For most people, September 11 has come and gone, but the anniversary will always be important to me because I was a block away when the first building fell. The people I have met who were at the World Trade Center that day never stopped associating the event with their work, and I am no exception.

That day, I stepped outside my office to take a look at the spectacle. Before I knew what happened, I was blinded by debris and buried under a pile of people. I pulled myself out of the pile, but I couldn't see, had no idea where I was, and I couldn't breathe. I worried about my family until the lack of air became painful. Then I focused all my hopes on not having an extremely painful death.

There was complete quiet. No one could talk because no one could breathe. Then I heard cracked glass. I moved toward the noise until I saw a glow coming from a broken window. Somehow, I lifted myself into a broken window that was above my shoulders. I found air. And then I thought only of water. I found my way to a bathroom in that building and inside there were debris-covered men in ties drinking out of a toilet. I drank, too.

Days later, I went back to my software marketing job at my Wall-St based company, and though no one was really doing any work, I somehow continued to write my weekly column, furtively, from my desk. Soon, though, the company laid off almost all the employees, including me. I spent October in a daze. I spent November and December attending a group for people with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The way to deal with post-traumatic stress is to tell your story over and over again. The theory is that when you are in the moment of trauma, you have to turn off all your emotions to get yourself through it. After the fact, in order to stop having nightmares and panic attacks, you have to experience the emotions you missed.

So I told my story over and over again. And each time, the story was a little different. (I still tell the story, although to be honest, most people are sick of it. Even my brother said, “That just took 25 minutes. Maybe you need an abridged version.”)

When I began telling my story I saw myself as an imbecile — for staying at work after the first plane hit, for standing so close to the building, for not trying to help anyone but myself. Later, my story focused on how I was a lucky person to have come out alive. And I was a lucky person to have a moment where I thought I was going to die and saw exactly what I cared about in my life.

This is the process of reframing. How we frame our stories determines how we see ourselves. It's the glass half-empty/half-full thing: The trauma of 9/11 taught me to frame my life as half-full.

Today, when I tell my World Trade Center story, my focus is on career change. Today I am the woman who nearly died at the World Trade Center. I lost my job as a marketing executive. I faced an incredibly tough job hunt, which I wrote about in my column. In the process, I became a writer; turning in a column week after week made me realize that I was a writer who was calling herself an unemployed marketer.

I used to think career changes were planned and instigated and systematic. Now I know that some changes could never be planned, and some changes do not need instigating, they just need recognizing. Positive change comes to people who can frame their world in a positive light — even a world where everything is literally falling down.

There's nothing like forty bombs on a Middle-East metropolis to make you feel like your weekly widget report is meaningless. But we can't bring the economy to a screeching halt. If nothing else, we need to eat, we have to get paid. So we find ourselves making judgments each day about what is in poor taste and what reflects the needs of a workplace that must go on.

On September 11, I was working at a company located six blocks from the World Trade Center. I exited the subway right after the first plane hit. Took a look up at the burning building, and then walked to my office. That might sound strange, but I am one of thousands of people who did that, because office workers are accustomed to order, predictability and routine. Five days a week we exit the subway and walk to work. If you do something that often, you usually start to like it.

Even now, in the face of war, the predictability and stability of going to work every day provides a counterbalance to the unknown factors of battle. Some might say, “How can you sell widgets when people are dying in Baghdad?” But routine, really, is a way to cope. In the face of an unpredictable and violent world, the routine of the weekly widget report takes on near-spiritual meaning.

After the second plane hit the South Tower, there was a steady rain of papers out our office windows. There was a steady stream of employees saying, “Do we have a TV here? Do we have cable? Do you know what happened?” And there was my boss. He said, “Everyone should just go back to work. There's nothing we can do.” Even a half-hour after the second plane hit, my boss was in his office sending email to a department that ran around the office like over-excited school children at recess.

We will always remember my boss, locked up in his office, oblivious to doom. And this is the danger of our penchant for routine. It should be comforting but not a means of denial. When it was time for my boss to acknowledge that the day, in fact, would not be a workday, he could not make the shift in plans. Oh he shifted, but not until the office was engulfed in debris and the FBI had taken over the street in front of the building.

Working during wartime is a balance. We should appreciate the comfort of routine, but we should know when to make an adjustment.

Take a tip from advertisers, who know that airing commercials about familiar brands is comforting, but commercials rife with frat-house humor or on-sale-now jargon are a turn-off to a fragile population. McDonald’s, for example, will run branding commercials featuring children, and the company will save the hawking of value meal deals for a peace-time project.

