Survivor Stories & Writings

Area woman tells of escape from World Trade Center

Shannon Loy 9/11 Story
WTC Survivors’ Network Member,local/3accfca7.918,.html

By DONNA McGUIRE - The Kansas City Star
Date: 09/18/01 22:15

Watching the World Trade Center's twin towers burn last week, Brian Loy felt sick to his stomach.

His fiancee, Shannon Beavers, had flown from Kansas City a day earlier to attend a business conference at the Trade Center.

She's OK, Loy told himself as he mentally played a shell game, placing Beavers in the unharmed tower first and then -- after watching a second plane strike it -- switching her to the tower with the least damage.

When one tower disintegrated, Loy consoled himself by thinking his fiancee was in the other tower. When that tower crumbled, Loy's hopes crashed with it.

I've lost her the North Kansas City man thought.

Beavers, a 28-year-old international manager for Emery Expedite in Overland Park, had arrived in New York the evening before terrorists hijacked four U.S. airliners.

In a phone call to Loy from her Marriott Hotel room, Beavers gushed about her great view overlooking the World Trade Center courtyard. She snapped pictures to show him later.

Tuesday morning, she rode elevators to the north tower's 55th floor. The conference started at 8:30 a.m.

At 8:48 a.m., as Beavers' instructor stopped to change slides, the building suddenly swayed. Beavers heard a boom overhead. She looked outside. Papers drifted downward.

"Earthquake!" a woman yelled.

"Let's get the hell out of here!" screamed another.

Beavers grabbed her purse and followed them toward the stairs.

Though the building was big, the stairwell was not. Only two persons could stand comfortably abreast on each step. Without ventilation, the stairwell felt stuffy. And now it was packed.

It was like edging out of the Truman Sports Complex after a Chiefs game, except on foot instead of by car. Take a step and wait. Take a step and wait.

Beavers looked at her mobile phone. Its clock had stopped at 8:48 a.m. She punched the buttons, but none worked.

Someone else's cell phone rang. "Your building has been hit by a plane," a woman told her husband.

The stairwell crowd assumed a small private plane had veered off course. Perhaps the pilot had suffered a heart attack, Beavers thought.

"Stay calm," an older man said. "Don't panic. Let's not get upset."

But back in Kansas City, Beavers' mother, Marie Howery, was panicking.

She called Loy, 37, who travels often for his job and was finishing a stint in Columbus, Ohio. Loy rushed to a television. All work stopped as people watched the horror unfold.

Loy dialed Beavers' mobile phone. He got her voice mail.

In the stairwell, people started worrying about the smoke. More entered each time a stairwell door opened.

Beavers coughed. A man offered her his coffee.

As Beavers' group neared the 20th floor, people carrying injured co-workers from floors much higher caught up with them. Beaver and the others moved aside to let them pass.

One victim's hair was melted to her face. Her skin had melted, too. The woman cried and asked, "How bad do I look?" The others lied. "You're not bad."

A blind man with a guide dog passed. Then a pregnant woman. Two persons having asthma attacks hollered for inhalers.

Beavers had not heard the second plane hit the other tower. Yet now, she realized that whatever had happened was serious.

Still, no one panicked.

Firefighters with air tanks on their backs passed them, heading upward. Some carried hoses slung over their shoulders. One or two collapsed on the stairs, worn out from the climb.

From below, large rolls of paper towels were passed upward. Bottled water, too. Beavers tore off a towel, splashed water on it and covered her mouth and nose.

At the 17th floor, firefighters had propped open the stairwell door. Using their air tanks as weapons, they smashed the vending machines and handed out drinks.

Beavers felt nauseated and hot. Her weary legs shook. She feared she might pass out.

Eventually, the crowd thinned and the pace quickened. Then a new obstacle: water. It flowed over the steps, making the descent slick. Fortunately, Beavers' dress shoes had flat, rubber soles.

At the bottom, the water rose to Beavers' knees. She stared at the destruction. Elevators had crashed. Marble on walls had crumbled. Windows had shattered.

Rescue workers ushered them into the lower mall area, just below the courtyard. Water pouring off the building drenched Beavers. Unable to see, she yanked off her glasses.

She took the escalators up to the courtyard and stepped outside. Police and other rescuers yelled: "Run. Don't look up. Don't look back."

Unaware of the danger overhead, Beavers walked several steps, then turned to snap a picture. As she did, she heard a deep roar. It was 9:55 a.m. The other tower was starting to tumble.

"Run!" people screamed. "Go to City Hall!"

Where's that? Beavers thought.

She looked around. The subway entrance was only 20 feet away. Beavers ran in -- and kept running. Her heart pounded, and she gasped for air. She was soaked to the skin, her hair plastered to her face.

She had to call her mother. Her fiance. Her boss. But none of the subway pay phones worked. The place seemed deserted. A few persons cried.

Later, Beavers ventured out. Her tower had collapsed, too. Her hotel was gone. People covered in a thick dust wandered aimlessly.

Beavers begged a man for the use of his phone. He refused. She began walking, checking pay phones along the way. She plopped down in front of a bank to think. There were no taxis, no buses, no cars.

Eventually, she met a man passing out fliers about the New York City Rescue Mission. It had phones, food and water, the flier said. Once there, Beavers waited in line for a phone.

She dialed her mother. The line was busy. She called Emery Expedite's toll-free number in Overland Park.

"Hi, Shannon," a familiar voice answered. "Where are you?"

Beavers asked for her boss.

"Call my mom," she wailed. "Tell her I'm still alive."

In Ohio, Loy had been waiting for what seemed like forever without word.

He had talked to Beavers' mother, Beavers' boss and his mother. He had started a prayer chain. He tried to stay calm, but he was losing hope.

Why hadn't Shannon called? he thought. Maybe she can't.

Finally, Beavers' mother called with news.

Shannon Beavers was alive.

Loy screamed and pumped his fist.

"Yes!" he yelled. "Praise God."

From the rescue mission, Beavers called a friend in upper Manhattan. He did not have transportation, so he told her to follow the Hudson River north to his place, a trek of several miles. After wearing holes in her shoes and getting lost twice, she arrived, exhausted. It was 4 p.m. She called Loy in Ohio.

Beavers then fell asleep in her crumpled, but nearly dry, clothes. Nightmares later jolted her awake.

Loy borrowed a rental car from a co-worker, filled up with gas just as prices began to skyrocket and drove most of the night, reaching Philadelphia about 4 a.m. He arranged for Beavers to take an early train to meet him.

When Beavers stepped off the train, she and Loy fell into each other's arms. She sobbed. He sobbed.

Neither wanted to let go.

A week after the attacks, Beavers still has not listened to the panicked phone messages from family and friends on her voice mail.

She and Loy returned to Kansas City on Friday night, thankful that their mothers had been willing to drive hours to Columbus to retrieve them.

Beavers scooped her 4-year-old daughter, Catelyn, in her arms and cried anew. She slept little over the weekend. In church Sunday, while listening to "I'm proud to be an American" being sung, her tears returned.

At work Monday, her CEO hugged her, cried and kissed her on the head. Her co-workers prayed in a circle with her. Then she dashed to the doctor for a checkup on her smoke-irritated lungs.

Beavers is trying to resume her old life. But loud noises make her anxious. And she cannot forget the firefighters and other rescue workers from New York.

"A lot of brave men gave up their lives," she said, "so I could go home."

To reach Donna McGuire, general assignment reporter, call (816) 234-4393 or send e-mail to

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