Ken Summers: Sept. 11, 2001 recollections

Dedicated to educating the next generation of America’s youth

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On Thursday, Sept. 16, the Bay Shore Historical Society presented a talk by local Brightwaters resident Ken Summers, titled “Sept. 11, 2001 Recollections,” at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library. At the talk, Summers detailed his experience on Sept. 11, 20 years ago, as an employee of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in the North Tower.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Summers was in the lobby of the North Tower at 8:46 a.m., going out to the post office. On his way out, he heard a loud banging sound and when he exited the revolving door, he saw one of his coworkers running, pointing upwards and covering their head from falling debris.

At the time, Summers thought that a bomb must have exploded in the building, like in 1993. He re-entered the building through the revolving door to avoid the debris and was in the revolving door for only a second when an explosion pushed him about 40 feet away across the street.

After asking passersby for help and borrowing someone’s phone to call his wife, the severely burned Summers came across 37-year-old Steven Newman, a trader at Merrill Lynch. Newman helped Summers get to a fireboat, and upon finding out that the fireboat had orders not to leave the dock, took a ferry leaving the dock.

Newman and Summers’s story has been featured in numerous feature news articles as well as in the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul of America” with a story titled, “Twin Saving at the Twin Towers.” The story details how by saving Summers, Newman also saved himself by leaving Manhattan on the ferry with Summers.

Newman and Summers communicate every year on Sept. 11, and this year the two of them spoke together for the first time at Bay Shore Middle School for the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

“As I move forward in life, I’m dedicated to educating the next generation of America’s youth so that they will strive hard to try and prevent an atrocity from ever happening like this again,” Summers said of his reason to continue speaking about something so personal to him.

After retelling his story, Summers presented a slideshow with maps and photos to help attendees better understand his experience. An interesting addition to his story was his interaction with Tania Head, known as the “9/11 faker” because she fabricated her harrowing experience on 9/11 and led a group called the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network Support Group.

Summers had planned to meet with Head on three different instances, and each time she canceled at the last minute. Later, when he met her at a function related to 9/11, he noticed that she seemed standoffish.

Later, the New York Times, when trying to fact-check Head’s miraculous story, began to unravel the truth: Head claimed to have been on the 78th floor of the South Tower, which if true, would have made her one of 19 people at or above that point who survived. She also claimed that her fiancée had been killed in the attacks and that a victim had given her his wedding ring to give to his wife.

In truth, Tania Head was Alicia Esteve Head, a Spanish woman who was a student in Spain at the time of the attacks. Head became famous for her deceit and manipulation of people in the WTC Survivors’ Network.

Every third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m., the Bay Shore Historical Society sponsors educational programs of historical significance free of charge. Next month the society will host prize-winning freelance journalist and author Bill Bleyer for a talk titled “The Culper Spy Ring.”

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