The Arab  Tribune (Arab, AL)
By DAVID MOORE

									
"Your life changes"
 
 
That's what a numb-struck Kim King said via cell phone as she returned to
Alabama 48 hours after terrorists slammed airliners loaded with passengers and
fuel into the World Trade Center where she was working the morning the Sept. 11,
2001.

King, formerly of Arab and now of Killen, was working on the 70th floor of the
first tower to get hit.  The story of her escape was published in the Sept. 15 
issue of The Arab Tribune.  It is republished again on Page 7A of today's paper.
It was at the end of the story that King said "Your life changes," though at the
time she had no idea of the depth of those changes and the lingering strength of
their after-shocks.
 
One year later, with great trepidation, King is able to fly in airplanes again.
She has forced herself to return to tall buildings.
 
These, she says, are but small steps forward. Even with the help of her husband,
Shannon King, she still struggles to cope with depression, nightmares and horror
and grope for a reason why some 3,200 people died at the hands of terrorists
that ill-fated day and she survived.

"I knew my life was going to change," King said this week. "I didn't know how or
how much it would change at the time. I definitely didn't know that I would be
still dealing with issues a year later."

Q: As you answer these questions, is there anyway you can guess in advance how
you might feel about today? And could you surprise yourself?
 
A: I know I will shed a lot of tears, and my heart will ache terribly. It seems
like every step I take in the right direction, I end up taking three steps back.
Although I have surprised myself in the past, I have had so many ups and downs I
can't even begin to count them. I hope I can be strong on Sept. 11. I have asked
for strength, and maybe I will be granted that prayer. 


Q: In what ways have the terrorist attacks affected your life in the past year?
 
A: These attacks have changed my life forever. I barely sleep, and when I do I
have nightmares.  My nightmares are all the same, but they are different. 
They all consist of planes. Some planes are bombing me, shooting missiles at me 
or coming straight toward me. Sometimes I'm watching the plane crash into my building, 
or seeing it skimming the top of my building. Sometimes the building collapses because 
of the plane, and I fall to the ground inside the building. I'm still alive but trapped
in a very confined area and nobody can hear me yelling for help. I could go on
and on.
 
I write my nightmares down and then try to analyze them. "Why did I dream this."
Most of the time if I can figure it out, the dream doesn't come back.
This past week when I had bad dreams, I woke up and remembered them in detail. I
eventually went back to sleep, but when I woke up the second time, I couldn't
remember them. Maybe that's a good thing.
 
I also have panic attacks when I feel trapped, and I can't deal with crowds. A
sudden loud noise makes my heart feel like it's going to beat out of my chest.
A reporter for the Florence TimesDaily came by recently and asked Shannon's view
of how I'm doing. It took me for a loop. He basically told the reporter than I'm
no better today than I was right after the attack.  Shannon says that I'm not being 
totally honest. He mainly is referring to the fact that I don't sleep anymore. I 
sleep approximately three hours a night for about eight nights. Then, eventually, 
I will sleep for 12 straight hours.  I have nightmares three or four times a week. 
When I do sleep, it's not restful.  I take my medication to sleep, but it just doesn't 
really do the trick. It helps, but not enough.

Q: Some people might be surprised that, as a victim, you feel guilt. Can you
explain what and why you feel that way as a survivor and what you've done and
tried to do to cope with it?
 
A: I can't explain why I feel guilty. Sometimes my heart feels so heavy with
sadness and guilt, it feels like a 20-pound brick. Ever since that horrible day,
I have had this gut feeling that I should be doing something. I just don't know
what that is.  At first I searched for what I needed to do, and I have done some special
things, but the feeling never goes away. I will know in time what that gut
feeling is telling me.

I truly believe with all my heart that if it weren't for G.C. Kelly (Shannon's
grandfather and Baptist preacher for more than 60 years) praying for me on Sept.
10, 2001, I probably wouldn't be here today.  That day, that Monday he had this uneasy 
feeling that I was going to be hurt and he prayed for my safety. He even prayed for me 
to be safe as he went to bed that night. He has never had this feeling about me before.

I believe he is the one who called my guardian angels to my side on Sept. 11.
Everything I did that day was out of the ordinary.  I'm not saying that the people who 
died that day deserved it, or that they were bad people, or I deserved to live more than 
they did. That is not my intent. Not a single one of them deserved that.

