Thursday, September 16, 2021

Local 9/11 survivor reflects on 20th anniversary

Twenty years after he and his wife narrowly survived the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Sujo John of Lantana is more worried about another attack than he has been in a long, long time.

“Afghanistan is overshadowing everything,” he said. “I have a fear that the terrorists may be emboldened and America may be vulnerable.”

John was on the 81st floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit his building. He kept trying in vain to call his wife, Mary, who worked in Tower 2. Sujo narrowly escaped the building just before it collapsed and survived the falling debris and pitch-black cloud of dust. He didn’t know it yet, but Mary was late to work and stayed out of danger. With phone lines down, they looked for but couldn’t find each other until service was restored around 5 p.m. that day. Click here to read more of their story.

“9/11 redefined my life,” Sujo said. “So much has changed.”

John became a motivational speaker and philanthropist and the couple moved to Lantana. Now, 20 years later, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.

“It’s very hard to believe it’s been 20 years,” John said. “It feels like it happened a few years ago. The sound, smell and heat of the day are still very fresh in my memory. People who went through that, it still feels very recent, and you live that experience every single day. It’s a part of your life.”

This solemn anniversary comes just weeks after the U.S. departure from Afghanistan and the subsequent Taliban takeover and a bombing that killed 13 U.S. troops. That makes this year feel different from every previous anniversary.

“Our exit has been so bad,” he said. “The first 10 years (after 9/11), it felt like we had the upper hand on the terrorists, but now that we have exited the terrorists’ hotbed, they could be plotting their next attack against America, and that’s not a good feeling.”

Another big difference John sees is how divided the country is right now.

“After 9/11, America was so united, but right now the country is divided,” he said. “There is so much division and unrest.”

John wants to thank all the veterans who have served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as all first responders who put themselves in danger to help others every day.

“This ought to be a day we show gratitude for people who keep our communities safe,” he said.

Read more about Sujo John’s story of faith and survival at www.sujojohn.com.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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