Atlanta woman escaped World Trade Center minutes before 9/11 collapse

ATLANTA — Twenty years after 9/11, Kayla Bergeron remembers it like it was yesterday.

She was at her desk on the 68th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower when the first plane crashed into it.

“And the building lunges forward 10 feet, and then comes back,” said Bergeron. “Kind of surreal.”

With the plane’s impact several floors above her, Kayla eventually made it out of the building less than five minutes before it collapsed.

“All of a sudden, a police officer says run. And I’m like run? I just spent 40 minutes in the tower,” said Bergeron. “And then I turned around, and this enormous plume of thick black was engulfing lower Manhattan.”

At about that same time, a now-retired New York Police Department officer, Ken Marchello, arrived on the scene.

“We were going one way, and everyone just started running towards us, yelling run, run, run,” said Marchello.

Twenty years later, they both now live in Forsyth County in metro Atlanta, where they told Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon they’ve become friends and find comfort in each other.

But Marchello still wonders if the same health problems that have already taken the lives of so many ground zero first responders will someday take his too.

“It weighs on my mind all the time,” said Marchello. “I have a 9-year-old daughter. Am I going to be able to walk her down the aisle?”

Meanwhile, Bergeron suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. But with the help of equine therapy, she’s found peace in Georgia.

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“The incident of that day 20 years ago doesn’t define me,” said Bergeron. “I’m not playing victim. So in that sense, the terrorists didn’t win.”

Bergeron is raising money to help others with mental health challenges. If you would like to help, click here.