NEW YORK – It seemed like just another Tuesday to Karen Caycedo when she went to work at the Children’s Discovery Day Care Center at 5 World Trade.
Little did she know, an act of terror would ingrain that date in the minds of millions of Americans.
“I had kids at my table,” Caycedo told WPIX. “I was by myself in the room.”
Suddenly, a plane struck one of the Twin Towers.
“I felt like the Earth was coming down on us,” she said.
Immediately, she knew she had to get all the children to a safe spot.
Many of the older children created a chain by holding hands and calmly walking out of the building while Caycedo carried the younger children.
“It was exhausting trying to carry and finding our way to safety. And I saw shopping carts lined up and I just grabbed them and we all put them in and we just headed away,” she said.
Amazingly, every child survived the terrorist attack and made it safely to a school on the city’s Lower East side.
Caycedo made sure every child was asleep before breaking down.
While she knew all the kids were safely sleeping, their parents did not.
Cell phone towers were overloaded, so there was no way to alert the kids’ parents to their location.
Art Chang and his wife, Allison, were frantically trying to find their 16-month-old son, Ben, who was a student at the daycare.
“On the one hand, I’m thinking about the worst that could happen,” he said. “On the other hand, I felt so confident that they would have given their lives for Ben and so knowing that, you know, I had a lot of hope that he would come out of the day okay.”
Hours later, Chang was told that his son was alive and well.
“All the kids were lying in their cots with their blankets, taking their nap as if nothing had gone wrong,” Chang said. “And we just sat in this dark room and listened to the kids breathe and just have this experience of being together and feeling alive.
Caycedo and the Chang family stayed in touch through social media but have not seen each other face-to-face for 14 years.
Ben Chang is now a teenager.
Just days before the anniversary of the attack, WPIX brought them together.
“In so many ways, our lives were saved because of you,” Caycedo told Ben. “Because you gave us the strength to get you home.”
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