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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Green

“Stay Calm, Keep Moving.”: The Firefighter that Saved my Life on 9/11


by Olivia Green | WeINSPIRE Contributor

Shumi Brody was working in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. As she descended the stairs to escape, a firefighter lifted her after stumbling, telling her, “Stay calm, keep moving. You’re getting out of here.” He continued to climb the steps to save others, never making it out of the building. Shumi went on to meet her husband four years later and started a family of her own. Last year, they all ran the 9/11 Heroes Run with Travis Manion Foundation in honor of her firefighter hero, who gave her a second chance at life.

Shumi Brody and husband. Courtesy of Shumi Brody.


The 22-year-old Cleveland native had just graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University in May of 2001 and started at a New York firm as a legal assistant before law school the following year. Brody’s sister was simultaneously starting her first year at Barnard later that month. The two sisters made the big move to New York City but not without promising to check in with their mother every morning at 8:45 a.m., right before work. According to a piece by Brody on lovewhatmatters.com, September 11, 2001, was the first morning that her mother didn’t receive their scheduled call.


Chagrin Valley Times newspaper. Courtesy of Shumi Brody.


Back in Ohio, after missing the daily call and watching television news coverage, Brody’s parents Shuva and Dr. Atul Mehta believed they were about to face the death of their oldest daughter, according to an article in Chagrin Valley Times.

“When I saw the second plane crash, I was horrified. I kept calling her, but couldn’t reach her,” said Mrs. Mehta. “When I saw the first building collapse, I screamed. I thought my daughter was gone.”

Luckily for the Mehta family, they were reunited with Brody within a number of days, a reality that was not possible for so many others. “We feel very much relieved but very sad for others who were not so fortunate,” Dr. Mehta said. “I felt guilty and happy.”

The guilt that Dr. Mehta felt about celebrating his daughter’s safety is reflected in the survivor’s guilt that Brody felt after living through the attack, a feat she owes to the firefighter that saved her life.

After the first collision that morning, panic set in, and people moved in droves down flights of stairs to escape the smoking building set on fire from a then-unknown cause. Brody could easily make it down the first few flights, but as smoke filled the stairwell, the inability to reach family due to swamped phone lines made anxiety set in. Brody’s next memory is being lifted and consoled by a firefighter.

“My firefighter had lifted me up figuratively and literally and gave me the will to move forward,” said Brody to lovewhatmatters.com. “His soothing delivery of words encouraged me to keep progressing through the stairwell calmly yet allowed me to process something beyond a kitchen fire that had taken shape.”


Brody was finally able to contact her parents from a payphone after the towers had collapsed. Knowing the pain they had felt during the hours of terrifying uncertainty affected her deeply.

“The pain only set in after surviving this event,” said Brody. “The Survivor’s Guilt I felt consumed my being. There were so many children who lost their parents in this attack. Why I had survived wasn’t fair.”

It wasn’t until years later, after meeting her now-husband Alfie Brody, that Brody could release some of her guilt. “I didn’t need a man to feel love, but my husband, Alfie, was the person who showed me I had a purpose, and I was given a gift,” said Brody.


Shumi and Alfie Brody’s three daughters. Courtesy of Shumi Brody.

Survivor’s guilt pushed Brody to question if she even deserved happiness, but through it all, Alfie Brody was by her side, never tiring of her 9/11 stories and always willing to help her see the beauty in life. Alfie and Shumi Brody married in 2006 before having their first daughter in 2009 and twins in 2015.

After the birth of their twins, “I felt that the Twin Towers I had loved so much had returned to me,” said Brody. “I never took a day I worked there for granted. I was proud each day I got to go into work. The structure of the Towers held strong and allowed so many to escape with the help of first responders, like my firefighter. I will raise my twins, like their older sister, to be like those pillars of strength.”

Brody was given a second chance at life due to the encouragement and bravery of the first responder that gave her hope. Although she was not able to learn his name or his story, she says, “I hope in some way, he knows what he has done for my life, and I will continue to live each day to its fullest, never in vain of his heroism.”



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