The day was “absolutely beautiful…no clouds in the sky. A picture-perfect September morning,” recalls Nicole Simpson. “I was at my office at 8 am and was having a daily meeting. I was on the 73rd floor.” That was September 11, 2001 — a day forever etched in Simpson’s memory and an entire nation’s memory as well.
Then she worked as a certified financial planner, and her office was located inside one of the two World Trade Center towers in New York City. “We felt the impact and the vibration,” remembers Simpson of one of the planes that hit the two buildings that morning. “We couldn’t see what happened. Although we felt the impact of it, it wasn’t enough for me to leave my desk. What changed my mind is that I walked over to the window. “I looked outside and saw burnt paper as if it were a New York Yankees parade,” Simpson continues. That forced her to tell her assistant and others to leave the building.
“We didn’t take the elevator. We began to walk [down the stairs].” When an announcement came over the intercom that they didn’t have to leave after all, they proceeded to get off the stairs to take the elevator back to their offices. “They made that announcement over and over again,” she pointed out, but a gut feeling told her it might not be as safe as it seemed. Simpson said she then got off “before the [elevator] doors closed, and my assistants got off with me. Not even 30 seconds [later], Tower 2 was hit right through the middle of the building. The elevators were crashing down.” Then she went into “survival mode.” “It was at that moment I knew we were under attack.
My concerns were “[Are] we going to get out of the building? Was there another plane coming?” I don’t know the time frame, but I calmed down and we began to walk down the steps. Periodically you would see a policeman or fireman coming in the opposite direction. There was no stampeding, chaos or anything. It seemed like people were coming out in an orderly fashion.” Once outside, Simpson said, “You could see the dust and debris, the fallen particles.
You saw people plunge from the building. They didn’t think they could make it out of the building by going down the stairs. They may have thought their best option was to jump. “I came out of [the center of the building] and I didn’t turn around until I got to Broadway. Still, to this day, I don’t have an image of Tower 1, but I do recall a plane hanging out of Tower 2 with smoke going up in the air. If I had not seen it with my own eyes… That was my experience of being in the building on that day. “All of my direct assistants were survivors,” she points out.
However, six people from her office died that day 10 years ago. Although she is one of only 500 Black certified financial planners, Simpson in 2002 accepted the call to ministry, started the Power of Gospel Ministries and Harvest Wealth Financial LLC, and has written three books. Ten years later, Simpson is a World Trade Center survivor who is now a motivational speaker on how to deal with a catastrophic, unexpected disaster. “I use my own life as a model,” says Simpson, whose fourth book, “9/11/01: A Long Road Toward Recovery,” which will be released this year, focuses on her ordeal and her recovery afterwards. She had to learn who is the “post 9/11 Nicole Simpson,” surmises Simpson.
“No one helped the survivors of 9/11. They helped the first responders; they assisted the families of those who lost a loved one, but what about the people who were in the building and [also] were directly impacted? “The survivors and individuals who walked away with their lives…they’ve been broken, and their lives never have been the same,” says Simpson. “I could’ve been one of those 3,000 individuals who did not make it home [on Sept. 11, 2001]. I’m no great hero.” Read more on Nicole Simpson on www.nicolebsimpson.com. Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.