Photo credit: © Joe McNally
Accession Number: C.2022.24.1
Dimensions: 109 in X 44 in X 1/16 in
Dimensions (Metric): 276.86 cm X 111.76 cm X 2.54 cm
Credit Line: Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum. © Joe McNally
Josephine Harris, Bookkeeper, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Life-sized Polaroid photograph taken by Joe McNally depicting Port Authority of New York and New Jersey bookkeeper and survivor, Josephine Harris. Harris is wearing an FDNY baseball cap and holding a jacket with the Ladder 6 emblem and "Josephine | Our Guardian Angel" embroidered on the front." She has a big smile on her face.
In the weeks after September 11th, Port Authority bookkeeper Josephine Harris offered a consistently straightforward account of that extraordinary Tuesday rescue. After Flight 11 exploded into the North Tower, she left her 73rd floor office with co-workers and proceeded down the building’s stairwell. Wearied by the unaccustomed exercise and her recovery from a recent accident, her stamina diminished and she needed numerous stops to rest.
When Harris intersected with the Ladder 6 firefighters and PAPD Officer Lim, she felt thoroughly drained. Despite the gravity of the emergency, she had little will to push through her fatigue and discomfort until the men spoke with her. The final stretch of the group’s downward evacuation remained slow. They had almost reached the lobby when the unthinkable happened as the building began to collapse. Within seconds, Harris and the first responders were entangled together in the confined, dark remnant of Stairwell B, unaware of the catastrophic extent of the Tower’s destruction. Remarkably, Harris and her rescuers were spared serious injuries. They also kept each other’s spirits hopeful. Hours later, Harris would be extricated from the wreckage. Her uniformed guardians followed thereafter.
In recalling her experience, Harris said: “All I wanted to do was get to the lobby. I had no idea it wasn’t there.” She admitted that her outcome had only registered as wondrous when a television reporter remarked to her that, “you walked down 70 flights of stairs and had 104 floors fall on top of you, and you still survived.”
Harris remained in friendly communication with the Ladder 6 firefighters for almost ten years, until January 2011, when she died from a heart attack.