Rockwall Woman’s 9/11 Story of Horror and RedemptionPublished: August 09, 2016
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There are a handful of moments in history that stand out to the point where we remember exactly where we were when they happened. Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination, the moon landing, and the Challenger space shuttle explosion are a few that come to mind. More recent are the events of September 11, 2001 in which thousands of Americans lost their lives from terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC. Almost all of us who were around and watched the live news coverage of the World Trade Center towers as they fell into clouds of dust can relive the day as if it just happened. Fifteen years later, Rockwall resident Samantha Horwitz still relives those moments more intensely than most. Because she was there.
"When we got outside it was like being in some kind of surround-sound movie theater. The senses were bombarded with sights and sounds. It was so loud you just wanted to put your hands over your ears. Debris was everywhere. Paper swirling all around. Falling pieces of concrete and metal. Pieces of...people. My first thought as a law enforcement officer was, 'Where's the bad guy?' I'm armed and ready. Who do I go after?"
Dodging the debris as best she could, Sam sought shelter from any available overhang. She eventually managed to unite with members of her squad, who helped her evacuate her building and get as many people as possible away to what they figured would be a safe distance. "The whole time we still had no idea what had happened. We were too close to the building to see anything. When the second plane hit, we couldn't see the south tower. We just heard the explosion. All we knew was, it was time to get as far away from there as we could."
Then she noticed the shadows. Fleeting images flashing downward. One of her fellow agents finally realized what they were. "Bodies. They just kept coming and coming. We could feel them hit the ground. How bad must it have been up there for someone to make that kind of choice? The images are seared in my mind forever."
They managed to get to a school ball field a few blocks away. As the towers came down one after the other, the group set up a makeshift triage unit to help any victims who might need it. "Nobody came. There was no one to save." Eventually they made their way to the waterfront where a ferry had been dispatched by the New Jersey field office to get them home.
Sam was safe, but the nightmare was far from over. Signs of post traumatic stress began to appear almost immediately. Sleeplessness, anxiety attacks, recurring nightmares and a developing alcohol dependency eventually led to her resignation from the Secret Service along with seven of her teammates. "That was unheard of. Nobody quits the Service. But I just found it hard to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone do the job. I knew it was PTS. I just didn't know how to fix it." Things went from bad to worse, to the point of a suicide attempt, from which she was brought back by an inner voice telling her it was not her time to go. What it was time to do was to use her experience to help others in the same situation.
Story by Bob Lewis
Photos courtesy of Samantha Horwitz and Amazon.com.
Web site: courageaboveall.com/.com