NEW YORK – Editor's Note: Some who escaped death on Sept. 11 survived through an incredible stroke of luck or coincidence. Foxnews.com recently interviewed two of those survivors, who have struggled to find the meaning of their individual fortune in the scope of such massive disaster.
Sept. 11 was once a very special date for Tracy Rogich. It's her birthday.
Now Rogich, who worked at the Cantor Fitzgerald offices in the World Trade Center, doesn't feel like celebrating. And she's not sure when -- or how -- she ever will.
"I don't want to see a cake, I don't want a party," she said last week. "On that day I'm going to remember everyone who isn't here. And that's the most important thing I can do."
Ironically, her birthday is the reason that the 45-year-old mother of two is alive.
Rogich usually arrived to work at about 8:30 a.m. each day. But on that particular morning, she had spent some time tidying up her Haddonfield, N.J., home in preparation for an after-dinner celebration that evening with her children, boyfriend and their families.
"It was going to be a big to-do," she said.
Rogich arrived at the World Trade Center subway stop just moments after the first plane hit. She was on her way to a local drugstore to pick up some pictures -- she was going to show them off at dinner that night -- when a co-worker screamed at her to stop.
She ran out onto the street, and only then began to realize the scope of the horror.
"I saw the hole. Then I saw the people. They were starting to jump out of the windows. And that's when I really began to lose it."
All she could think of was calling her kids. Cell phones and pay phones weren't working, so she finally got through after inviting herself into a woman's home, shortly before the towers collapsed. She made another panicked call soon after to tell her kids she had survived that horror as well.
She spent the next several hours in Manhattan before taking a ferry to New Jersey, to the relative safety of her mother's home in nearby North Bergen.
As the day wore on into night, Rogich said, she began to realize how fortunate she had been.
"I want my family to realize they're so much luckier than so many other people," she said. "I want them to understand that and appreciate that."
A year later, she still feels lucky. But she has struggled with just how to move on.
As of last week, she hadn't decided exactly what she would do on the anniversary. She thought about the Cantor Memorial service scheduled for Central Park. She thought about her family. Her boyfriend suggested birthday dinner at the same restaurant where they were all to meet a year ago.
By Monday, she finally had a plan.
"Thought you might find this interesting," she wrote in a follow-up e-mail. "We will go out -- the following Saturday -- with family. But it will be at a different restaurant.
"AND NO BIRTHDAY CAKE. NO SINGING."
'Why Did I Survive?'
When a co-worker called Alex Banks the evening of Sept. 10 to see if he could fill in at a business conference at the World Trade Center the next day, Banks was happy to help out.
"He's a good buddy of mine and he said he had a lot to do … he said Charlie would pick me up in a cab the next morning and we'd have to be down there at 8. I said sure," said Banks, who works in business development.
Charlie, another co-worker at the midtown office, called that morning and said they didn't need to be at the conference until 9 a.m. The cab arrived at Banks' Upper East Side apartment about 8:30 a.m. The 26-year-old remembers stepping out into a beautiful, sunny day, then enjoying the view of the Twin Towers as he rode downtown.
A few minutes later, when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into north tower at 8:46 a.m., Banks' life was spared by the luck of a few feet.
"We were at a stoplight when we heard a huge clanking bang … concrete debris was falling out of the sky and people were hauling ass out of there," he said.
The cars in front of and behind Banks were destroyed. He does not know if their passengers survived.
Banks' cab was stuck briefly on a piece of debris, but the driver eventually managed to back up a few blocks.
"We were crouched down in the back seat, praying to God nothing would land on the car."
Then the fire started.
"I saw people jumping out hand in hand ... there was blood on our car," he said.
Banks stood bewildered as the next plane hit at 9:03 a.m. By 9:04 he had joined the thousands of others running for their lives.
"At this point I knew the city was under attack … I knew it was Usama," he said.
After running five blocks, Banks reached a dead end -- he was at Battery Park, the edge of Manhattan. There he felt relatively safe -- until the first tower fell at 9:59 a.m.
"That's when the smoke came … for half an hour Charlie and I were breathing out of our shirts, with our suit jackets over our heads. EMS had gas masks but they were given first to the women and children and the elderly."
Tugboats finally appeared to escort Banks and hundreds of others to safety across the river in New Jersey, where he spent the night at the home of a friend of a friend.
But that was not the end of his ordeal. A normally upbeat person, Banks soon experienced suicidal feelings for the first time in his life.
"I wondered … I’m never down in that area. Why was I down there that day? Why did I survive?"
Banks, who is not a religious person, went to church every day for two weeks, sometimes several times a day. He sought the advice of a psychiatrist. He avoided the news. He got out of the city for a weekend. He eventually started feeling better.
Now, a year later, Banks says he's back to his old self again -- but no closer to answering the big questions.
"You do chalk it off to coincidence … that's the easy way out," he said. "But I do believe in destiny … if I had been 10 yards away I might have been killed. Most of it is just luck."
As for Sept. 11, 2002, Banks decided he won't watch the news.
"I’ll be on a plane to Brazil -- but even if I were going to be here, I'd boycott TV that day. The last thing I want to see is that footage."
Banks thinks the media is making a mistake by forcing Americans to relive that terrible day.
"Let's up the intelligence effort, prevent it from happening again, build a memorial, maybe make it a national holiday, and let it go."