9/11 Survivor running the TCS New York City Marathon is an arduous and emotional journey for any participant. However, for Alice Yu, a first-time marathoner, this race carries a profound significance, as it takes her on a poignant journey into her past—a past marred by one of the darkest days in New York’s history.
A Fateful Morning
“I was there that morning, early, so I was up there, and I had just logged in when I heard the noise; it was a very loud boom, and we looked behind us and saw a lot of flying papers,” recalls Alice Yu, who would later become a marathon runner.
At just 24 years old, Alice Yu was preparing for a day at work when an unexpected and thunderous boom shattered the serenity of her morning. She, along with her coworkers, watched as papers rained down, completely unaware of the impending catastrophe that was unfolding before their eyes.
Yu and her coworkers had little time to react, and fear began to grip their hearts as they decided to embark on a harrowing journey down the stairwell, covering 71 flights of stairs.
“So we saw flying papers, and we didn’t know it was a plane, but we didn’t know what size. At the time, everybody just decided to leave, and we thought we should leave, so we started taking the stairs,” Yu recalls. “I was about on the 30th floor when there was shaking, and it felt like an earthquake, and that’s when the second plane hit our building. That’s when we started to feel fear and really know something was wrong.”
The vividness of her memory is haunting as she recollects the details of that day. “After I came down to the concourse area, it was all dark and a bit of flooding, and I did see pieces of the plane, like I saw the tail for American Airlines.”
Yu’s bravery and determination led her to safety, and she began walking away just moments before the Twin Towers fell.
The emotional scars of that day ran deep. It took Alice Yu more than a decade to summon the courage to return to Ground Zero. “It took me a very long time to go back there down to the Ground Zero area,” Yu said. “And it was still very, very emotional, just being there that day and having survived it; I think there’s some sort of survivor’s guilt.”
Turning Tragedy into Purpose
Yu found a way to cope with the survivor’s guilt that weighed on her. She says, “I feel like I got a second chance, so I try to give back wherever I can. I donate blood regularly, I volunteer with my kids’ schools, and I volunteer with Girls on the Run. I feel like I got a second chance, and that’s how I try to face my challenges.”
Alice’s story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the ability to find meaning in the face of unimaginable adversity.
From Survivor to Marathoner
The next significant challenge on her journey of healing and self-discovery was taking on the TCS New York City Marathon for the very first time.
“I started running during the pandemic for exercise and to be outdoors, and I just really started to enjoy it,” she explained. “I said I have to do something while my daughter is at gymnastics, so I put my shoes on, found a little trail, and started running.”
A Poignant Marathon Journey
Running the marathon route holds immense emotional significance for Alice Yu, especially as she passes through Lower Manhattan. Each step is a reminder of the resilience she found within herself in the face of a tragedy that altered the course of her life.
“I’m looking forward to finishing strong and healthy and fine,” she said. Alice Yu’s journey from surviving 9/11 to becoming a marathon runner is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, the healing power of determination, and the unbreakable will to survive and thrive.
Alice Yu’s story reminds us that no matter how dark the days may seem, there is always a path forward, and the strength to keep moving is within us all. Her participation in NYRR’s “Team Inspire” alongside other survivors underlines the strength of the collective human spirit and the power of determination to overcome life’s challenges.
In the face of life’s most challenging moments, it’s the human spirit that shines the brightest. Yu’s story is a powerful testament to the therapeutic nature of physical activity and the importance of finding healthy ways to cope with trauma and adversity. In Yu’s words, “I’m a survivor,” and her story is a testament to the resilience and triumph of the human soul.