World Trade Center survivor recalls 9/11 horror

Maxine Williamson was talking with a colleague at the Manhattan law firm where she worked when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into her building, the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

'I had to move as far from Ground Zero as possible'

On Sept. 11, 2001, at 8:46 a.m., Maxine Williamson was talking with a colleague at the Manhattan law firm where she worked when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into her building, the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

The commercial airplane struck between the 93rd and the 99th floor. Williamson worked on the 52nd floor.

She and her co-worker ran down 52 flights of stairs to escape.

"Just as we got out, they were screaming, building two was coming down," Williamson recalled to CBC the day of the attacks.

Many of her friends and colleagues were still in the North Tower when it too crumbled.

Williamson made it out alive but now, 10 years later and living in Brampton, Ont., she says it took her much longer to escape the memories of that day.

Her first move was to leave New York City.

"I just wanted to get out of there. The air smelled like death. The atmosphere was ... it wasn't a very nice atmosphere," said Williamson, who originally hailed from the Ottawa neighbourhood of Manor Park.

She moved in with relatives in New Jersey, but said she couldn't leave her bedroom.

"I could still smell the body parts, every time I stood up I could still feel the ground shaking under my feet ... to retain my sanity I had to move as far from Ground Zero as possible," she said.

Williamson accepted an offer from a friend who was a doctor and moved to Tanzania, where she worked to help set up a hospital in a remote area of the African country.

Since then, she's also published an online book about her 9/11 experience, titled Inside the Burning Tower.

"I've never really talked in-depth about it, and I thought it would be a way to put something on paper so my family could see, they would know exactly what happened that day," said Williamson.

On Sunday, while anniversary events are underway in New York City and around the world, Williamson said she plans to spend the day in church before curling up in bed to remember the friends and colleagues she lost 10 years ago.