‘I still get nightmares’: Auburn 9/11 survivor shares story of escaping the World Trade Center

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 7:38 PM EDT
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AUBURN, Ga. (WTVM) - As the nation comes prepares to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, people all around the world are taking time to remember the lives lost.

“I still have to take anti-depressant pills, I still get nightmares, I still see planes landing on the road going into the building.”

For 9/11 survivor Sunel Merchant, the 20th anniversary for what could have been his last day alive is a very vivid memory in his mind.

”They say time heals everything, but 9/11 is something that feels like it happened yesterday,” Merchant said.

On September 11, 2001, Merchant was up early, like his usual self, and heading to his job at a Japanese bank in One World Trade Center on what he says appeared to be strangely beautiful day.

”It was beautiful, not a single cloud in the sky, really surprising for September in New York,” he recalled.

Merchant said he arrived to work on the 49th floor of One World Trade Center around 8:10 a.m. and after almost two hours into checking and responding to emails, he heard a crash and the building swayed from one side to the next.

”Being on the 49th floor, there was nothing I could do. Only God could help,” Merchant said.

While Merchant and his co-workers were calmly evacuating with the rest of the people, he kept hearing a thumping noise that didn’t make sense to him.

”Later, I came to find out that was of the people that were jumping and crashing down,” Merchant said.

When he and others in the building reached the 25th floor, Merchant said they were greeted by firefighters - what he refers to now as his superheroes.

”It’s not Spiderman who climbs up the buildings. It is our firemen who climb up the building. When I was running away from the building, the police were running into the building,” he said.

He shows his gratitude by feeding first responders for free every 9/11 at his family’s restaurant, Philly Connection in Auburn.

“To thank my superheroes and for me to feel like a small kid shaking the hands with my Superman, Spiderman, and Captain Americas,” Merchant said.

Merchant says he still deals with depression and scarring images of death and destruction he witnessed that day. He says he will continue serving first responders every year on 9/11 to bring light to the people who saved his life.

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