September 11th claimed the lives of 2,752 people. But 10 years later, one person of 16 miracle survivors on the North Tower in stairwell B, has passed on. She was said to have saved the lives of the others because had they been travelling any slower or faster, they’d all be dead. Her exhaustion and the use of only one leg gave them the perfect tempo to keep from being crushed by the collapsing tower above and below the group.
Josephine Harris, 69, was a strong Brooklyn grandmother who had been struck by a car just a few months before 9/11. The New York Times talked with her on the anniversary of the disaster in 2003, and she said:
“My back went up in the air,” she says. “I came down on my side.” Still, she’d signed herself out of the hospital that same day. “I put a brace on my leg and went on about my business,” she says, matter-of-factly reassuring herself, “It’s not my time yet.”
And it wasn’t. When a group of office workers and firefighters reached her near the 20th floor where she worked, she had already come down 50 flights of stairs. A brave fireman, Captain Jay Jonas, was quoted in the story saying:
Catching sight of the limping Harris, firefighter Billy Butler looked at another firefighter, who looked at Jonas. “What do you want to do with her, Cap?”…That day, Jonas was, at 43, the oldest of his firemen. Among them, they had more than half a dozen young children. Others had already run down the narrow stairway by Harris. Would anyone have blamed Jonas if he had left her to struggle on alone, if he had chosen six lives over one? “That’s not in the culture of the Fire Department,” Jonas would say. “If somebody needs help, we got to give it a shot. It wasn’t a difficult decision.”
Read more of the New York Magazine story here. The story was also run on NBC and called, “9/11 The Miracle of Stairwell B” Check it out here. R.I.P. Josephine Harris.