September 11, 2001 is a date in history that Americans will never forget. Some have lived through the pain firsthand, while others can empathize with those who were among the victims, survivors and heroes during the attacks.
NCC’s Assistant Director of Student Life and Leadership, Frances Boshell, recounted her story, and that of her family, surrounding the events of 9/11.
The morning of September 11, 2001, a 13-year-old Boshell living in Brooklyn was in class on her first day of high school at Saint John Villa Academy in Staten Island, NY. Parents were coming to the school to pick up their kids in droves, and Boshell remembers being confused at all the chaos.
Boshell could hear the high school secretary’s voice over the loud speaker sending all students back to their homeroom. “She announced that we would not get released from school until someone came to pick us up in the library.” That’s all Boshell knew.
Boshell’s mother, Frances Koren, and aunt, Mary Koren, started working with a small financial firm, Fiduciary Trust International, in the South Tower of the Twin Towers in New York City in the early ‘80s. “As a kid, I just remember there were a lot of places to eat, and I remember getting Ben and Jerry’s with my mom,” says Boshell.
On 9/11, the Korens caught a later bus than usual because of an early morning appointment. As Boshell’s mother and aunt rode into New York City from Brooklyn, they could see the North Tower on fire.
Their initial thoughts were that of concern, but terrorism didn’t cross their minds until the Korens saw the South Tower, their tower, get hit as they watched from the bus. They were re-routed to head back to Brooklyn. As they travelled away from the disaster, Frances Koren recalled the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, when a terrorist bomb exploded in a parking garage leaving a massive, multi-story crater and causing the collapse of several steel-reinforced concrete floors.
She had flashbacks of walking down over 90 flights of stairs with firefighters as Boshell’s mother was covered in soot. Her heart sank at the thought of her co-workers, friends and innocent people trapped in the buildings under attack.
Meanwhile, Boshell waited patiently in her homeroom as she learned what had happened, and thought, “My mom survived the first attack in ‘93, but I didn’t know if I would get that lucky twice. I was so scared.”
When Boshell got the call down to the library, her mother’s best friend, Theresa Hoovert, and her daughter were standing in front of her. Sudden dread washed over Boshell. Hoovert explained that her mom was okay, but she was unable to get to her because roadways and bridges were blocked and shut down.
Boshell went back to Hoovert’s house and watched the events of the day unfold on the news in shock, not fully comprehending what she was seeing.
Later that day, Boshell was able to get on a bus back home when area bridges re-opened. “I could see the smoke and debris as the bus was driving me home. It was all in front of my eyes and so real.”
Co-workers’ families kept calling the house, asking if the Korens knew where their loved ones were.
“My mom and aunt had to keep telling everyone who called that they hadn’t made it in that morning. They were completely shaken,” Boshell said. “If they had taken the bus they normally do, they would’ve been in that building, and they may not have made it out.”
Ninety out of 300 of the Korens’ co-workers died that day. The Saturday following 9/11, the company gathered employees, their families, and families of the victims together. So many were hopeful that they’d still find their family members.
Boshell and her family went to an emergency mass in Brooklyn that night. They lost a good family friend in the attacks, Penny (Patricia) Kuras. “My aunt and Penny were friends since grammar school,” Boshell said. “She’d come to holidays and parties, and we’d go to Broadway shows together. She was such a kind and loving woman. We all miss her so much.” In January of 2002, according to her obituary, search and rescue found insurances cards that Penny carried with her in the debris, a small piece of closure for her family and friends.
Boshell’s father, Kevin Boshell, was a New York Police Department lieutenant at the 9th precinct. Typically, he wouldn’t have served the area surrounding the twin towers, but when he got the call, it was all hands on deck. He was with the FBI as they went through the debris.
“Everything he touched, he felt might have been someone’s ashes, which made him emotional,” Boshell said. “He went on to work 24-hour shifts to look through everything for the next month and a half.”
NCC student, Evan Simmons, was too young to remember the events of that day, but he lives with his father, Eric Simmons, a retired Fire Department of New York Emergency Medical Services worker, who also rose to the call of duty after the tragedy unfolded much like Boshell’s father.
“I try to maintain that I responded to an assignment. It was my job,” Evan’s father tells him, as he tries his best to push forward and keep perspective every day.
Simmons ended up retiring early. “It was a job that I expected to stay at for 35 years. After the attacks, I was trained as a rescue medic. Due to the additional training, I responded to more ‘high profile’ calls that made my wife more upset each time,” he said.
September 11, 2021, 20 years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., Americans and many from around the world continue to struggle with the losses and emotional impact of that day. And as they do, we remember and honor all those who lost their lives as a result of the tragic events that will be forever etched in history.