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
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
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Her will to survive superceded any physical discomfort.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
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
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
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.