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‘Are we going to die?’: Leon grad recalls seeing second tower struck during 9/11 attacks from balcony

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - 2,977 innocent people were killed during the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

Thousands more were injured and, in the 20 years since, illness from exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero has claimed many more lives.

They’re all victims. And, they’re not the only ones.

A Tallahassee native was living six blocks away from the World Trade Center on 9/11.

At first, she felt it wasn’t right to be called a “victim,” because she and her husband survived. But, her life was forever altered on that day.

20 years after living it, sharing her story still drives Christina Ray Stanton to tears.

“Brian is this it, are we going to die? He hesitated and looked me in the eye, and said I don’t know, maybe he said sadly,” Stanton reads, from her book, Out of the Shadow of 9/11: An Inspiring Tale of Escape and Transformation.

“I can’t do anymore.”

“Everyone once in a while, a memory will pop up and I will just go ahead and say it and start crying,” she said.

That’s because Stanton is recalling a nightmare.

“The impact of the first plane hitting the North Tower actually shook our building.”

It was only a decade before that New York City had become one of the Leon High School graduate’s true loves.

She became a tour guide in 1995, married her husband, Brian, in 2000 and moved into a new apartment, blocks away from the World Trade Center, the following year.

“We wanted a place that we both loved and we could put down roots for a while,” she said.

Then, two months later, Brian jolted her awake.

“Something’s happened,” she remembers her husband saying. “Let’s go on to the terrace and see what’s going on.”

The couple watched a plane strike the south tower of the World Trade Center, the same place she had given a tour just days earlier.

“The shockwaves actually blew us back into our apartment,” she recalled. “And knocked me unconscious.”

When she came to, she fled south from her apartment in her pajamas to Battery Park, with Brian and her dog.

“That’s when we thought we had found a safe haven, which is where we were when the Twin Towers came down,” she said.

Today, Stanton’s story quiets the congregation at Thomasville’s Dawson Street Baptist Church.

“Tonight it was really informational about the situation that went on, and how people reacted when the towers went down,” said Thomasville resident Andrew Robertson.

“The devastation,” added Joanne Maxheimer, another Thomasville resident. “I never realized how much was on the ground when the towers came down.”

Which takes us back to the conversation that still brings her to tears.

“Every time I tried to take a deep breath, I inhaled soot, and the burning scent of electrical wiring,” she continued reading. “And I couldn’t ignore the people running aimlessly all around me.

“Brian, is this it? Are we going to die?”

Thankfully, Stanton’s family, and thousands of others, were eventually ushered to safety in what is now the largest maritime rescue in history.

But, Stanton still summons the strength to recall those moments of uncertainty, panic and desperation.

“Because we need to never forget.”

Stanton says she’s told her story hundreds, if not thousands, of times to church groups and to others all over the world.

Out of the Shadow of 9/11: An Inspiring Tale of Escape and Transformation, was released in 2019. Stanton says all of the proceeds go to her and her husband’s non-profit Loving All Nations, which helps the world’s poor.

Stanton is still a licensed tour guide and often times gives them at the World Trade Center. She says she toured a group of kids from our area about a month ago.

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