September 11th – My story of missing the last train to the World Trade Center

by Jacque Gonzales

My story of missing the last train to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I know that I’m only one of MANY stories – but I also know that I was blessed to be here to have my daughter Theresa. It took me until 2013 – 12 years for me to be able to write this. It wasn’t as cathartic as I thought it would be — in fact it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

My personal story about September 11, 2001 starts a couple weeks earlier. I was working in Manhattan for Universal Motown Records and commuting each day from Jersey City, NJ. My apartment was 1 ½ blocks from the Hudson River – and directly across from the World Trade Center. To get to work I would take the PATH Train from Exchange Place in Jersey City, NJ to the World Trade Center. I would then stop for breakfast at the WTC before continuing on to the subway to get to one of the two offices I had (Worldwide Plaza and the other at 54th & Broadway). Every night after arriving at the WTC, I’d have dinner, shop, pick up items at the pharmacy – and then catch the PATH train home across the water.

About two weeks before 9/11 I fell down the stairs in the subway station. I must have miss-stepped. I fell and slid down the metal tipped concrete steps along my right ribcage, hip and leg. I was black and blue for the next 2 weeks. I’m sure it’s no surprise to many of you that I fell – I’m a huge klutz. My camera had broken earlier that month so I picked up a disposable camera to take photos to show my mom my view of the towers from my apartment. I took pictures on Saturday, September 8, 2001. I was so excited to get them developed. That evening I was out to dinner with friends. I was asked if I had ever been to the “Top of the World” Restaurant at the World Trade Center. I hadn’t – and we all agreed to make plans to go to dinner during the upcoming week. I was really looking forward to it. I had heard so many wonderful things about the view. Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was just like any other day. I got ready for work and played with my dog Bo before leaving for the day. I lived just down the street from the PATH Train Station, but I would drive and park nearby to be safe when I got home after dark. It was a beautiful morning – I still remember that vividly. The weather was still very summer-like and I was dressed for nice weather – and a cute pair of backless tennis shoes (they were in fashion at that time).

It was about 8:40am: As I rounded the corner to go into the Pavonia / Newport PATH station – I suddenly thought of my father Jack who had passed away in September 1994 and how much I missed him. Here I was in NYC – alone – and wishing I could share all my life experiences I had had to that point with him. Once I got past the rush of people at the entrance to the station – I noticed that the escalators were pretty full – so I decided to take the stairs. It’s a pretty steep staircase and I was walking down the stairs at a fast pace (everyone walks fast to get to make it on the next train.). As I’m going faster down the stairs – another thought popped in my head – but it was more like someone scolding me. I remember that thought being “Remember what happened two weeks ago in the subway station? You were running down the stairs and fell down and bruised your entire right side of your body? You’re going to fall – STOP RUNNING and SLOW DOWN!”I listened. I didn’t want to fall again. I instantly slowed down and held on to the railing. People were passing me so they didn’t miss the next train that was about to depart to the World Trade Center. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I saw the train still had its doors open – YEA! I made it in time and I didn’t fall! As I approached the train – the doors closed. I missed it by about 20 feet. If I had kept running down the stairs I would have made it on the train.

During recovery from the World Trade Center wreckage, PATH – Car 745 – The last train from Pavonia/Newport. CREDIT PETER RINALDI / SHORELINE TROLLEY MUSEUM
Out of the seven cars from the Pavonia / Newport PATH station: 5 were destroyed, 1 had minor damage, and the lead car- 745 – suffered no damage. CREDIT PETER RINALDI / SHORELINE TROLLEY MUSEUM

About 8:47am: The next PATH train arrives and I was happy to get a seat and wait for the train to depart. Over the loudspeaker – the conductor said “Ladies & Gentlemen, this train will now be going to Penn Station because there is a little fire at the World Trade Center. The station has been closed.”It was shocking to hear, but the conductors voice was so calm that it didn’t seem to really alarm anyone on the train. Since I was going to be late to work, I tried to text one of my coworkers on my Blackberry, but there was no service on the PATH Train underground. Once we arrived at Penn Station, I made my way to the subway train to get me to my office at 54th & Broadway. Everyone was behaving as they usually do in the subway. There was no indication of anything happening above ground. I got on my train and got to my Broadway exit. Once I got off the train, there was a strange look on the faces of the other people around me. I remembering climbing the stairs to get to the street level and hearing someone say “Manhattan has been shut down – there will be no more trains going in or out.”. It didn’t make any sense to me. I had a short walk around the corner to my office building. One of our recording artists was outside of our building on his cellphone and I heard part of his conversation. He said “Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center! They said terrorists did it. We can’t leave Manhattan it’s on lock down.”.All of a sudden my Blackberry started beeping at me that multiple messages were received. As I got to the elevator to rush upstairs and find out what was going on – the first message said “STAY HOME! Do not come in! The World Trade Center has been attacked! Get to a safe place!”.

