- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2011


Josephine Harris was ill and almost skipped work but instead downed some Alka-Seltzer and toughed it out. It was Sept. 11, 2001, and she worked in the World Trade Center. That’s where she was, on the 73rd floor, when an airplane hit.

Ms. Harris was one of the most famous survivors of the attack. Hobbling on a leg injured by a car accident, she had trouble making it down Stairwell B of the North Tower. Firemen led by Capt. Jay Jonas of Chinatown’s Ladder Six were evacuating after the South Tower’s collapse warned them the North Tower was a death trap. They slowed down to help Ms. Harris, knowing the delay might cost their lives. Ms. Harris urged them to leave her behind, but they wouldn’t. Their mission was to rescue others.

On the ground floor, Lt. Jim McGlynn of Engine 39 realized one of his firefighters was missing. Ordering his crew to vacate the premises immediately, he re-entered Stairwell B to make a last search. Not wanting to leave their leader behind, two men ignored orders and began ascending the stairs - just seconds before the tower collapsed. These heroic actions saved them from being crushed in the building’s lobby because the bottom six floors of Stairwell B remained standing as the whole North Tower disintegrated around it. Fourteen people were trapped for three hours, but they lived. The firemen of Ladder Six called Ms. Harris their angel. She said, “They brought me from my tomb to safety.”

On Jan. 12, Josephine Harris, 69, was found in her Brooklyn apartment, dead of a heart attack. That day, the Oprah Winfrey Network aired a new interview with her as part of a feature on Stairwell B. All of this reminds how Americans, even the media, once responded to tragedy. Democrats didn’t immediately blame Republicans or castigate radio hosts; the horror wasn’t politicized. For weeks, we pulled together.

In Tucson on Jan. 8, people at the shooting scene responded with heroism and compassion too. Several victims, including federal district Judge John Roll, died or were injured trying to protect others from the gunman. Despite politics, America still is defined by goodness and sacrifice. Years ago, Ms. Harris recalled, “One of the firemen told me … if anything happened they would put me in that doorway. And he would cover my body with his.” That’s how good people respond, especially firefighters.

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide