9/11 remembrance event to feature Twin Towers survivor Leeky Behrman

Trib Star

Leeky Behrman, uncredited

Leeky Behrman, uncredited

Each anniversary of the September 11 attacks means something a little different to Leeky Behrman, who was on the 61st floor when terrorists flew a plane into her office building.

At first, it was a day to fully feel the emotion and loss.

“The anniversaries for the first 10 years were the only day I allowed myself to think and feel about it; otherwise, I only focused on the present. Therefore, each anniversary helped me to release the pain,” Behrman said. “The first anniversary was the first time I even acknowledged that it was a tragedy. The second anniversary was the first year that I watched the old news footage and saw the planes hit the building.”

Her fiancé was set to fly out of LaGuardia the morning of the attacks, so after she escaped the collapsing building, her thoughts turned to finding her now husband.

She left lower Manhattan, ran through the crowds on Broadway and was more worried about him than her own safety. It wasn’t until the afternoon that they found each other.

“Finally on the ninth anniversary, I gave up trying to be that strong and calm girl that I lost in the tower. I let her fall with the building, and I accepted that I could never go back and be the person I was before the tragedy. After that, I had nothing left to release,” Behrman said. “Thus, when the 10th anniversary came, I decided to be glad that I was alive. It was a seismic shift for me.”

Behrman, who has a memoir The Choices We Make: A Memoir about Surviving and a Journey to Love and Happiness being published, will mark this year’s anniversary at Indiana State University and talk about her experiences at a remembrance event, 11:00am in Hulman Memorial Student Union, Dede I. The event is free and open to the public.

“Now, I am happy to share the experience. I just did an interview for a high school student, who was doing a class project. She was two when the tragedy happened. She really did not know anything about it, and I realized that survivors have a responsibility to share our experience,” said Behrman, who worked in corporate communications at the time of the attacks. “We already have a new generation who did not experience it, but they know a different world because of it … the wars, the NSA and civil-rights issues, the militarization of our police force and the dangers involved when attending a large event. They are growing up in a different world, and this tragedy was a catalyst for this new world.”

On her website, Behrman describes herself as a speaker, author, trainer, survivor. When asked which adjective [sic] best describes her, she said “survivor.”

Escaping the Twin Towers wasn’t the only life-threatening attack she lived through, however. She also survived an abusive childhood, one that drove her sister to suicide.

“I believe that being fully alive happens every day. Whether I am on the subway listening to high school students debate current events — which delighted me listening to young minds engaged — or something as simple as a sunny and perfect day, I find it every day,” she said. “But I do turn off my phone and computer at a specific hour every night. I do not take my phone on walks. I believe that walking away from the phones and email is important. I profoundly downsized my life, because I knew that taking a bike ride was more important than cutting my grass. I eliminated everything that was stealing my energy … so that I could go LIVE.”

The remembrance event is being organized and sponsored by Indiana State’s criminology department.

“The impact that September 11 had on our country is everlasting, but from a criminology aspect, it had a direct impact on policing, questions about privacy and the law, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and ultimately the now-dubbed ‘War on Terrorism,’” said Travis Behem, instructor of criminology.

Organizers expect Behrman’s words will offer a perspective unlike any other students — many of whom were children at the time of the attacks — and attendees have ever had.

“While many of us watched that day unfold on national TV, most of our students were probably too young to really grasp and fully understand the events of that day,” Behem said.

“By bringing in a guest speaker, who was there and to talk about the events first hand, will offer a much different perspective then what they can find on YouTube or even shows such as National Geographic.”

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