Some people have come up to me saying, "I want to hug a miracle!" Some have
said, "You have a purpose," while others say, "You are just lucky."
I'm not a miracle, and I'm not just lucky. What I'm saying is that I know I had
angels close by.

Q: What part has Shannon played in the aftermath of the attacks?
 
A: Shannon gets it all. He gets to see firsthand my good times and my sad. He
knows when something is bothering me, even if we are in different states.
Shannon has been my shoulder to cry on, my listener, my supporter, my advisor,
my therapist. He always was and still is my best friend and my security blanket.
If it weren't for him, I don't know where I would be emotionally today. It is
rare that people find their soul mate these days. Somehow, I did.
Q: Is it possible for you to go for one day without thinking about or talking
about the attacks and your experiences? Or are they with you all the time, every
day?

A: I don't always talk about it, and I don't wake up thinking about it. However,
I do think about the attack everyday at some point, and most of the time I do
cry.  Loud sounds or a song can trigger a flashback. Instead of the images fading away
that I saw that day, they are becoming more vivid. These images are forever
stored in my mind.  It's really hard not to think back when I close my eyes and 
see the collapsing towers or an image from that. And I can't think of one day that has 
gone by that I haven't heard that date "9/11."

Q: You have a website where people can read about your experience and thoughts.
You have given a couple of talks on what happened to you, and you have
considered writing a book. What's the status on the book? What do you hope your
writings and talks accomplish for those who read or hear them? And what do you
hope the writing accomplishes for you?
 
A: I go back and forth on the book. Should I? Should I not?
But there is a purpose behind the website and the book. The website and writing
the book help me deal with it all, and if it brings two people closer together,
makes people pick up the phone and call a family member or a friend they haven't
talked to in a while, or just believe, then it's all worth it.

If the book doesn't happen, I will put it on the website. I'm not out to make
money off the book. Any money that is made will go to charity.
I hope when people read my story that they realize how precious every minute is,
how precious time spent with family and friends really is, that they should be
thankful for what they have and live each day to the fullest. There is no
guarantee that tomorrow will come. 

Q: Has this experience shaken your faith or made it stronger?
A: My faith has definitely become much stronger. If it wasn't for all the
prayers I might not be here today. There is something to say about the power of
prayer.
Q: The attacks affected most everyone in this country in some way or another.
Has that made it any easier to relate your experience of being there, or is that
beyond true comprehension for those who only saw it on TV and read about it in
the media?
A: Nobody will ever really comprehend what I saw and went through that day. I
don't know if I ever will totally comprehend what I saw that September day.
I saw World Trade Tower number two then World Trade Tower number one collapse to
the ground with my own eyes. I saw the murder of innocent victims. I watched the
towers buckle then collapse; heard the rumbling sounds of the collapse; saw the
smoke, knowing that there were still people inside and trapped.
It all makes me feel so empty inside. It breaks my heart. I could never relate
that in a way where people could truly understand. What's on TV and in the
newspapers is nothing like really being there.
Q: In a previous story you mentioned a firefighter who helped you out of the
building. Did you ever learn his name and find out what happened to him?

A: This is the firefighter that took a knee in front of me because he was so
tired from climbing the stairs with all that gear he had to carry. He rested for
a minute, picked up his gear and told us that we were almost out and we were
going to be fine.

There was no fear in his eyes at all, even though at that time they knew it was
a terrorist attack. He continued to climb the stairs so we could get out safely.
I had a reunion with Mark Oliver, the British attorney who took me and my
co-workers, Linda, Jill, under his wing, so to speak. He took care of us as we
were making our way down the stairs of the tower after it was hit. He could have
gotten out so much faster but chose to stay back to help us.
Mark remembers the same firefighter I do. When we met for the first time after
it happened, we talked for hours about our fears, emotions and the attack. Mark
saw the firefighter's photo on one of the websites for the fallen heroes. He did
not make it out.
Q: Flying and working in high-rise buildings were a big part of your job. How
did Sept. 11 affect that?

