Local 9/11 survivor: I want people to feel connected to it

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PHOENIX -- On this 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, some of the people who were in New York when the Twin Towers came down are finally able to open up and share their experiences with others.

Cindy Laney, now a Phoenix resident, is one of those people. She didn't work at the World Trade Center, but on Sept. 11, 2001, that's the direction she was heading when the unthinkable happened.

After seeing the second plane fly into the South Tower, Laney -- along with several others -- found herself trapped in the southernmost tip of Manhattan. The group had two options: Walk toward the burning towers, which, although they didn't know it at the time, were about to collapse, or walk toward the Stock Exchange, which many thought might be the next target.

With no cell service, they made their way toward Battery Park and its pay phones in hopes of calling relatives.

That's when the first tower came down. Laney and her group were engulfed in the wall of dust and debris.

"We were just amazed that we were still alive when that giant dust storm rolled over us," she said, her voice unsteady as she fought tears. "We really thought we were dead when that tower fell."

Laney and her group eventually were escorted to safety.

On this 11th anniversary of the attacks, Laney says she will go to work, something she didn't do for the first few years. Her experience on Sept. 11, 2001 is something she's mostly kept to herself.

"Every year, I guess it does get a little bit easier, but it wasn't until the 10th anniversary -- last year -- that I started talking about it publicly," she said. "It is still so prominent in my mind, and it's an emotional thing. I don't want to politicize it at all. I don't want to make any political comments about it whatsoever. I just want people to please not forget and feel a little bit more connected to it than perhaps they do."