FBI agent who was on duty in NYC on 9/11 looks back, pleads for people to ‘come together’

Written by on September 10, 2021

FBI agent who was on duty in NYC on 9/11 looks back, pleads for people to ‘come together’

By Hayden Mitman

September 11, 2021

A police officer pays his respects at the south reflecting poll of the 9/11 Memorial during ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Sharon Serra was a federal law enforcement official working in Manhattan when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  At the time, the Northampton County resident was just about three years into her now decades-long career in law enforcement. 

Serra sat down with WLVR’s Hayden Mitman to share her memories of 9/11 and the profound impact it has had on her life. Parts of their conversation involved details that may be upsetting to some listeners.

Listen to the story.

Hayden Mitman

“Sharon, you were in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 20 years ago. What do you remember about it”?

Sharon Serra

“I was in the office talking to some of my coworkers, having a cup of coffee waiting to start the day, just chatting about what we were going to do, and I didn’t even acknowledge the time.

“We were just talking and all of a sudden you heard like a loud boom. We all looked at each other and kind of shrugged our shoulders and just kind of kept talking because what it sounded like was the sounds of New York City: of one of those huge garbage trucks that would come and just lift up one of those big buckets and then slam it to the ground. 

“So one of my coworkers and I, we just looked out the window and saw one of the towers from a distance which was huge and up on top there was black soot. It was just black. 

“So me and my partner decided to leave the building and we proceeded to walk towards the West Side Highway. We looked up and saw the impact.  Again, we’re thinking, wow, must have been a small plane, not realizing the perspective of where we were in relation to how high the towers were. 

“But I think at that moment when I said to my partner, I said, ‘What’s falling from the building? Like what is that?’

“It was a person.  

“My heart just sank, sank to my feet. It was just, it was beyond scary because you didn’t have time to really think about that, you know what I mean? 

“It was just kind of do. And, you know, the next thing I know you know the towers, the towers were coming down.” 

Mitman

“What impact did that have on you being there, being in that place at that moment? Especially now, 20 years later, how did that reverberate through your life?” 

Serra

“I moved to the city. I lived in the city after that. I mean I wasn’t down there living because you couldn’t obviously, but I know that instead of running from it, I ran towards it.

“So, it impacts my life to this day. I mean, a year later I was breaking out in hives and had no idea why. I wasn’t even thinking. And so then I just realized. My mother said could it be 9/11 and I said holy cow, I said, I bet you that’s it because I didn’t have time, I don’t want to say mourn, but I didn’t have time to react like a ‘normal person’ because we had to do a job. We had, you know, we had to interview a lot of people and just get an idea of what actually happened and try to help out as much as we could. 

“I didn’t have time to worry about myself and I hope I answered your question. 

“But now I don’t feel so much sorrow,  I always honor and I remember that time as real special. I think it has defined who I am today, like how I interview with people who were going on interviews for even the simplest thing. I take extra care and concern for who I’m talking to and what their position might be, you know, when I’m asking certain questions, I feel like I’m more thoughtful than I was.” 

Mitman

“What does it mean to be 20 years out?”

Serra

“You know, time just goes by so fast. I guess what’s most important, I just don’t want people to forget. I don’t want everybody to, you know, get depressed and let it affect your lives to the point where you can’t function. 

“But I really do feel like people just shouldn’t lose sight of that time because you know, I noticed that so many people came together that day and 20 years later I just feel so sad because I think a lot of the younger generation coming up have lost sight. Not all of them, not even most of them. I’m just saying some have lost sight . And I feel like if 9/11 can be a time when we come together to honor those victims, we should come together.” 

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