Grenier lived near the World Trade Center

Seeing and feeling the colossal twin towers of the World Trade Center fall to the ground is something Jodi Genier has seared into her psyche.

Grenier, who now lives in New Bern, had an apartment directly across from the North Tower in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. On Thursday night, 15 years after the monumental terrorist attacks on America, the 47-year-old told some of her story to those at a commemorative event at the Havelock campus of Craven Community College.

Grenier had left a friend from Japan in her 17th floor apartment to go to a colleague’s apartment for a business meeting on the roof of his building a few blocks away on the morning of the attack.

“We saw smoke coming out of the North Tower, and I’m just going to say this bluntly,” Grenier said. “We thought ‘What redneck from New Jersey has just flown his small plane into the north tower?’ That’s what we thought.

“Then, while we were standing there, this humongous plane comes flying around and does a U-turn and hits the South Tower, and blows up and that’s next to my apartment building. So I thought, OK, this is bad. I’m either going to jump off here 24 floors or take the elevator. I took the elevator and I started running south because my friend was in my apartment and all those people were down there.”

Meanwhile, her friend, because he was so close to the North Tower, saw only paper and smoke.

“He thought it was some kind of festival,” Grenier said. “So he kept taking pictures. Later I found out that he got a picture of the plane hitting the south tower from my window. He felt the heat and he said ‘uh oh.’ He is a smart man and he got out of there. He got on the last subway out of Wall Street.”

At the same time, Grenier was running toward the towers thinking she had to help her friend. She saw people coming toward her covered in soot.

“I keep going and soot and more soot and then soot and blood and soot and blood,” she said. “I thought: ‘This is not a good idea. Don’t do this.’ I kept on going.

“There were two public schools being evacuated in that area and at the same time people were leaving the heat. Help me out here. They were jumping out of the buildings. I saw that. I could tell you what they were wearing when they were coming down. It wasn’t a fun episode. I’m a strong person and I am still going forward and there were children that seem to be taken care of by a higher power than me. They were seeing desks and chairs falling. That’s what they were yelling. Desk. Chair, Desk. Chair. But still at that moment, I realized that I needed to go the other way and I started running the other way.”

Her friend had taken that last subway out to Times Square. They managed to connect about 2 p.m.

“By then I had seen the buildings fall. I watched them fall. It was like the most traumatic event,” Grenier said. “I had fallen to my knees when I saw them fall.”

When she managed to return to her apartment, the ledge had more than a foot of debris, including pictures, papers, popcorn and dust.

“I had to sleep in a mask because the air was not good,” Grenier said.

When she looked out the window of her apartment, the entire view was filled with the “the pit” of Ground Zero.

Day and night there was banging coming from the site, and then it would stop.

“When there was silence, it meant that they had found someone and they were lifting a body out,” said Grenier.

During the next several weeks, Grenier joined other New Yorkers in looking through the debris for personal effects of victims. In the process, she and many others ingested the toxic dust from the fallen structures.

“We’re all sick from it,” she said. “I don’t think people know how extensive it was.”

Grenier said that her pores were filled with the dust.

“My skin was a mess. I would just bleed it,” Grenier said. “We were sweating out yellow, blue, gross crap coming out.”

She described herself as an athletic person before the event, one who ran and surfed. Since then she has had to use a nebulizer and a breathing machine, and now has seizures.

“It’s changed my life completely,” Grenier said.