WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Warwick native Judy Cobden wears her worn-out Adidas sneakers on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks every year – in part as a reminder of her brush with death that tragic day.
“I only wear them on 9/11 now,” Cobden explained. “It’s a ritual. I believe they are part of the reason I was able to get out of there.”
Cobden, who worked at the American Stock Exchange in New York City when the attacks occurred, said she was able to run for miles because of those sneakers.
She said while many of her colleagues struggled to run in heels and leather shoes, her sneakers provided enough traction to prevent her from slipping on the ash that was thickly coating the city streets.
“The ash was like snow on the ground,” she recalled. “You could not run, you were slipping everywhere.”
Cobden was treated for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning once she was able to escape the area. She also had glass removed from her face and head.
To this day, Cobden said she still suffers from respiratory problems.
She shares her story each year on the anniversary of the attacks during a ceremony in her hometown – all while wearing the same sneakers she credits with saving her life.
This year, she expressed the significance of the day to the next generation, most of which wasn’t alive when the attacks took place. She pleaded for everyone to love and support one another – especially in today’s political climate.
“People aren’t born to hate, that’s a learned thing,” she said. “We need to embrace each other. We can all learn from each other, especially from our differences.”
Wednesday’s ceremony at Oakland Beach honored the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives 18 years ago. Among the victims were nine Rhode Islanders, including three from Warwick.
“This ceremony has become the most important ceremony to me and my family,” Richard Dellefemine, whose sister was killed in the attacks, said.
Dellefemine’s sister, Carol Bouchard, was a passenger on the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11.
“I know she’s up there looking down with the rest of them and we have to honor them and remember them,” he added.