Five years ago today, CSU sophomore Kim Horstmann rushed home from her New Jersey high school to watch the death of her older sister, live, on national television.
She watched the second plane glide across the screen and explode into the tower.
“That’s my sister dying right there,” said Horstmann, a food science and nutrition major. “That’s it.”
Her older sister, Allison Horstmann Jones, spoke to her parents on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the north World Trade Center tower. She had been on the 104th floor in the South Tower and planned on fleeing.
“The last thing she said was, ‘I’m going to get out of here,'” Horstmann said.
No one in the Horstmann family, including her husband Harry Jones, would hear from the 31-year-old again.
Watching the events on TV was dreamlike for the then-14-year-old Horstmann. She and her family watched the two towers burn, grasping onto hope that Jones had made it out in time.
“We were all just sitting on the couch and our pastor came over, and we saw the second plane hit the tower,” Horstmann said. “It was crazy. It was just so surreal. I thought, ‘She can get down, it’s not that far up.'”
Jones didn’t call.
The family went on their own search mission, traveling the streets of New York City and posting dozens of “missing” placards.
They visited every hospital in the city the following Friday, Horstmann said.
She found herself in the streets of a smoke-dense city – a dark perversion of a place that once served as a family retreat during the Christmas holiday and other special occasions.
“There were thousands of signs everywhere, just on billboards and in subways. It was really sad because you would hope for the other family that they would find their missing person, too,” Horstmann said. “You could smell the smoke and everything from the towers that were still burning. When New York is ugly, it’s dark and dingy.”
Horstmann, 19, is the youngest of five children; she is the last child in a 17-year age gap among the siblings.
“She was the oldest of all of and us and was a great leader,” sister Jenny Horstmann, 27, said from her Boston home.
“We were friends; we were just getting closer. I always looked up to her,” Horstmann said.
Jones graduated from Colorado-Boulder with an MBA degree that landed her a job as a vice president in institutional sales for a company specializing in bank stocks.
She was her father’s prodigy: the only one of the five children who decided to follow their father’s career in the business of stocks and bonds. It was something he secretly wanted all his children to get into.
An outdoors lover and athlete, Jones was one week away from competing in a triathlon before her death.
In April 2003, investigators found Jones’ femur bone. DNA from her hairbrush and toothbrush from her New York apartment matched that from the femur.
Before, the Horstmanns had no proof Allison had died.
“You don’t see it, it’s not normal. You don’t have evidence of someone dying,” Horstmann said, looking away. She paused and her eyes began to swell.
The anniversaries of Sept. 11, 2001, are hard for Horstmann. She says she is trying to live her life with the memory of her sister, dealing with it almost daily.
“I don’t know why, but I put a lot of blame on myself. I felt guilty and it was just something that came with what happened,” Horstmann said. “I still have dreams that she’s in them; I think it is pretty cool actually.”
With nearly two years of therapy, Horstmann does not have specific plans today. She will not go to Ground Zero this year, as she has in the past. It is an ominous anniversary, she says, that comes and goes, emotions all over the place.
“Going down to Ground Zero and the memorial services, you just couldn’t pinch the silence. There isn’t anything more you can say,” she said.
Her sister, Jenny, agreed that going back to New York would be too hard.
“The first three years we went down to Ground Zero and it was just so shocking,” she said. Instead she will do something that will remind her more about how her sister lived, not how she died. “I try to do things outdoors, to do something that she liked to do.”
For Horstmann, Colorado and the outdoors evoke strong memories of her sister.
“The reason I came to Colorado for school is because this place reminds me of her. She loved Colorado,” Horstmann said. “I have Jersey pride and everything, but I’m not going to end up there.”
A food science and nutrition major, Horstmann’s dream job would be working in New York City.
Lutheran and confirmed, Kim Horstmann used to pray every night after her sister’s death, crying herself to sleep. Then there came a period in her life where she questioned God.
“I was angry that God could do something like that,” she said.
That anti-religious phase soon left her psyche and she maintains her moderate religious views today.
Family and friends agree Horstmann is the spitting image of her older sister, something Kim describes as one of the creepiest things after Allison’s death. It is the images of an easy-going, boxers-wearing sister that Kim wants to keep alive, five years later.
“I have a terrible memory, but I can remember every part of the year before when I hung out with her,” Horstmann said. “She’s my sister and I won’t forget her.”
Staff writer James Baetke can be reached at email@example.com.