9/11 survivor from Auburn shares story and gives back - WRBL

9/11 survivor from Auburn shares story and gives back

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Sunel Merchant was on the 49th floor in the north tower of the World Trade Center when the first plane crashed into the building.

The building started moving forward and as Merchant started to grab a desk to stable himself, he noticed the desk was also moving. He knew something had happened, but wasn't sure of what. He grabbed his bag and started moving toward the main stairwell.

As he was going down the stairwell he saw something that made a lasting impact on him.

"When I reached the 25th floor, there was a firefighter coming up," says Merchant. "He was encouraging us and telling us everything was going to be alright. But I could see in his eyes that he knew he wasn't going to come out of that building that day."

It was at this point when he was reminded of the service first responders provide and the sacrifice they give on a daily basis. He says most of the day is still a blur, but remembers clearly all the first responders.

"They weren't doing it for themselves," says Merchant. "There were doing it for people like us."

When Merchant opened a Philly Connection in 2005, he wanted to pay tribute and give back to these first responders. Every September 11th, he provides a free lunch to police officers, firefighters and members of the armed forces.

"It's more than a free lunch," says Merchant. "It's a way of saying thank you and I'm blessed I have the opportunity to be able to shake the hands of these super heroes and say thank you."

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley also thanked some local "super heroes" on Wednesday by speaking at Alabama Ready Day at Auburn University. He honored the memory of those who died during the September 11, 2001, attacks and recognize those who united in response to the tragedy. 

"We've been fighting a long group of wars, it's called enduring freedom," says Bentley.

The endured freedom is something Merchant is thankful for.

"The one thing I love about this country is that there's liberty and justice for all," says Merchant. "It doesn't say for one, it doesn't say for this political group or that political group, it says for all. And I salute all the firefighters, police officers and members of armed forces for preserving this."

One of Merchant's dreams is to one day return to New York City and work at the new world trade center, to show the terrorists that we are Americans and we will not allow anyone destroy our nation.

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