Remembering 9/11: Widow of NYC firefighter shares story

NORTH LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Every September 11, we pause and reflect on the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Close to 3,000 people died that day. For the victims' families, the pain is still very real.

KATV's Beth Hunt sat down with the widow of a New York City firefighter who died that day. She believes it's important for us to never forget the events of 9/11, and it's one of the reasons she made a special trip to North Little Rock.

We all remember the images, the horror we felt and the innocence lost on September 11, 2001. Terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers, killing 2,749 people - 343 of them firefighters.

Maureen Mitchell saID, "I really, in my heart, believed that he was ok."

Her life changed forever that day.

Her husband, New York City Fire Department Lieutenant Paul Mitchell, was on his way home from work when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

She said Paul got word of what was happening, parked his van outside a firehouse, ran inside and got gear and went to the World Trade Center on his own.

Maureen said, "I have witnesses, other firefighters that saw him at the site that day and he was entering the south tower. I think it was probably that next morning that the reality hit that he was included among those who were missing. The remaining weeks were just a time of waiting to hear some word. Within that time, my house was a revolving door, in and out, keeping us company. We waited for some word."

Sadly, that word never came. Lt. Paul Mitchell is among the 40 percent lost that day whose remains were never recovered.

Part of the healing process for Maureen has been volunteering at the Tribute World Trade Center visitors center telling her 9/11 story, how it changed her life and how it changed our country. She traveled to North Little Rock to share her story at the Laman Library's new exhibit, "Recovery: The World Trade Center Recovery Operation."

"It's a little tough to look at certain parts of it however, I think we need that toughness. And we all need to be reminded of that day," said Maureen.

The exhibit documents the historic recovery effort to locate human remains, personal objects and material evidence from the collapse of the World Trade Center. It includes photographs and recovered artifacts from ground zero, including sections of the building facade, airplane fragments and an American flag. As tough as some of it is to see, Maureen believes we should all see it - and never forget.

As tragic as it was, she said there are lessons to be learned from 9/11; lessons we can all relate to.

Maureen said, "Part of the lesson of September 11 is that no matter how bad things may get or how bad situations may be in life, that better days are ahead. You will laugh again, you will smile again and you will have happy times again. And I think that's an important message for all of us to learn."

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