It’s been nearly 14 years since the attack on the Twin Towers, but we can remember that day like it was just yesterday. This is especially true for those who were in the World Trade Centers and the surrounding buildings when they were hit, as well as their family and friends.
Club Fit member Jean Potter was working on the 81st floor of the North Tower that day, just below where the first plane hit, and walked down the stairs to safety. Her husband, Dan, a New York City firefighter, raced to the towers and, while looking for Jean, helped others find their way to safety. Jean and Dan were finally reunited at a Chinatown firehouse later that day.
Both Jean and Dan firmly believe that their faith in God got them through that morning. “I felt that God was with me as I was walking down those stairs,” says Jean, and Dan agrees. “Before I found Jean, I prayed to God for the clarity to know what to do, and He got me through.” In the ensuing days, they reluctantly decided to leave their Battery Park apartment in New York City, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site. “It was a war zone,” Jean said, and the memories were simply too overwhelming to ignore. They moved to Westchester and eventually began a new life in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where they had family, but it was not easy. “I’m a city girl!” says Jean. “ It took a lot for Dan and I to leave our city life and our friends.”
Both built new lives, Jean counseling inmates at a local facility. “I came to understand that incarceration is a second chance at life,” she says. Dan began working with local fire departments and devoted time to the local Red Cross. “Everything that has happened to us is part of God’s plan. This was our own second chance, and He put us where we needed to be.” In 2011, Jean published By the Grace of God: A 9/11 Survivor’s Story of Love, Hope, and Healing, chronicling their 9/11 experience and their subsequent spiritual journey. Jean says, “The book is our story, but is also meant to honor those who perished, and share our strong message of faith.”
In 2012, Jean and Dan felt the pull back to New York and decided to return to the area, settling in Shrub Oak. Both have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, in addition to Dan’s injuries from that fateful day, causing his retirement from the FDNY, but they have achieved a new feeling of peace. “As I keep saying, God puts us where we need to be, and everyone has embraced us here,” says Jean. “We’re home.”
Soon after settling in, Jean joined Club Fit Jefferson Valley. She had always incorporated fitness into her routine, and goes so far as to say that her good health and fitness helped her get down those 81 floors! Today, staying fit is just a healthy way to spend her newfound free time. “I just love it at the club, there’s such a positive energy there!” She is a particular fan of Zumba, and wants to get more into yoga. Dan is active with the planning and emergency committees of their condominium in Shrub Oak, and Jean has started journaling again. “It’s amazing how people continue to reach out to us,” Jean says, so despite her desire to slow down, she may have more work ahead of her!
The road that Jean and Dan Potter have traveled is truly inspirational. They may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but they took that negative experience and used it to help others, through their continued willingness to give to those in need as well as offer guidance through Jean’s book. If you are interested in reading more about the Potters’ experience, By the Grace of God: A 9/11 Survivor’s Story of Love, Hope, and Healing is available at www.amazon.com, as well as at most bookstores and libraries.