September 11, 2001 saw multiple attacks hit America, leaving citizens of all walks affected in one way or another. No one on board the four hijacked planes survived their respective collisions. At the WTC complex, only 23 people survived the collapse of the Twin Towers. One such survivor, former Lt. David Lim, lives now with the haunting memories of that day, and has poignant thoughts he chooses to share on the 20th anniversary of that dark day.
Today, Lim is 63. As an officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he worked as a K-9 officer. His companion was Sirius, a yellow Labrador. On September 11, he had actually been in the basement of the south tower when the first plane struck the north tower. “I had just felt something shaking — even in the basement I could feel something,” he recalled. Lim rushed out into the complex with other responding units, heading for the struck building. This put him in a position to see some individuals trapped above where the plane hit choosing to jump. Early into the events of the terrorist attack, few people knew exactly the nature of the tragedy – an accident? A freak vengeful decision? Still, Lim rushed inside, and made it to the 44th floor of the north tower to help people out.
Lt. David Lim faced harrowing sights at the WTC collapse
The lieutenant was able to see the second plane crash into the south tower he’d just vacated, creating a “fireball” that flew towards the building he now occupied. The force sent himself and others crashing back. Then, at approximately 10:28 am, while Lim was heading downstairs, the north tower collapsed. In total, the building had 110 floors, all caving in on top of Lim. He suffered a concussion and other mild injuries, TODAY shares. But he was one of just two dozen to actually be in the towers during its collapse and make it out – after five hours trapped within the rubble. Though he is out and those physical injuries healed, the memories remain as scars of their own.
“Some days, it’s like it was yesterday,” Lim admitted. “And some days, it’s like an eternity.” That day, he lost Sirius, parting with the words “You stay here, I’ll come back and get you,” after putting the beloved dog in his kennel. “These dogs come home with us,” shared Lim, whose family was heartbroken by the loss. “When I came home, the dog came with me. When I went to work, the dog went with me.”
Anniversaries such as the impending 20th year make memories like this all the more raw.
The past bleeds into the present
Reunited with former Port Authority Police Officer David Lim, reflecting on 9/11 20 years later. He was one of the few survivors after the towers collapsed. Stay tuned for our special interview with him. #NeverForget #September11 pic.twitter.com/JmQT778NPn
— Ernabel Demillo (@ErnabelD) July 6, 2021
Everyday life can put Lim right back into the WTC the day of the collapse. For instance, he recounted, “I saw this woman walk by carrying her shoes and all of a sudden I started getting chills and remembering those moments.” The woman was rushing through the city, carrying her high heels to better make haste. In that moment, he was back seeing women from 20 years ago hurrying by him on the stairs to escape the tower. “All these women were coming down, carrying their shoes,” recalled Lim. “They were still in their sneakers. They hadn’t changed yet because it was still early. It was just a really weird sight. And then, when I finally did get out, there were shoes all over the place.”
Lim contends with modern flashbacks, and had to wrestle with the grief of losing Sirius. Doctors had to assure Lim he needed to embrace the validity of his grief over the beloved dog, just as tangible as those who lost human loved ones, in order to heal. While Lim made the recommended changes, he also now muses with his friends how the world has changed, especially for officers, as he had been.
Heartfelt Thanks to Port Authority Police Officer David Lim — Who Seemed to Have Appeared Out of Nowhere In the North Tower and Saved Me #Gratitide #Honor911 #PortAuthority #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/wTSqhYZ93W
— Kayla Bergeron (@nycajun1) September 9, 2018
As someone who wanted to be an officer since he was young, Lim now thinks how everything is “under a microscope, for better or worse.” Officers would come into his family’s Chinese restaurant for lunch breaks and teach about CPR, never flash their guns, and consistently emphasized their duty to help people. They even practiced that by helping a teenage Lim get his bicycle back from a bully. Now, Lim wants to help the next generation understand what happened two decades ago at the WTC collapse. “There are people that weren’t even born yet that are going to see this,” he explained. “They need to know at least part of my story.”