203: The Long Shadow: What if you were on the 68th floor?

“It’s not like there was time to ponder your fate…you just thought, we’re powerless to get out of the building….This is it.”


Producers: Whit Missildine

Episode Summary: A Port Authority employee narrowly escapes from the 68th floor after a plane hits the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, but the most devastating impact comes from the psychological wounds that haunt her life for decades after. 

Today's episode featured Kayla Bergeron. In addition to serving as chief of public and government affairs for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Kayla has also served in senior roles for the New York State Housing Finance Agency and South Florida Water Management District, the lead agency restoring America's Everglades. 

Kayla currently resides in Suwanne, Georgia and serves as Program Director, and as a Certified Peer Support Specialist -Addictive Disease (C.P.S.- A.D.), for The Connection Forsyth, a 501c3 non profit recovery community organization, based in Cumming, Georgia. Kayla works as a social media consultant for Special Equestrians of Georgia, in Milton, Georgia, also a 501c3 non profit, where she participates in equine-assisted therapy.

Kayla recently started a gofundme for Special Equestrians of Georgia, where she receives equine-assisted therapy for PTSD. Last year, Special Equestrians of Georgia (SEG), based in Milton, GA, had to close down its hippotherapy program due to COVID-19 and safety concerns. As a result, many of the horses had to be rehomed. Currently, SEG provides equine-assisted therapy for teens and adults with mental health challenges, including depression, PTSD, anxiety and trauma. With COVID-19 Delta variant hovering, Special Equestrians of Georgia may be forced to shut down its doors -- for good. It costs approximately $3,000 to fund the program, which includes feeding and special dietary needs, farrier, veterinarian, medicine and facility maintenance. Please help by donating to Special Equestrians of Georgia.

This episode is part of a special, four-part series called The Long Shadow. Twenty Years after the attacks of September 11th changed the world as we knew it, this month the This Is Actually Happening podcast dives deep into the stories of four survivors whose jobs brought them face to face with the unthinkable. For those called to manage an impossible tragedy up close, the events of September 11th represented a uniquely horrifying challenge. Among the harrowing details of that day, we explore the long shadows of trauma and resilience that continue to inform the looming uncertainties that remain with us today.


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Content/Trigger Warnings: violence, sexual assault, injury, terrorism, mention of suicide, alcoholism, addiction, mental illness explicit language


Intro Music: "Illabye" – Tipper

Music and Sound Design by: Marcelino Villalpando



If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of trauma or mental illness, please refer to the following resources.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 

National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264

National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN): 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Crisis Text Line: Within the US, text HOME to 741741

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