My heart sank.

I was thankful to be with my co-workers at our Broadway offices because my office at World Wide Plaza was on the 31st floor. I was terrified at the thought of being in that office – what if another plane was still out there and heading our way. I tried to call my mother, but the phone lines were jammed. I had to communicate with friends via Instant Messenger online – and I had some friends call my mother and family to tell them I was ok. We crowded around the largest TV in our office to watch the news coverage. It just didn’t feel real, but it was. As the fires escalated – I kept asking “How are they going to get everyone out?”. Then the first tower collapsed. I remember saying over and over and over again: “They couldn’t have gotten everyone out – could they?” I was numb and panicked at the same time. I still remember that as one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced. Then the second tower collapsed. Watching the towers as they fell – through the news cameras on TV – it looked like we were watching a movie – not real life. I suddenly remembered: I almost made the last PATH train to the World Trade Center. I know I would have gone outside to see what was going on. I would have been there after the first plane crashed into the WTC. My mind suddenly went to the fact that I could have been outside when the second plane hit and jet fuel and debris killed some people outside around the bottom of the towers. I had crazy scenarios flashing through my mind. Then the biggest question I asked – and continue to ask to this day: “Why wasn’t I there? Why weren’t the people who died that day spared? “ There are so many stories of people that were going to be there that morning – and something happened. The stories are amazing, but I still can’t help but ask “Why me? Why not them?”.I was alone in NYC. My only loved one was my dog Bo – back in my apartment in Jersey City. I just wanted to get to my doggie – get in my car and drive all the way home to New Mexico to be with my family.

Then the story came in about a plane crashing into the Pentagon….and later the plane that came down in Pennsylvania. Were there more planes out there heading for more targets? United States Airspace was shut down. We waited for hours – watching the updates. Once they knew all planes across the country were grounded and accounted for – we started to hear that we’d be able to leave Manhattan in the next few hours. We then heard from local news officials that we could finally leave Manhattan – the only option to New Jersey was to take the George Washington Bridge – all the tunnels were shut down. One of my co-workers offered to drive as many of us as possible. The drive home was surreal. It looked like we were witnessing the filming of a huge movie special effect – like “Independence Day” – you couldn’t grasp that what you were seeing was real. It took us almost 5 hours to get from Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge and to my car in Jersey City. I immediately drove home and hugged and kissed my dog. I then knew I had to walk down to the water. There was a small dock where rescue boats were bringing across supplies – while other boats were bringing across bodies covered in tarps. What could I do? How could I help? There was nothing at that point – except to stay out of the way. Those like me, who wanted to help – stood silent, some crying, some expressionless. Shock was the common factor for every person around me.

I walked home – and grabbed my disposable camera. The same camera that just 3 days earlier I had taken photos of the WTC standing tall and proud. I walked back to the same spot where I took those photos. With the same camera – I took new pictures in the direction of where the WTC towers stood. I now had photos with the World Trade Center towers and photos without the World Trade Center towers on the same roll of film. It was impossible to sleep that night. I could hear helicopters and sirens all night. I couldn’t stop watching the news – hoping and praying that they’d find survivors. For the next few weeks – every person on the street you passed in NYC was quiet. Everyone had a non-expressive face. Not one person showed emotion. It’s as if everyone had cried so much that they had nothing left they could do. I dropped off my disposable camera for development the next week. By the end of that same week, the store had closed their business. I was devastated! There was a giant Business Closed sign. I looked in and happened to notice a woman inside. She saw me and came to the door. I desperately asked about my photos – hoping they hadn’t been thrown away. They weren’t. I was able to pay her and take them home with me. It took some time before I could look at them that evening. It was unbelievable to see the towers standing in the first several photos – and then replaced with a giant plume of smoke and jagged rubble in the remaining photos.

