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Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014

Early native survives World Trade Center attack

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

An Early native narrowly avoided harm when a second aircraft flew into the second World Trade Center tower yesterday morning.

Ellen Higgins Rieder, a 1978 St. Mary's graduate, works for an insurance company in the second tower of the World Trade Center.

Her sister, Martha Smith of Nemaha, said Rieder had recently arrived at work at the World Trade Center when the first plane collided with the a trade center tower.

"She could smell the first explosion and saw all the debris falling when she decided to get the heck out of there," Smith said.

Rieder was about half way down the stairwell when building officials were saying the second tower was safe, Smith said.

Only moments later a second airplane impacted the mid-section of the second tower. "She was in the stairwell around the 10th floor of her building when the second plane hit," Smith said.

Rieder, who works on the 51st floor, told her sister the plane impacted the second tower around the 60th floor, Smith said.

"She could feel the other impact walking down the stairs, and she said something about how 'someone was trying to get them and hasn't given up,'" Smith said.

Rieder told her sister that while the stairwells were full, people were not panicking, she said.

Smith called almost immediately after hearing the news, and was able to talk with her sister's nanny about 8:30 a.m. Central Standard Time, who was able to report to Smith that her sister was not injured.

"At that point I contacted the rest of the family," Smith said.

After leaving the tower, she went to her husband's office which was located nearby. People tried to convince her it was safe, but then the first tower collapsed, Smith said.

Rieder escaped with no injuries. She had to walk 30 blocks in the dust from the twin towers' collapse to get home, Smith said.

Smith said when she first saw what had happened in New York City, she thought the worse. "I knew she was located in the middle of that tower," Smith said.

Rieder was also employed at the World Trade Center when a bomb was detonated in the basement in 1993.

After the most recent terrorist attack, Smith said her sister has had enough.

"That's the closest she ever wants to get to something like that again," Smith said. "To be honest, she's still in shock - I don't think it hasn't sank in yet. She's thankful she got out."



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