September 11th, 2001 is a day Lakeland resident Patricia Yepez will never forget.
It started out like any other Tuesday. Yepez was working for the Port Authority of New York, her office perched on the 82nd floor of World Trade Center Tower One.
"When I got off the elevator on the 82nd floor, I remember I started walking toward my office, and all the sudden I heard an explosion," Yepez said.
The elevator she had just stepped off had burst into flames.
"You could feel the floor moving, the ceiling coming off. You had to hold on to the walls," she recalls.
Communication was limited as she and colleagues fought back smoke while evacuating through stairwells.
"You couldn't call cell phones because there was no signal. The lines were not working," Yepez said.
Once outside, Yepez remembers a cloak of dust coating buildings.
"When we were about to reach the street level is when the second tower collapsed. All I remember is an explosion again, and the wind just flew you somewhere, just kicked you," she said.
She and a close friend walked blindly, hand in hand, for hours.
"It was very dark. You could not breathe. You could not see," she said.
Patricia Yepez survived September 11th, 2001.
"I think I am proof that miracles happen. All my family and friends who knew me were praying for me. So really I do believe I am a miracle. Miracles happen," she said.
While she somehow made it home to family without a scratch, she says it's what's inside that has yet to heal for her and so many other survivors.
"They'll never forget. It's there. But we're moving forward," she said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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