McDonald's knows that people need comfort in consistency. These tactics may seem heartless, consumerist, or crass, but the reality is that we are all going to keep the economy going while the war rages. So when you show up to work, understand the value of consistency but know your limits. Know why you do what you do, and when it is time to stop.

And don't underestimate the stability work provides to a population on edge. Sure, we worry about another terrorist attack, especially now that the war has begun. But sitting in your duct-taped home, isolated, in a pool of nervous sweat will only exacerbate anxiety. We should all strike a balance between work and worry as a means to cope with war.

In New York, a town where one third of the workers worked downtown, and more than one third were affected by the twin tower attacks, one of the best places to network is at trauma groups.

You have to interview to get in a group. Not because they’re exclusive, but because peoples’ experiences are so different and the groups, apparently, are most effective if people have similar experiences.

There are groups for people who lost a spouse and there are groups for people who sat in their apartment in Queens watching TV. The group I got put in is filled with people who escaped from their offices by dodging splattering body parts of jumpers. I am the curious standout in the group. As the other members were running away, I was walking closer. I am the authority on what it was like to suffocate under fallen debris.

After a few sessions, though, we all knew each others’ stories, and we all found we were in the same place: Tying to reacclimatize ourselves to the world, which for everyone, included somehow getting back to five days a week at work. Most people are still employed, at the large, or small-but-largely-affected firms you’ve probably read about, like Marsh & McLennen or Cantor-Fitzgerald.

One guy, from a large trading firm, has a cube next to someone who has cried every day for three months but has not gone to counseling. Is it appropriate to suggest counseling? Normally, a suggestion like this would be out of line, but the group agrees that in this case, it would be okay.

A woman in the group was caught in the subway, under the tower when the second plane hit. People panicked and could not decide to get off or not and the doors jammed. Now she won’t get on the subway, so her commute from the Bronx is three bus transfers and a ten-block walk. She is often late to work and she is scared it’s affecting her performance. People in the group gently tell her how they overcame transportation fears. But we all admit to having formed weird transportation rituals to ward off flashbacks.

Sometimes someone remembers something new, and it’s horrifying: “When I fell, I got hit by a severed hand.”

Sometimes the reports are gossipy, and it’s fun to be an insider: “A woman I know was burned on 40% of her body and survived, and her high-profile trading company pays her only $170 a week for disability.” (We all concur that the company is scum.)

Some of us are looking for jobs. One guy who worked at a brokerage firm decided to take a severance package rather than commute to the new office in New Jersey. He said he’s sick of information technology and he wants to work in a nonprofit. The social worker gave him a list of possibilities.

One guy kept talking about his wife who worked in human resources at a big company in tower two. Every time he talks about her — her phone call, her escape —- I hear “human resources.” Finally, I asked him if I could send my resume to her. He gave me her email address and her work and home numbers. I sent the resume, (and my friend, who is not in the group, said, “Oh god, I just interviewed there. I asked the hiring manager what he liked about the company and he said, “Do you mean now or before all my friends died?'”)

One guy quit his job because even a month after the attacks his boss still had not even mentioned the World Trade Center to him. This guy worked in a building that had one side blown off. That means there’s enough of the building left for him to go collect his belongings.

His company scheduled collection times with the cleanup crew. The guy in my group went last week. He said it was creepy to go back because the buildings he went to every day were gone. But it was worth it, he said, because right before the attacks he had ordered PaintShop Pro furtively, for personal use. He stole it when he went back to Ground Zero.

When he said that, the group laughed. “A was sign of normalcy,” the social worker said. A sign of hope to all of us.

My husband takes the subway to work every morning and gets off right in front of the NBC building in Manhattan. That subway stop — Rockefeller Center — is huge and very busy in rush hour, and I'm sure the stop has come up in conversation among insane but unfortunately still-crafty terrorists.

I have asked my husband to get off at a stop right after or right before Rockefeller Center. At first I asked really nicely, like, “I know you really like to get Jamba Juice at the store in the subway station on your way to work, but could you please get off at another station?”

When it was clear he was ignoring me, I tried bribery: I make the bed every morning to compensate for his extra four-block walk to work. He said “Forget it, you never tuck the sheets in tightly.”

Finally, when there was Anthrax at the Post I said, “You are going to die and I am going to be pissed off because when you die, you aren't the one who is home crying, I am. So if you are going to stay married to me, you have to get off at a different stop.” My husband told me that I was overreacting, but as a compromise, he helped me stock up on bottled water as a nod to my water-supply paranoia.

But then NBC got anthrax, just one block away from him. I called him to tell him not to open any mail. He said the only mail he gets at work is the stuff I buy on the Internet and have shipped to his office. I called him back to tell him that his mail was probably in the same post office as the NBC mail. He said then I should probably stop having stuff sent to his office.

