St. Edward School eighth-graders sat in silence as Kim Godin shared how her faith played a role in her escape from the World Trade Center’s South Tower before it was hit by a hijacked commercial airliner the morning of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
On a “gorgeous and cloudless” morning, Godin said she woke up, made coffee and dressed in a “pretty silk suit” for work at Mercer Consulting Group, which had offices in the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Godin worked on the 48th floor of the South Tower. That morning she had a meeting scheduled in the North Tower, but shortly after arriving in her office, she was told the meeting had been canceled.
“I always wear heels, because I’m short, but that day I wore a brand new pair of loafers,” Godin said to the students. “It’s like someone was in my head saying, ‘You’re going to wear these flat shoes.’ It was God.”
For more than 10 years, she has been sharing her survival story with students in Charlie Shircliff’s history class.
On Sept. 20, wearing heels, she stood in front of the latest group of eighth-graders.
“It’s important that you guys hear this history first hand,” she said to the students who were born well after the towers came down. Godin also told the students that it was important not to let fear keep them away from trying new things and new experiences. “Don’t be afraid. Pray about it.”
Godin recounted that once she’d settled into her office the morning of Sept. 11, she started hearing what sounded like “hail hitting the window.” Then she noticed something flying by her window. Some time later she would realize it was the seat of an airplane, she said.
“The hair on the back of my neck curled up,” she said.
She was a fire marshal in her native Toronto, Canada, and that training helped her realize something was wrong. She knew she had to get out of her building, she said. Godin and hundred others ran down 48 or more flights of stairs — she in her loafers — helping each other along the way, to a basement-level floor.
She made it outside just before her tower was hit. She recalled trying to find places to hide as glass, paper and huge pieces of concrete flew overhead. But there was nowhere to hide.
As people jumped from their office windows, Godin said she ran.
“It took me six months to tell my husband what I’d seen. It was horrific, just awful.”
Godin made her way to the Manhattan Bridge, but before she arrived, she said, she felt the ground moving as the South Tower collapsed. Once on the bridge along with thousands of others, the North Tower fell.
“I prayed for their souls. I had friends and colleagues in there,” said Godin. “It was a surreal moment, like it wasn’t happening, like I was in a movie.”
While they were on the bridge, she said U.S. “fighter jets” started flying over and for the first time that day Godin said she felt “a sense of comfort.”
She walked more than four miles in those loafers until she arrived home that day, she said.
One student asked how difficult it has been living with the experiences of that day.
“It’s hard,” said Godin. “I have very strong faith.”
She shared with the students that the Mercer Group provided psychiatric counseling to its employees following the attacks. She sought help from those mental health professionals, but she said she also prayed a lot.
There are particular sights, sounds and smells that take her back to that day. Each year as the anniversary draws near, she starts feeling sad, she said, but she is also “grateful to God,” she said.
“God took amazing care of me that day. It was like I was in a bubble,” said Godin.
Three days following the attacks, Godin returned to work at Mercer’s Midtown Manhattan offices. She said she felt she needed to show up and, “I didn’t want to be fearful of going back to work.”
Since the attacks, Godin has returned to the site where the World Trade Center stood. She became a volunteer who took families to the site, now referred to as Ground Zero.
Godin’s office eventually relocated her to Louisville, where she lives with her husband.
Charlie Shircliff, who teaches U.S. history and geography at St. Edward, teaches a 9/11 unit to eighth-graders every year in September. Godin’s presentation usually wraps up his instruction of those events, he said.
The importance of having Godin speak to the students “just can’t be overstated,” he said.
“I’m now teaching students about this who weren’t even born yet. It was the most devastating day in U.S. history, yet Kim’s example of perseverance and resilience is an example of faith in God’s providence and how he has a hand in everything and in caring for people,” said Shircliff, as tears welled in his eyes.