In addition to her career, Leslie Haskin is now active in outreach ministry. She serves with Goodwill Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, New York. She spends her time in the inner city spreading the message of hope to the homeless and lost.
She is the founder and executive director of Safe Hugs, a nonprofit organization designed to provide rehabilitation and healing to women and children who are homeless and victims of domestic violence. Leslie has appeared at several memorials honoring the victims and survivors of 9/11.
She has served as a keynote speaker at national and regional conferences throughout the United States, including The West Point Women of the Chapel, North American Missions Board – World Changers, and The Place of Surrender Christian Singles Conference. She lives in Newburgh, New York.
Between Heaven and Ground Zero
CBN.com As someone who was working in the World Trade Center Tower One on the morning of September 11, 2001, Leslie Haskin will never forget the soul-searing images she witnessed or the horror she and so many others endured during her long, panic-driven odyssey toward escape on that black day. In her book, Between Heaven and Ground Zero, (August 2006) she shares what really happened to those who struggled to find their way out of the quickly closing doors of the tomb that was the doomed North Tower.
With courageous, laid-bare vulnerability and painfully honest openness, Leslie reveals the details of her meteoric rise up the corporate ladder from a small brokerage firm in New York to becoming one of only two African American Operations Directors for one of the largest insurance companies in the country. Her love of the corporate life, the jet set, the bright lights of New York and all the glamour of the Big Apple was bolstered by the perks, prestige and power that her titles and corner office atop Tower One of the World Trade Center afforded. Everything was going her way—until it all came crashing down around her on 9/11.
Between Heaven and Ground Zero reveals the harrowing details of Leslie’s long journey toward freedom after the plane hit her building. As she witnessed the decapitation of one man and stepped on and over dozens of other dead and dying victims of the attack, she struggled through the stench of pouring-down jet fuel and chemicals, rusted metal, and raging fires down flight after flight of stairs in an almost mindless effort to reach some kind of safety. In the midst of the bloody, horrible carnage, she found herself calling out to God, a childhood friend long ago forgotten amid the pride of her new life. He heard her and delivered her from the collapsing inferno.
Suffering from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, over the next year Leslie eventually lost her home, her career and her life savings. But with faith and medical help, she has emerged from the symptoms of her illness to shine as a remarkable testimony to the enduring legacy of hope. Her book is an unforgettable tale, steeped not in sorrow, but in the overwhelming power of the human spirit to emerge victorious from even the most devastating tragedy.
The author recently discussed her experiences.
After surviving the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, reliving the events of that terrible day seems to be the last thing anyone who was there would want to do. What motivated you to share your story?
I believe that I have no choice. It’s difficult for me to share, yes, but this goes beyond a single individual. This event has affected millions. Although mine is just one voice, it is a voice that might help someone through his or her own pain.
Tell us about yourself and your life before September 11. Where had you been and where were you going with your life?
I started my career as a receptionist, set my sights on executive management and deliberately climbed the corporate ladder. On my way, I enjoyed the perks and gifts and all the power that came with each step. On September 11th, I was mid-way up with tunnel vision. My faith was in what my own hands could build and my hopes were on a vice presidency.
Describe the events of September 11 up to the time right before you knew something terrible had happened. Was it just another normal day?
That particular day began normally…uneventfully. The day before was significant in that there was a lot more activity in our office than what was usual because of a problem with one of our major policyholders. In fact, that problem was the only reason I was in the office on September 11th.
On what floor, of which building, were you located and how and when did you know there was something dreadfully wrong?
My office was on the 36th floor of Tower One. I was standing in front of the window talking to my assistant. I understand that we were directly below the plane’s point of impact. We knew immediately that something was wrong because the sound of the initial impact was huge. The building swayed and rocked back and forth and never righted itself. The debris and bodies immediately begin falling outside of the windows and we had a clear view of that horrible sight. All of these things seemed to happen simultaneously. There was never any doubt or confusion that something was more than dreadfully wrong.
After you knew something had happened, what events transpired until you reached ground level?
Time stood still for me. So many things transpired and it’s too much to answer in this type of forum. What I can say is that, from the moment of impact, Tower One became a deadly war zone and everything that happens in war, happened inside the building.
What happened between the time you reached ground level and the time you made it home again?
So many atypical and horrific things took place that day. From the time that I left the building to the time that I came to myself the next day, I operated in a fog. There was no end to the constant replays of what I experienced or to the nightmares. My mind found the events too enormous to wrap my arms around and so I struggled just to keep breathing.
Like many of those who were in the World Trade Center towers on September 11, your life as you knew it ceased to exist after the tragedy. What was your life like for the first few months after the dust settled on that horrible tragedy?
I don’t remember much detail from those days immediately following. Ultimately, my family and I were financially, mentally and emotionally devastated. I lost my ability to provide for and support my children. I lost my home, my car and even my mind.
Much of Between Heaven and Ground Zero came directly from the journals you kept during your struggle to recover from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. What can you tell us about the illness and your treatment?
Wow. From the scientific perspective, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a term for the psychological consequences of exposure to or confrontation with extremely stressful experiences, which involve threatened death. It affects one’s mental, emotional and even physical well-being. Each patient is different and needs different forms of treatment. I had migraines, trouble sleeping and other symptoms. My treatment involved intense therapy, prescription medications like sleeping pills, antidepressants, stabilizers and painkillers. My prognosis was not good.
What do you hope happens in the lives of those who read Between Heaven and Ground Zero? What do you want them to know and how do you hope their lives change?
This is perhaps the easiest question that you’ve asked here. I want so much for others through the Lord. But in the immediate, my hope is that someone in the middle of his or her own towers will read my story and know that there is Hope beyond suffering. My prayer is that my words somehow inspire a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and that through hearing of His unbelievable grace and love, someone might give their heart to Him and know Love.
Haskin's book will be published in August.
Courtesy of The B&B Media Group. Used by permission.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.