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Spreading the word that miracles do happen

TIM WILLERT

Kaz Jacobsen is living proof that miracles do happen.

Two years ago this week, Jacobsen was at work on the 94th floor of

the World Trade Center’s north tower when a hijacked commercial jet

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slammed into the skyscraper.

“It sounded like waves crashing on a beach,” the former Burbank

resident recalled Thursday morning, following the city’s Patriot Day

ceremony in front of Police and Fire headquarters. “You could smell

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the fuel.”

An explosion rocked the building. Fire broke out. Jacobsen

suffered third-degree burns over parts of her 55-year-old body. The

strap of her shoulder bag was “fused to my skin.” Her throat was cut

from ear to ear and a piece of steel embedded in her skull.

Her will to survive superceded any physical discomfort. She

stopped to help a young man, whose hand had been blown off, applying

a tourniquet to his damaged limb to stop the bleeding. She retrieved

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the hand and put it in her bag.

Eight people, including Jacobsen, made their way to an elevator

that wasn’t going anywhere. Trapped inside, five people tried to

escape through a manhole in the ceiling. A subsequent explosion blew

them to pieces. Body parts rained down inside the elevator, she said.

Jacobsen and the two others managed to squeeze out of the elevator

through a small opening in the wall, seconds before it plummeted 94

floors. She and others walked down stairs to the 27th floor, where

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rescue personnel greeted them.

Along the way, she witnessed unspeakable acts of desperation.

People pushing and shoving, even biting one another to get ahead. A

young woman, Jacobsen recounted, was thrown over a stairway railing

by her ponytail and fell to her death.

“Horrific behavior,” she said. “You can’t even imagine ... you

can’t get it out of your mind.”

Amid the chaos, a woman began to sing “Amazing Grace.” People,

Jacobsen among them, prayed.

Jacobsen, a sociologist and producer who founded two worldwide

youth organizations, was hospitalized for 20 months. She continues to

receive treatment for her injuries at UCLA Medical Center. She was

invited to attend Thursday’s ceremony at the request of Burbank Mayor

Stacey Murphy, a friend.

“This was incredibly emotional for me,” Jacobsen said of the

ceremony. “There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think, ‘What if?’ ”

Today, Jacobsen’s life barely resembles the one she was living on

Sept. 11, 2001.

She left a lucrative career for a life of ministry. She sold her

homes and possessions, paid off all her debts, and gave the families

of co-workers killed in the attack an undisclosed sum of money. Her

27-year-old assistant and two longtime business partners were among

those killed.

“You never know when your time is up,” she said. “I should have

died, but it wasn’t my time.”

A millionaire before the terrorist attacks, Jacobsen says she is

now broke but manages to get by on her faith. She rents a room from a

friend and spends much of her time “telling people about God.”

“I want to let people know that miracles do happen,” she said.

Indeed they do. Kaz Jacobsen is living proof.

* TIM WILLERT is the Burbank Leader’s city editor. He can be

reached at 843-8700 or at tim.willert@latimes.com.


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