Carrying a heavy load
Harrowing escape unhindered by pregnancy
Florence Engoran, shown here her daughter Emily and husband Russ, gave birth to Emily on February 18, 2002 -- five months after last fall's terrorist attacks."
The following story is one in a series of profiles based on interviews from "Tower Stories," an independent project showcasing the first-hand accounts of those directly and indirectly affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- With a new job and a baby on the way, Florence Engoran had enough on her mind when she stepped off the elevator and onto the 55th floor of World Trade Center's south tower.
Then she looked outside.
"Huge boulders of concrete. Flaming pieces of paper," Engoran, 36, recalled the scene the morning of September 11. "At first, it sounded like rain, but then it got so loud."
She had been in an elevator car, sipping her coffee, when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the north tower. But when Engoranlooked out the window and into her co-workers' eyes, her previous concerns became moot. She reverted to "autopilot" and headed for the stairs.
A mad rush ensued, threatening to envelop Engoran, then 5 months into her pregnancy.
"The woman behind me started to scream, 'Go faster! Go faster!" she said. "I screamed back at her, 'I'm pregnant, I'm going as fast as I can!'"
An announcement came over the building's public address system informing south tower occupants that a "small plane" had hit the south tower and telling them there was no need to evacuate. But Engoran, flanked by two colleagues who had promised not to leave her side, didn't pay attention.
"Tell me later that everything's okay," she remembered thinking.
When Engoran reached about the 20th floor, the tower swayed "six to 10 feet," the lights went out and thick dust began wafting up the stairwell. United Air Lines Flight 175 had just hit her building.
"From the 20th floor down was an eternity," she said. "People were absolutely silent, where before they were laughing, figuring [the danger] was in the other building."
At the bottom of the stairwell, Port Authority workers yelled, "Run! Get out! Get out!" They directed Engoran on a roundabout route through the Concourse at the base of the towers and finally outside.
Engoran and her colleagues headed uptown toward City Hall before turning away, fearing that it could be a target. As they were walking down Thomas Street, about five blocks from the World Trade Center, a man stepped out of a law firm and took the three in.
Seemingly safe, Engoran tried to contact family members, mostly without success. Then the south tower, which she had left less than an hour earlier, fell with a thunderous roar, prompting screams and a fresh, intensified evacuation northward.
Engoran said she began running along with them, only to pass out. Two men from the lawyer's office picked her up, and one drove her to St. Vincent's Hospital. While she was en route to the hospital, the south tower collapsed.
At St. Vincent's, Engoran said she saw hundreds waiting outside to give blood. The hospital had lined up rows and rows of gurneys, but she recalled all but one being empty.
"Twenty nurses milling around the nurses' station, looking at the TV," she said. "But no one was coming, do you know what I mean? All these people waiting, and no one was coming."
Told she was the only pregnant woman brought in from the World Trade Center, doctors attributed the few contractions Engoran had to dehydration and stress. Her baby was fine, they said: A sonogram taken that day at St. Vincent's showed the baby "in there, kicking around, moving, running too," said Engoran.
Her emotional condition, however, was harder to treat. Engoran said she did not feel any relief at all until she met up with her husband about 1 p.m. The psychological hangover plagued her for weeks, manifested in fears of going over bridges, through tunnels or into downtown.
"You think to yourself, 'I'm a strong person, I'm tough,'" she said. "You don't think these things are going to affect you the way they do."
Her baby, Emily, was born February 18. Despite initial concerns, Emily is by and large very healthy and had only one, relatively minor side effect -- she had one of her ovaries removed.
Engoran says she is part of a Mt. Sinai Medical Center study following women who were pregnant during and in one of the towers on September 11; doctors feared the dust, debris, asbestos, etc. could cause defects or other problems for their babies.
Engoran said she also felt guilty about having a baby so soon after so many innocent people had died, and in a world where people would try to destroy buildings filled with tens of thousands of innocent people. But those emotional scars also healed in time.
"I definitely feel now that it's important she's here," says Engoran. "Why should I not have a child? Why let horrible people who fill the world? Fill the world with good people. It's important."
Back to top