A: The first trip back on a plane was extremely rough. I almost got off the
plane before it took off. When I get to the airport now, I am more alert to my
surroundings than ever before. I watch everyone who is getting on my plane and
sitting in the gate area. There have been many times that I've called Shannon at
work to tell him I was about to get off the plane, but I never did.
Eighty percent of the time, I'm the one who gets searched.
Q: What do you think should be done with the Ground Zero site?

A: I actually voted for one of the first six plans for the site. I think they
should rebuild the Twin Towers with a nice memorial site. I hope that they have
a wall with all the names of the ones who never made it out. So many people were
never found, and that is a sacred place for a lot of families. 

Q: Explain your photo of the "towers of light."

A: When I finally returned to my job with the Port Authority, I worked and
stayed in New Jersey.

Every night I was there, I would go out behind the hotel and take pictures of
the memorial lights across the river where the towers used to stand. I took a
lot of pictures of the lights, but they never seemed to turn out right.
One night, the clouds had formed a low-ceiling. The clouds were so low that when
the beams of light hit them, the clouds would light up.
When I saw how that picture turned out, I was stunned. I couldn't help but stare
at it. It was eerie. It looks as if the beams of light travel through the clouds
then just explode. It has a ghostly feel about it.

Q: As they relate to Sept. 11, 2002, what changes have you noticed in the nation
in the past year, and would you comment on them?

A: For a short period of time, we, as a nation, were one. Strangers were helping
strangers. Just about everybody was saying that we would never be the same
again. As time passed, the flags started coming down, and people went back to
the way they were before. It's sad to watch.  But I will never be the same again, 
and my flag will fly everyday.
Q: What are your thoughts on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida?

A: I think Osama bin Laden is a devil. I just hope he is found. We need closure.
Q: Are you satisfied that the United States is on the right track in terms of
its war against terrorism? Has it done too little or too much in any given
areas?

A: I am satisfied that the United States is on the right track in terms of
terrorism. The only problem I've had is with the campaign in the Tora Bora
mountains of Afghanistan. I felt like we should have used our own troops and I
fear this might cost us in the future.
We had opportunities in the last decade to take out bin Laden. For whatever
reasons, we chose not to do so, and we paid dearly for waiting. I don't believe
we will make the same mistake again.
I support unilateral action against Iraq if our allies won't join us.
Q: Do you feel safe?
A: I feel safe at home. I believe another attack will happen. The United States
was too lenient with the borders for too long. We still have terrorists here,
and it's only a matter of time before something else happens.
Q: Is participating in this newspaper article a continuing part of your
"therapy"? Whether it is or not, what would you hope your comments might
achieve?

A: I suppose in a way it is a continuing part of my therapy. Besides confiding
in my husband, writing is also a big part of my therapy. I have kept a journal
every day since junior high.
Right after I got home a year ago, a lot of people called for interviews. I told
Shannon that I didn't understand why so many people wanted to hear what happened
to me.
I have been talking to you at the Tribune and Laranda Nichols at The Huntsville
Times for approximately year now. I don't think of you as just reporters. You
have become more than that to me. Both of you have helped me in ways I could
never explain.

I hope that when people read this story, they realize how precious life is, that
they should be thankful for everyday. Don't wait for a second chance, because
every new day is your second chance. Stay in touch with the people you love and
try not to take anything for granted. Life is too short and precious.

Q: You've written a letter to the editor about people releasing red, white and
blue balloons to commemorate Sept. 11, 2001. Besides releasing balloons, what do
you plan to do - and not do - today?

A: After the balloon release, I will replace my flag that currently flies in my
front yard with a new one. This flag will not only represent our freedom, it
will also represent a new beginning.

Then Shannon and I will be having a special lunch and be thankful that we have
each other. This day will be just as hard for him as it will be for me. I can't
even begin to imagine what Shannon and my family went through when they didn't
know where I was, if I was trapped, hurt or dead.
I just have watched the first 9/11 special (the one with the reporters). It just
broke my heart. I thought I was ready but I wasn't - then again who would be
ready for that.

I am going to have someone record the programs for me, and I will watch them
later when I'm ready. That is what I have done in the past.
Shannon has said that he thinks I was obsessed with it because I get specials,
books, etc. and store them away. I want to watch the specials and look at the
books - just not now. When I'm ready, they may not be available. I may never
watch them but I want that option.

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