ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — Sept. 11 marks a somber day in our country. On this day, 22 years ago, thousands of lives were lost — including a Westlake woman who was in Tower One of the World Trade Center.
Subsequently, thousands of people escaped, including a Chagrin Falls man who says he’s lucky to be alive. The Northeast Ohio community is making sure we never forget that day, including those who didn’t survive and the heroes who saved so many.
The AMC theater in Rocky River, in conjunction with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, hosted a 30-minute film to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks. Westlake's Porter Public Library co-hosted the event with the Rocky River Public Library.
The short film highlights first-person accounts of the attacks and the aftermath. In the audience was the family of 25-year-old Christina Ryook, who was from Westlake but was in the North Tower when the first plane hit.
She was an administrative assistant at Cantor Fitzgerald and worked six floors above the impact. No one on the floor survived.
Michelle Han is Christina's childhood best friend who continues to keep her memory alive.
"It's been 22 years since she left us," Han said, "and not a day goes by that I don't think about her in some way."
Watch 3News' story on Christina Ryook from two years ago:
Back in 2001, two days after the attacks, Han jumped in a car from Westlake and drove to New York City with Chrstina's parents to try and find her.
"We went to the hospitals looking for her and putting up posters," she remembered, "and to me, it seems like a dream, because at the time, it was so traumatic that I shoved it deep down inside, and now it's kind of coming back."
The film is a reminder of this day 22 years ago. Also in the audience was Chagrin Falls resident and survivor, Mark McGinley, who lived in New Jersey at the time and made it out of Tower Two. He was working in finance on the 55th floor when he says the first boom hit.
"Our trading floor started filling with jet fumes," McGinley said. "It took us about a half hour to get down to the 25th floor, and when we got to 25, the second plane hit our building and threw us around like ping pong balls. I'm 6’3'', 225, and [we] were tossed around pretty rapidly and we heard horrible noises of bending steel, and we thought it was the end."
However, covered in soot and in the dark, he continued walking down the stairwell.
"And up the other way [were] firemen with full fire regalia, with the air tanks on their back, and at that point it came one by one — them coming up and us coming down — and as you can imagine most of those firemen didn’t make it out that day," McGinley told us. "The embrace I had with my wife and kids was the greatest embrace I've ever had.
"That was sad time. We went to a lot of funerals; we lost a lot of friends. You often hear the phrase '9/11: Never forget.' That has to be my mantra, and I was lucky enough to get out."
Full interview with Mark McGinley:
Together, the survivors and those who've lost so much gather and remember.
"I'm proud to tell my story," McGinley said. "It's not an easy story to tell. When we get close to 9/11 every year, it makes you pause and pull back and think about how lucky we are."