Saturday 9 December 2023

20 years after 9/11: the only surviving Tica tells her story

She was working on the eleventh floor of the North Tower when the first plane crashed and today, like thousands of others present that day, she suffers from health problems caused by the collapse.

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QCOSTARICA – On September 11, 2001, Karla Pericón arrived early at the office. Two years earlier she had managed to win a visa in the lottery run by the US government and that allowed her to get a job on the eleventh floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Karla Pericon at the age of 21, when she started working at the World Trade Center. Courtesy photograph / Karla Pericon / France24

Her work team was meeting, as usual, to plan the day’s tasks. “Suddenly, the building began to move quite hard, and everything began to fall,” recalls the 44-year-old Costa Rican, who shares her story in the interview with Teletica.

Today, Pericón is the only Costa Rican survivor on record of the terrorist attacks that occurred 20 years ago this Saturday.

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When the first plane passed through the building, her instinct was to assume it was an earthquake. “When we ran out, someone said to me: ‘Karla, she’s not shaking here,” she recalls.

Karla Pericon and coworker 20 years ago

She quickly said goodbye to her post in the office and collected whatever belongings she could before heading down the emergency stairs with some of her colleagues.

“Everything was smashed, many broken windows. And I remember we kept running,” she added.

She made it out of the building seconds before the second plane crashed into the south tower.

“A colleague started screaming like crazy. At that moment I got desperate, we all started screaming and running like crazy,” she said. When the second tower fell, the Tica was covered by all the debris and the cloud of smoke. But she managed to get to a dock and get on a ferry that took her off the island.

“I remember that I went to New Jersey and that night I had to spend it at a Red Cross post, and I spent the whole night there, until the day after I was able to return home. Because there was no way to return, the city was paralyzed, there was no train, taxi, bus, there was nothing,” she said.

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Karla Pericon 9/11 survivor

The toxic legacy of the Twin Towers dust

The dust cloud released by the collapsed structures contained toxic particles. Thousands of people continue to suffer the consequences today; most of them live with respiratory problems and muscular and intestinal disorders. After the attack, Pericón began to suffer from asthma, bronchitis, allergies.

“For me psychologically it was very strong, two or three weeks after September 11 because we lost colleagues and to see the photographs of the missing and dead people it was very emotional and to this day I still feel very strong emotionally,” the survivor pointed out.

In addition, Pericón has had to fight for her life on multiple occasions, because she was diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer. And three years ago she had a hemorrhagic stroke and after so many therapies, specialists have noticed that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In the smallest of details today she enjoys her life. “Today I feel lucky, I feel like the most richest woman, ye, because just the fact of getting up, opening my eyes, being able to breathe, standing up, walking, talking, even slowly,” she concluded.

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On September 11 at 8 pm, will present a special on 9/11. From “ground zero” in New York, Elías Alvarado will review the events of that day, the testimonies of the survivors and show how the place where the Twin Towers stood is now.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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