When I reflect back to the two weeks prior to September 11, 2001 – I feel that God or his Angels tripped me – causing my fall down the subway stairs. That voice I heard that morning to “STOP RUNNING and SLOW DOWN” – that was my saving grace. I thank God now for my clumsiness. It saved my life. My already deep faith became even deeper that day. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare – and that I couldn’t have possibly experienced it… …but it wasn’t…it was real – and we ALL went through that nightmare together. I will always pray for the victims, rescuers, families and our nation.

Never Forget.

With heartfelt blessings,

Jacque Gonzales

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Debbie September 11, 2021 - 5:08 PM

Oh, God bless you and keep you.

Jacque Gonzales September 11, 2021 - 6:13 PM

Blessings to you too, Debbie.

susan1859 September 11, 2021 - 1:59 AM

Jacque- Thanks for the first person account. I thought I remembered you mentioning it once on QVC. So glad you listened to those voices and were safe from harm.

Jacque Gonzales September 11, 2021 - 2:09 AM

💜🙏🏻💜 Thank you so much, Susan.

Myrna Starr September 11, 2018 - 10:09 PM

Thanks for sharing your story Jacque! God bless you!!

Sandy Hunt September 17, 2017 - 11:27 AM

Jacque, on 9/11 I was watching the planes hit the WTC on a little TV at work, in of all places the 911 office, I worked for the road dept and the 911 office was located in the same suite of offices. I will forever associate the tragedy of 9/11 with the emergency number 911. I truly appreciate you sharing your experience, love you and miss you on the Q, you are the best.

heatherb2016 September 13, 2017 - 12:30 AM

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Sandi McGowan September 12, 2017 - 3:29 PM

Hi Jaque. I’m home sick today and I just read your story. I’m so glad you missed your train that fateful day. Thank you for sharing your story. Sure miss you on the Q. God bless you and take care.

Jennie Gibbon September 11, 2017 - 11:37 PM

Jacque, Your father was definitely watching over you that day. He kept you safe from what could have been. I often feel that things happen for a reason. You were meant to be safe and have your beautiful daughter Theresa. You have brought a ray of sunshine into the lives of those you have touched on QVC. I pray that you find peace and happiness in whatever you choose to do in your future.

Barbara September 11, 2017 - 8:46 PM

I wish you had posted the before and after pictures.

Jacque September 11, 2017 - 9:15 PM

I’m looking for them. They got stored in a box when we moved a couple of years ago. As soon as I locate the pictures I will post them.

Sandra wolvin September 11, 2017 - 7:18 PM

SOOOO glad 😁 we can keep in touch this way!!😊

Sandra wolvin September 11, 2017 - 7:08 PM

WoW 😳Jacque…you had a GUARDIAN-ANGEL. About the Falling…been there, done that too…I ‘m a Clux Too…

Mindy September 11, 2017 - 4:24 PM

Thanks doesn’t seem like the right word. It is more like I want to give you a big heart felt hug.
I’ve always felt a connection with you , through the tv, but nevertheless I feel it.
Bless you and continue on your journey.
I am 64 almost 65 ugh! But every day is a blessing and more time with my daughters & grandchildren and doggies Ember & Aubrey.

Chanah September 11, 2017 - 2:54 PM

Jacque thank you for sharing your story.. you witnessed. In memory of those who lost their lives. In Honor of those that helped protect including the brave hero service dogs. #NeverForget

Doris September 11, 2017 - 2:33 PM

Thank you Jacque; surely you are one of God’s chosen ones – thank you for this commentary – so you – so much love and emotion in it. Thank you for the tears streaming down my face, as I feel only God and his angels are and have been with you – what a privilege to know you!

CrazySexyTiger September 11, 2017 - 12:43 PM

What a powerful story. I’m glad you missed the train! Thank you for sharing it with us. It’s a great reminder that blessings can come in all shapes and forms.

Susan September 11, 2017 - 10:27 AM

I was taking a class that day at 2 Penn Plaza and we saw everything happen. They got us out so fast and I was lucky to get a taxi and get home. I will NEVER EVER forget this day.

Gerry Tucker September 11, 2017 - 8:25 AM

God had/has more in store for you. I am blessed to be able to follow/read such a talented, inspirational, and stunningly beautiful woman as you. Thank you and God Bless!

