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Honoring Denease Conley: A true 9/11 hero caught on camera

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Posted at 2:00 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 19:32:29-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Denease Conley was already off work at the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked. But knowing people inside the building needed help, she went back.

Now, 20 years later, KSHB 41 News is sharing the story of her final moments of heroism through her family, a New York journalist and the footage he captured.

In the days after the terrorist attack, KSHB 41 News sat down with Conley’s seven siblings as they talked, laughed, cried and wondered what happened that day.

“I do know she was probably helping people in the building to get out," Barbara Haynes Jenkins said at the time.

Twenty years later, there is video proof that Conley was assisting firefighters going inside the tower.

Jack Taliercio was a New York City journalist rushing to capture video after the first plane crash. Another security guard asked him to leave the area, so Taliercio said he "followed him back through building four. Denease closed the door behind me.”

There are 22 seconds of video of Conley, standing at the door and holding it for several firefighters as they entered the tower she worked at.

“Knowing that she helped so many people, I was not surprised. But I think now with this 20th anniversary, it just makes me want to fight more to keep her memory alive and let people know about her and what she did. Even if the world doesn’t know who she is, that is the last selfless act and I always want to bring notice to that because she deserves it," said Conley's niece, DaVena Price Faraj.

Those seconds shine a light on how selfless the Kansas City native was during a national tragedy.

Three years later, Jenkins got married on Sept. 11, which is her husband’s birthday.

This year, the whole extended family is coming together for a reception, to take part in the Mount Moriah memorial, enjoy an anniversary party and a big barbecue for fellowship and fun.

It’s a way to make the most of their time together on a day forever changed for them and the country.

"Time is something that we take for granted. We’re always in such a hurry to get here, to get there, and sometimes you miss things and you don’t miss them until they’re not here," Faraj said.