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Reader shares her experience of 9/11 in New York City

Betty Knutson of Willmar, a former resident of Morris Plains, N.J., shared her memories of 9/11 in New York City with the Tribune through an email:

September 11, 2001: It was a beautiful sunny Tuesday morning. A great day for sightseeing. My husband, his daughter and cousin from White Bear Lake, Minn., and her husband were driving to Liberty Island State Park to take the ferry over to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I was pointing out the New York Skyline, as we drove on the Garden State Parkway.

What a scene. I noticed some white cloud around the twin towers. We thought it was a low cloud. The next thing I saw was black smoke. At that point I knew something was wrong. The traffic came to a crawl over the bridge. People were tossing their cell phones around in their cars because they were not working.

When we exited the highway and arrived at the entrance to Liberty Park, we were told to turn around and leave. This put us out into an industrial area, an unfamiliar area. We still did not know what was going on. Since we had not made a stop since leaving home, I told my husband just go down to Port Liberty, which was in sight, we'll stop before going home.

We had just heard on the radio (a station from southern New Jersey ) that a plane had gone into the tower. As we pulled into the port, our way was blocked by a tall gentleman who stated if we didn't belong there, just turn around. He had a pistol in the waistband of his pants. It was a National Guard Base.

Now we were scared. We really didn't know how to get back to the Parkway. We decided to follow the flow of the traffic. The traffic stopped, so we all got out to see what was happening. There was a bus of Japanese tourists. What a noise they made. I had no idea what they were saying, but they were very excited. Then it happened. I screamed at my husband, "the building is collapsing."

At this point we were all in shock. What's happening? We got back into the car and finally made our way back to the parkway. Over the bridge that we had been on before, it was surreal. There was no traffic going over the bridge toward New York City.

Earl's daughter and cousin were in the back seat watching the skyline and saw the second tower fall. When we finally got back home to Morris Plains, we received phone calls from Minnesota, asking where we were and were we OK.

We were home, but I'm not sure how OK we were. What happened to all the people in the towers? We knew 14 people working in those towers. After calling the church office, I found out that none of the 14 were in the office that day -- due to vacations, business trips or late to work. What a blessing for their families.

Another friend couldn't get her money folded quick enough to put in the parking meter, so she missed her train. If she had made the train she would have been under the building when it came down. We all were in a daze. As the day progressed we could smell the smoke 30 miles away.

It changed the skyline of New York forever. Where we lived in New Jersey, we could see part of the New York City skyline from our house.

On Sept. 11, 2011, our prayers go to the families of 9/11 and we hope for peace in the world.