When New Jersey resident Guy Yasika went to work on Tuesday Sept. 11, 2001, he had no idea that it would be the day that changed his life.
Yasika worked on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center but, around 9 a.m., he decided to meet some co-workers on the 43rd floor for breakfast.
“The building started to move and we heard an explosion,” he said. “It felt like the building was going to topple; it moved so much. I dropped to my knees and began to pray. I asked God to spare us, guide us and use me in the situation as best as I could.”
Two airplanes hit the Twin Towers that clear morning, knocking the first tower down to the ground within minutes, killing thousands of people. But at the time, Yasika said he had no idea what had happened — only that he needed to get out of harm’s way.
Yasika and many others evacuated the building through the stairs. He ran down 43 flights of stairs that day.
“Each floor meant we were closer to our rescue,” Yasika said. “Smoke began filtering into the stairs. The smoke burned our eyes, lips and mouths. But thank God we were alive. When we reached the ground floor and could see outside, we now knew how bad it was. Explosions, fires and glass were everywhere outside the building.”
As he continued his journey, he said things worsened.
“Pictures cannot capture it,” he said. “It is the smell of smoke, the cries and tears, fire, and chaos and the smell of death in the air.”
When Yasika finally made it out of harm’s way, he ventured a look at the building he used to work in.
“We looked up. My heart sank. I knew I cheated death,” he said. “I knew I was alive and anyone in our office was not going to be able to survive what I could see from the ground. Right where our offices were was now a gaping hole where a plane entered the building.”
When Lions Club Fall Festival co-chair Leigh Ann Akard got wind of Yasika’s story, she knew she had to invite him to the Fall Festival that by coincidence was going to occur on the 10th anniversary of the tragic day, so he could tell his story to others.
Akard said she also wanted to give remembrance and tribute to the many Zionsville residents, police and firemen affected as well; and what started as a single idea spiraled into a remembrance day ceremony to kick off the weekend’s activities.
World Trade Center beam
The tribute event will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, with a procession of a 5-foot-long, 900-pound beam from the World Trade Center that has been given to Boone County for use in a permanent monument at the new Lebanon Public Safety building at Interstate 65 and mile 138. The beam will be carried from the parking lot of Traders Point Christian Church, east along Ind. 334 to Ford Road, north to Mulberry Street, then east to Zionsville Community High School. It will be escorted by the American Legion and Patriot Riders, as well as local police and fire personnel, Akard said.
Jason Lee, deputy chief of the Lebanon Fire Department, said the fire department applied with the Port Authority in New York City to recieve a piece of the beam. Approximately a year after they applied, the fire department was chosen to receive a piece of the beam.
The fire department teamed up with Noblesville and Indianapolis to pick up the beam and bring it to downtown Indianapolis. LFD picked the beam up from downtown Indianapolis in April, he said.
Lee said the intention is to design and build a permanent monument with the beam, but said the department wants to raise money for the project before developing a design.
“We don’t want to rush it; we want to make it special,” he said. “This is a Boone County project, and after Leigh Ann got in touch with us with the idea for a tribute and her hope to raise thousands of dollars for the project--this one event alone could help us reach our fundraising goal of $10,000 to 12,000.”
Lee said when Akard first contacted him, he was estatic.
“It basically showed me that people are seeing it more as a Boone County project and I want people in Zionsville to be a part of it,” he said.
Lee said he hopes everyone comes out to at least see the beam on Sept. 8.
“When you touch it, it’s like you get a jolt of electricity,” Lee said. “You feel some kind of strange feeling and it really hits home.”
More ceremony events
An ice cream social will take place from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in front of the high school, where attendees can watch the arrival of the beam.
The feature presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the Zionsville Performing Arts Center, with Yasika as the keynote speaker.
“There will not be a dry eye in the room,” Akard said.
Highlights include brief talks by local residents who were first-hand witnesses of the 9/11 events, including Zionsville resident Evelyn Twitchell, who was in New York on 9/11.
Twitchell was on a train that pulled into Grand Central Station when the first tower was hit. She was a journalist heading to work. Her office was right across the street from the towers in One World Financial Center. She will relate her memories of the day’s occurrences, including her ride downtown and the reactions of crowds crying and praying together for their loved ones.
Looking back 10 years, Twitchell says she appreciates life more and realizes how short life is. She said the incident made her more patriotic and appreciative of what the United States stands for.
“I am more likely to believe that something unbelievable can happen because you never would have believed it before it actually happened,” she said.
Comments will also be made by an air traffic controller who was on duty that day and a rescue worker who was a first-responder to the scene. In addition, patriotic music will be played and a chaplain will speak. Afterward, attendees will be asked to gather around the beam for a candle-lighting ceremony and fireworks.
Seating inside ZPAC is limited. Tickets are a $10 donation to “The 9/11 Memorial Monument Fund,” which will support the development of the Boone County 9/11 monument. Tickets can be purchased at Akard True Value in Zionsville, Zionsville Chamber of Commerce, State Bank of Lizton (Anson and Lebanon) and at the door if any remain. Akard said she is hoping to sell out, approximately 1,200 tickets.
Akard said many groups within the community are working together and have really showed her the true meaning of patriotism.
“I am excited to see every piece of the puzzle — the picture of patriotism — come together,” Akard said.
Akard is looking forward to the tribute and to see her idea come to fruition.
“I am humbled and amazed by all the help and people getting together to make this as big as possible,” Akard said. “I am looking forward to the rumble of pride that comes when the beam arrives through the motorcyclists that will escort the beam.”
The Zionsville’s Lions Club will round out the weekend with the 38th annual Fall Festival Saturday, Sept. 10, and Sunday, Sept. 11, in Lions Park. This year’s Fall Festival theme is “Visions of Peace.” World Trade Center survivor Guy Yasika will be the Grand Marshal of the Kiwanis Parade at 11 a.m. Saturday, on Main Street in Zionsville. He and his wife, Vicky Yasika, will also speak at 2 p.m., Sunday, in Lions Park.