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Josephine Harris, Miracle of 9/11, Dies of Heart Attack at Age 69

Josephine Harris

On September 11, 2001 Josephine Harris was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center when disaster struck. As she reached the area of stairwell B between the 14th and 15th floors she became too exhausted to continue down; she had already travelled from the 73rd floor, and felt that she just could not go on. At that moment six New York City firefighters were on their way up the stairwell, looking for people that they could help. They were carrying 100 pounds of gear each, and now, encountering Ms. Harris, had a moral decision to make: should they continue on their way looking for more victims, or leave her there on her own to find her own way out?

Chief John A. Jonas, who was a captain at the time,   described the scene:

“We looked at her, and Tommy Falco looked at me and said, ‘Hey, Cap, what do you want to do with her?’ ” Chief Jonas said. “And I said, ‘We cannot leave her behind.’ So, we took her with us, though it really did put us in harm’s way. It really was the right thing to do, to take her, and I am so glad we did it.”

As is well known, as they were taking her out, the great skyscraper began to crumple around them. Somehow, the timing and location were perfect, as well as the way the building fell, like a peel of a banana coming away from the inner fruit, and the six firefighters and Josephine Harris were spared.

Yesterday, sadly, Josephine Harris died from a heart attack in her Bushwick Avenue apartment in Brooklyn despite the valiant efforts of the Emergency Medical Service, who had to break down her door to enter her apartment. Ms. Harris, 69 years old, was already unconscious when help arrived, and despite CPR, she could not be revived.

Chief Jonas described his feelings after hearing the news of Josephine’s death:

“I kind of had the same feeling as if a relative had died” Chief Jonas said. “Right away you start thinking about all the things you’d gone through. It was a cloak of sadness, and it is still there. With the 10-year anniversary coming up, it’s going to be a little different without her.”


Shari has certainly been around the block. As a teacher, writer, former CEO and present day master chef, Shari can cover a human interest story with a flare and style hard to match anywhere. Born and raised in the streets, schools and institutions of Brooklyn, Shari is the epitome of Brooklyn life. Contact Shari at shari(at)gowanuslounge.com.