Moushumi “Shumi” Brody, right, escaped from the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 before the building collapsed. This year, she and her family took part in the Travis Manion Foundation’s 9/11 Heroes Run. (Courtesy photo)

9/11 brings back memories of a hero

For 41-year-old Moushumi “Shumi” Brody, Sept. 11 always reminds her of the unidentified firefighter that helped save her life in 2001.

“That’s the one regret I have. If I had known what was going on, I would’ve looked at his helmet number and found his department,” Brody said. “I do know 343 firefighters died that day, and the six who survived were near the bottom floors [of the World Trade Center]. I believe with certainty that he did not make it, knowing those numbers, and I had survivor guilt for a long time.”

Brody was a Barnard College graduate employed as a legal assistant when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower. Now a wife and mother of three daughters living in Marin County, she’s honoring the lives lost by participating in the Travis Manion Foundation’s 9/11 Heroes Run.

On the day of the attack, Brody and a group of other employees escaped by walking down an emergency stairwell. They became stuck when the 35th floor’s emergency stairwell door was locked.

“A custodian was with us and tried every key in his key ring to open the locked door. I wasn’t sure if the firefighter opened the door with a key or forced it open, but he unlocked it,” Brody said.

Due to nervousness, she stumbled a few steps and the same firefighter who unlocked the door caught her and told her words she remembers 19 years later.

“He told me, ‘Stay calm, keep moving. You’re getting out of here,’” Brody said. “It’s something I hold in my heart.”

The Travis Manion Foundation, a nonprofit organization serving veterans, their families and survivors, found Brody after her TikTok tribute video went viral and was reshared on E! News’s Instagram page.

Her video, which uses audio to a cover of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know,” amassed almost two million views and 352,000 likes on TikTok.

“I had no idea it would get the traction that it did,” Brody said. “My oldest daughter is on TikTok. I joined it as a way to censor things she shouldn’t be seeing, but I noticed one of the trends was to use this song to talk about a hero who doesn’t know he’s a hero.”

To acknowledge Brody’s hero, Brody and her family all wore signs mentioning the firefighter during their run together around Marin County for the 9/11 Heroes Run.

Due to the circumstances of COVID-19, the event is entirely virtual and from Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, allowing people to choose dates, routes and durations while still maintaining solidarity.

“We’ve had races in the Bay Area since 2014,” said Derrick Morgan, the senior marketing director of the Travis Manion Foundation. “We typically have 60,000 participants annually and well over 10,000 now. There are so many people checking in, especially today.”

All proceeds gathered from the 9/11 Heroes Run go directly to veterans and survivors. Brody, a runner who participated in marathons and triathlons before, believed the timing of being discovered by the nonprofit is “fortuitous.”

“I’m blown away by her stance and how she has shown gratitude for those who sacrificed their lives for her to be here today,” Morgan said. “For her to want to honor these people shows how much gratitude to she has and how grounded she is.”

For Brody, these past few weeks have allowed her to feel relief.

“Being a part of the Heroes Run is a fantastic way to keep the unity of this country in a time where we are so divided,” Brody said. “I was so happy to learn of it, so when I was contacted about it I immediately said yes. I felt badly that I didn’t know about it before, and I want to do it every year.”

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