she was on the concourse and about to get on the elevator.

“New York is such a noisy city, I didn’t immediately think terrorist attack or airplane”, said Botkin, “I just sort of paused and looked around. In a few moments I started to see distinguished-looking men in suits starts running and yelling, and thought, okay, something is happening”.

Those with Sara in the lobby were instructed by building security that it was safer for them to go up to their offices.

Her job was at Aon Corporation.

The insurance brokerage company lost 176 lives that morning.

“That was the tragic thing about that day is that we were being told that our building was secure”, she said.

Instead, she listened to her instinct and followed a few other men who pushed past security to get out.

“When I looked outside it was a stunning scene, it looked new years eve, just all the debris in the air, papers flying”, said Botkin.

Her then-boyfriend was a thousand miles away at the time and had feared the worst.

“I thought she was dead”, said Ovi Maciu, “I was panicked the whole day”.

Sara just happened to be running late that day because she stopped at a store to buy a new CD from her favorite singer, Mariah Carey.

It was a chance decision that may have ultimately saved her life.

“I think it’s got to be luck”, said Botkin, “so many people said god was watching out for me that day. And I believe in god, but I can’t think that he would be a god that would watch out for all those people who lost their lives. Fathers and daughters and mothers and sons. So, I just think I was really lucky.”

It was a career in music that brought Sara to New York City.

She wanted to be a professional singer and worked gigs at night chasing that dream.

But after 9-11, none of that seemed so important anymore.

So, she moved back home, got married three months later, and starting working with her dad and brother as a financial planner at the family business in Peters Township.

“That whole experience made me think, I want to go home and be near my family”, said Botkin.

She’s been open and honest with her kids about what happened to her, and has even taken them to the 9-11 memorial.

The events of that day helped Sara realize what was important to her, and how precious her time is.

And the aching memories of that terrible event leave her with a deep appreciation for what she now has.

“I remember watching the footage, and I still go back and watch footage every year, I don’t know why, just to remind myself or pay tribute of the folks who were so desperate that they jumped out of the towers”, said Botkin, “I just… I’ll never forget those days”.