Sheila September 11, 2017 - 3:23 AM

Thank you for sharing your story. I sit here with tears in my eyes. I well up every year at this time over the loss of all the precious lives taken that day. May God bless you and all the families affected by such a senseless act.

joyce September 11, 2017 - 2:18 AM

thanks for the beautiful story. my cousin was supposed to go on a interview in one of the towers that day but was running late and missed the appointment. thank god he did. I believe it was not his time. I still remember where I was that day back in 2001. I was working near Cleveland in my office doing my data entry work and my co worker had his radio on and he said OMG A plane flew into one of the towers in new York. I said Yeah right Tom. We spent the whole day watching the news on the tv in the conference room. One of my coworkers lost her aunt that day. I will never forget that day ever. joyce

Dee Doval September 11, 2017 - 1:33 AM

Your angels were with you. As a native New Yorker, and American Airline flight attendant living in NYC, Manhattan, I went into shock seeing this take place, then finding out it was my fellow crew members. Survivors guilt is powerful, but I believe Creator had plans for me, as he did you. Stay blessed…you are precious !!

Renee September 11, 2017 - 1:32 AM

So good to hear from you

Deb Swiglo September 11, 2017 - 1:27 AM

❤️Jacque! I love that you shared this very personal story. It can be sobering to think of the things that might have been. Thank you again for writing and sharing this memory. Debbie

Iris September 11, 2017 - 1:23 AM

God and the Angels were with you…..thank you for sharing….really miss you on the Q…..

Beverly monte September 11, 2017 - 1:19 AM

As a Flight Attendant, I watched the first plane hit as I was getting ready to go to San Francisco airport, then the Second plane hit and I was put on hold. Finally the airport closed and I was glued to the TV and I remember crying for days .
Life has never been the same.

Dee Doval September 11, 2017 - 1:36 AM

Beverly, I too am a flight atteant for AA, born, raised, and live in NYC. Seeing this live is something we will never forget, and changes us ,forever…Survivors guilt is a horror of its own. Safe travels to you !!

Susan Chervak Neessen September 11, 2017 - 1:18 AM

I lost my daughter in a car accident on Sept. 11, 1999. She was 23. I was still grieving and did not really want to go to work. I did. I worked in a Doctors Office and as I ran updated reports of scheduled appointments the background noise of a local radio station announced a plane had just flown into the side of the World Trade Center. A patient came to check in for her appointment…and the news on the radio came over the loud speakers loud and clear…we all heard it. We were we had had stunned someone went to check the TV located in the Managers office and find out what was going on… it became chaotic with another plane into the other Trade Center building…then the Pentagon…then a missing plane thought to be headed for the Capitol…it was so surreal I felt I was living in a movie like Independence Day. I called my daughter who was at home with her babies and told her to turn on the TV that I thought the US had been attacked. She did and she confirmed everything we had been hearing on the radio… Patients canceled appointments people left work…My older daughter called and told me she was home from work and gas prices were $6. Per gallon! At the local gas station. I left work early in the afternoon… my daughters gathered at my home and we cried together and prayed. Now so many people shared our day of remembrance. Another date in infamy. Jackie I am so glad you missed your train. I am so grateful my relatives were OK…despite the fact one also worked at the Trade Center and had called in sick. That the cousin going to the police academy was suck on a bus with other cadets in traffic trying to get to Trade Center to assist…when the first tower came down. He since has become a NYC firefighter. The others made it safely home like you, all of us left that day changed forever…life is so fleeting…appreciate moments… and love lasts forever.

Jacque September 11, 2017 - 1:38 AM

Susan, I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter. Sending prayers to you. 🙏🏻

Susan Chervak Neessen September 11, 2017 - 10:31 PM

Thank you Jackie for sharing your story and allowing me to share mine.

Nina Hoffar September 11, 2017 - 12:53 AM

I’ve read your story before. But it amazes me each time. Your angels were definately watching over you. What a traumatic experience for you. And everyone in NYC. And our country. I’ll never forget watching it on tv that morning. I was home (on the West Coast) on maternity leave and had just gotten up to feed my son. Thought I was watching a movie. Couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Can’t imagine being there. Something that will haunt you I’m sure. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Miss seeing you on the Q. Take care.

Tracey September 11, 2017 - 12:48 AM

Amazing!!! God is good. Bless you Jacque. Still miss not seeing you on the “Q”. Best wishes for continued success.

Kathy Lennon September 11, 2017 - 12:43 AM

Thank you Jacque for sharing! I remember that day. The disbelief, the shock and the sadness.

Mary McCabe September 11, 2017 - 12:29 AM

U r an inspiration. Miss u on the Q,but glad I can keep in touch this way. Mary McCabe

Jacque September 11, 2017 - 12:30 AM

Thank you Mary! ❤️


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