Sarah Ferguson Was Supposed to Be on the 101st Floor of the World Trade Center the Morning of September 11, 2001

New York City traffic, of all things, potentially saved her life.

Sarah Ferguson at an appearance
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The royal family landscape of today could look very different were it not for New York City traffic.

On September 11, 2001, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, was in the city on business, and began that Tuesday 22 years ago being interviewed at NBC Studios by Matt Lauer, who was then on Today. She was then scheduled to attend a meeting with her charity, Chances for Children, shortly thereafter. 

Sarah Ferguson at the Queen's funeral

(Image credit: Getty)

Her second appointment of the day was at the organization’s office on the 101st floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. However, after leaving NBC Studios, Fergie got caught in traffic, which meant she was due to arrive 20 minutes late for the meeting—“and it saved her life,” The Mirror reports. “The delay meant she wasn’t in the tower when the plane hit [at] 8:46 a.m.”

Fergie has spoken about her near-death experience and has said it made her determined to make the most out of her life. “I take every minute as a blessing,” she told Hello. “I really do, and I really work hard at it. Because the minute you look too far forward, then you’re missing now. The minute you look back, you can’t go back. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.” 

Sarah Ferguson

(Image credit: Getty)

Thankfully, no one from Chances for Children died in the attack, but 700 employees from financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald—which rented part of their office to the charity—were killed.

Before September 11, Fergie had designed a new mascot for the charity, a rag doll she called Little Red, complete with red hair and an orange and white dress. The original doll was sitting on her desk in the office when the attack occurred. After the attack, as she watched footage on television of the collapsed North Tower, she spotted the little doll amidst the rubble. “When it came on TV, I looked and saw Little Red, and the presenter said, ‘Oh look, there’s a child’s doll!’ and I immediately called up the presenter and said please, don’t worry,” Fergie told the BBC in 2014. “Because I was so worried they would think that a child was lost or buried in the rubble. So I said no, it’s not a child’s doll, it’s Little Red, and she is a symbol for Chances for Children.” Little Red is now a part of the September 11 memorial exhibit at Ground Zero.

Sarah Ferguson on a red carpet

(Image credit: Getty)

Fergie’s ex-husband Prince Andrew was flying himself at the time—he from the U.K. to Atlanta—but, like all flights that day, his plane was turned back. He spoke of the moment he heard about the attacks, knowing Fergie was due to be in the building: “It was difficult to remain calm when I had to sit in the plane unable to communicate with New York, knowing Sarah had an office in the World Trade Center and was in New York at the time,” he said in 2006. “I had some small insight into the anguish many families were suffering that day.”

And it is those families we are thinking of today, 22 years on from one of the worst days in American history. We remember.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.