He came home from work with tales of troubles that had nothing to do with Anthrax. “The German sales team wants a whole new product in German by the end of the week. It's impossible.” He got hot and sweaty like a person whose life is in danger and then said, “Sales people are always so unreasonable. They should have to be developers for a month before they can make requests of development.”

I felt snitty. I felt like if he was going to downplay my worries, I would downplay his. I decided to say, ” Maybe if you understood the sales process then you'd have more sympathy.” But then I didn't say that because really, it is admirable that he can go on with his work. It is admirable, really, that the European offices are still talking to the American offices when most reports say Europeans are sick of us. I told him I was sorry. I told him not to eat the canned soup because it's part of my emergency supply.

We usually meet on Thursdays for dinner at Rockefeller Center. If I lived anywhere else in America I would suggest that we eat at home. But New Yorkers don’t do that. I met him at the subway stop before Rockefeller Center. We ate at a place on 59th and 6th, which seemed safe as long as no one set Central Park on fire.

He said, “My boss was on the phone all day. His daughter is too scared to go to school. And a guy in my office came into work at 11 a.m. so he didn't have to go through the Lincoln tunnel during rush hour.”

The next day my husband called when he got to work. He said, “I am sweating. I got off the subway one stop early, and I walked seven extra blocks to another juice place.” I said, “Thanks,” and then he said, “I need to work on the German project late tonight. Don't wait up for me.”

My earliest memory of Yom Kippur is one of my dad writing a note for me to give to my second grade teacher: “Please excuse Penelope from school tomorrow. She is Jewish.”

Maybe if there had been other Jews at my school, the note would have had more context. But my dad was apoplectic about the fact that Christmas was an official school holiday and Yom Kippur was not, and he would explain nothing. So I tried, as best as a seven-year-old-could, to explain to the teacher that Yom Kippur is the most important Jewish holiday. I said: “It’s so important that we don’t even eat.”

Now that I’m in charge of my own fridge, I haven’t fasted in years. But I still take the day off to go to synagogue, and I still find myself explaining the holiday to the uninformed: “It’s a time to mourn the dead. It’s a time to be thankful for being alive and to try to figure out how to be a better person next year.” Even if Jews neglect Judaism in their day-to-day lives, most show up to synagogue for Yom Kippur. Some Christians may relate — they may not say the rosary every night, but they never miss Christmas mass.

As a kid, I considered Yom Kippur an interruption of my secular life. When other kids asked about my absence, I told them I was at home sick or had a very long dentist’s appointment so no one would know I was different. As an adult, there are always more Jews in my office than there were in my grade school, but at the office I have found new problems with Yom Kippur.

The first year that I didn't live with my parents I felt rebellious: I worked on Yom Kippur. But that day it felt bad. I told myself that it would be okay if I spent time at work thinking about how to be a better person the next year, but I ended up thinking only a few minutes, locked in a stall in the back of the bathroom.

By the time my career progressed to management jobs, I knew I would feel bad if I didn’t go to synagogue, but sometimes I still skipped Yom Kippur. I worried: What if a meeting was held and since I wasn't there someone delegated all the grunt work to me? I needn’t have worried — all meetings were postponed out of respect to the number of Jews who were out of the office, except for me, who showed up.

I didn't learn my lesson. I worked on Yom Kippur the year I was supposed to give my first presentation to senior management. The printer broke. The presentation was postponed. No one cared. I fasted the rest of the day at my desk.

Another year, my reason for ditching synagogue was less career-driven and more water-cooler-driven. The O.J. verdict was going to be announced, and I didn’t want to miss the communal fun of hearing the verdict at work. I imagined highly-charged debate, or at least a lot of shouting. So I stayed at work, where reaction to the O.J. verdict hoopla was anticlimactic and short-lived.

After that, I usually took a day off with all the other Jews. I came to enjoy the Yom Kippur chatter in the office among Jews because during the rest of the year, Jews are mostly secular and so is the chatter. Yom Kippur would be more convenient if it fell on Christmas (everything’s closed, Jews have nothing to do — a great day to fast!) but I realized that the Yom Kippur interruption of work would not derail my career, it would only derail my weekly schedule.

This last Yom Kippur, which fell on Sep. 27, two and a half weeks after the terrorist attacks, I discovered something new: Yom Kippur gives me a peaceful time that I would not otherwise allow myself at the expense of work. People are still shaking from the World Trade Center attacks and the looming threat of our country at war. We are all expected to get back to work and be productive — while a necessary process, it is one that feels abrupt. Yom Kippur gave me a break. So I did in that time what that time is set aside to do. I mourned those who died. I gave thanks that I was alive. I thought of how to be a better person next year.

