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Memories Remain Strong For Charlotte Woman Who Lived Near World Trade Center 20 Years Ago

 Kathleen Britton says this oil painting of lower Manhattan is the most significant painting she's done to date.
Kathleen Britton says this oil painting of lower Manhattan is the most significant painting she's done to date.

Each year when Sept. 11 comes, Kathleen Britton pauses. She doesn’t go to work that day. She goes to church. And she watches remembrance coverage.

She says it doesn’t feel like much time has passed at all.

"In general, it still feels like yesterday and somebody else's life, because I never could return to the life I had," she says.

Britton, who is originally from Charlotte, lived and worked about a quarter of a mile away from the World Trade Center. She remembers hearing an explosion from her condo and then experiencing the scene outside.

"The dust was so thick and there were pieces of letters and plane tickets and photographs and trade tickets and just pieces of people's lives," she said, "the things that had been on their desk littered everywhere."

She saw people jumping from the towers. She remembers feeling helpless. She ran into a group from out of town and advised them where they should go in case more attacks occurred. She remembers eventually going back to her condo and talking to family on the phone.

"When the dust cloud cleared, I realized I was choking and I thought I had closed all the windows," she said. "I totally forgot about the tiny window in my bathroom. So I went in and there was dust everywhere. It was amazing how much dust there was in that short period of time."

In the aftermath, she helped with the cleanup process in her building. Some people that day had to leave abruptly and couldn’t come back. She helped clean out refrigerators and freezers. She helped search for pets left behind.

Eventually Britton would have to leave the city. She says she worked in investment banking and was laid off by her former employer, Merrill Lynch. She moved back to Charlotte in 2002 and had to rebuild her life and career.

North Carolina is now home, but on the anniversary of 9/11 she remembers her old home — New York City, and the life she had to leave behind.

Copyright 2021 WFAE

At this point in her life, Sarah considers home to be a state of mind—not one place. Before joining the WFAE news team, she was hosting and reporting in the deep south in Birmingham, Alabama. In past lives she was a northerner having worked and lived in Indiana, Maine, and New York City. She grew up in Virginia and attended James Madison University in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.