LORDS VALLEY, PA -- Jean and Dan Potter have struggled for ten years with the chilling memories of September 11.  Both husband and wife were at the world trade center when it collapsed.

Their survival story is one of the miracles of September 11. She was in the north tower.

“I was literally thrown out of my chair. Smoke filled the air immediately; things started falling from the ceiling,” Jean said. She walked down 81 flights and escaped the devastation by just minutes.

An amateur photographer named Jami Gong caught Jean on vide as she wandered in shock, looking for a phone to call her husband. By that point Dan, a firefighter, had been through his own nightmare.

 “There were body parts in the street. There were large torsos,” Dan said when he described what he saw. He was trying to get to his wife. When the north tower fell, he didn't know she was already out of the building.

“I said there's no way she survived this,” he said.

Certain Jean had died; he stopped at a bench where a photographer caught a moment of deep introspection. Then a phone call he'll never forget: Jean was in a firehouse in Chinatown. 

“He came in and his eyes were blood red, they were just blood and I said ‘where were you’ and his response was you don't want to know and we hugged,” Jean said.

To help put the past behind them, the Potters’ eventually left the city they loved and settled in Pennsylvania.  They call their home “Grateful Hearts.” Dan retired from the fire department because of a spine injury from September 11. Now Dan and Jean dedicate their time to charity and to each other as they heal from their trauma and the loss of so many brothers.

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily morning newsletter.

Recommended for you

Load comments