Some will call me on the fact that I only lean on my faith when I need it most. But this tragedy has made many of us revisit, reassess, and most of all, re-appreciate. For years I looked at Yom Kippur as an inconvenience — I always felt I would be missing something at work. This year, the timing could not have been better, and I realize I would have missed out on something more had I gone to the office.

This piece was originally published by Time magazine the week of 9/11.

At the Wall St. train stop people were covered with papers. A plane crash. That’s what everyone said. Then a boom. Everyone ran. I ran to my office and called my brother in the Midwest.

I wanted to be closer. At the corner of Church and Broadway, I angled my way through a large, packed crowd to get the best view. We talked about people jumping. The police stood behind the yellow tape. Minutes later, there was a boom. I thought it was a bomb, so I crouched, but people ran, so I ran. I couldn’t see anything. I don’t know how far I ran. Couldn’t see where I was running. Didn’t know if I was in a street or next to a building. Didn’t know what street I was on. No one could talk because the dust filled our throats. After about ten steps I tripped over a pile of people and then people tripped on me.

I laid there. The only sound was the falling of dust and debris. No one moved under me. The weight of people on top of me got heavier. I couldn’t breathe. I knew we were all going to die in that pile. I pulled myself out of the pile. My slip-ons slipped off. I stood up and saw nothing. Not even an inch in front of me. I put my hands out and felt for something. I bumped into the brick side of a building. I bumped into milk crates. I stopped. I had no idea what to do, and I knew everyone around me was suffocating. I thought about my mom and dad, they would be so sad to hear that I died. I thought about my husband. Just married and I will not get to live my life with him. I thought about my brothers. They would cry. I told myself to just keep trying to find a way to air, but I didn’t believe I would live.

I bumped into something that I could feel the top of, so I lifted myself up. I worried I was going into the back of a dump truck, and I was scared I’d be trapped. I didn’t know if there was fire, or a bomb. I didn’t know how to protect myself “? find air. Go up? “? so I didn’t know for sure that a dump truck would be bad. I think it was scaffolding. I think I jumped over piles of bodies by climbing scaffolding.

I pulled myself into a building. What building? I don’t know. And I took a breath. I took two breaths. I was sure the building would be bombed. I looked for stairs. I kept thinking I needed clean air. I found a bathroom. I didn’t realize I wanted water until it was there. Four men inside. Two fighting over the faucet. I shared the toilet with another man. We drank almost the whole bowl.

Once the four of us were calmed by water and air, we ventured outside the bathroom. We walked up stairs. Slowly. We checked doors behind us, left them all open. We got up only one floor. We waited. I cried. They shared one can of apple juice.

The intercom in the building announced stay where you are. I was so relieved to know people knew we were there. The intercom announced again and I thought another bomb would go off and I’d die. I cried. The guy with the apple juice put his arm around me. I wondered why no one else cried. The intercom announced to go down the stairs. I picked up a wastebasket: I planned to fill it with water. Planned to use it to shelter myself from the next bomb. (I still had no idea the building collapsed.)

In the lobby of the building someone gave me a Nantucket Nectar and told me to vomit. I walked outside the building with the drink in my wastebasket. There was no one around. White everywhere. The four of us had nowhere to go. I couldn’t remember where I was. I walked toward the water. Police directed everyone north. I asked a woman next to me, “Where are we going?” She said, “I don’t know.” She had no dust. She looked so steady. I followed her. This was the beginning of her long protection.

She said, “You can walk home with me. You need a shower.” I coughed. She asked why I was carrying a wastebasket. I said, “In case there’s another bomb.” She held onto my arm as we made our way next to the river. In Chinatown, she bought me shoes. At the Bowery we finally found a payphone that didn’t have a line of people. So she called her husband and I sat down next to my wastebasket. It was the first time I sat down, and I started crying.

We resumed walking. Sometimes we ran. I made sure to keep up and I didn’t tell Teresa that I was worried that I would faint. I drank Nantucket Nectar every time I got dizzy.

At 59th St. a plane went overhead and I screamed. In front of Bloomingdales. There was no one there from Wall St. I knew I looked crazy. I screamed anyway. I reminded everyone there were no planes allowed to fly. Someone said, “It’s the army.” I came out from under my wastebasket and kept walking. Theresa’s apartment was 71st on the Upper West Side. Where everyone looked fine.

In the shower, dripping debris down my body, I remembered one more moment under the rubble. When I couldn’t breathe. When I couldn’t see. In the middle of the dead quiet was a voice. He said, “Is there anyone here? Can someone hold my hand?” I reached out to the voice, and held his hand. It was shaking and the skin was old. I squeezed and then I let go.