CHICAGO - Leigh Gilmore, whose dramatic escape from a New York hotel during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was told in a September television documentary, leading to a poignant reunion with her rescuers, died Saturday of complications from multiple sclerosis, her mother, Faye, said.
Ms. Gilmore, 50, was diagnosed with the disease 20 years ago and for several years had been getting around with a wheelchair. She was in palliative care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital when she died.
In October, Ms. Gilmore and her mother met Arnulfo Ponce and Gregory Frederick for the first time since their paths crossed in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Gilmores were staying at the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel, in the shadow of the twin towers. When the planes hit, they were trapped in the hotel's dark and smoky fifth floor, Ms. Gilmore in her wheelchair, her mother refusing to leave her side.
They were saved by happenstance.
Ponce, the chief building engineer, had been called the day before because of a broken shower grab bar in the Gilmores' room. He told his colleague Frederick about the woman in the wheelchair, suggesting he check in on her.
Amid the chaos, Frederick made his way to the fifth floor and got them out of the building, just as the south tower collapsed on the hotel. Everyone was separated, Ms. Gilmore and her mother reconnecting hours later.
The two hotel workers spent years wondering what happened to the two women. In September, Frederick saw the women on the History Channel documentary called "Hotel Ground Zero."
A quickly arranged reunion took place in October at Faye Gilmore's home in Chicago.
"She was just thrilled to see them. It was a joyous thing," her mother said.
Ms. Gilmore's experience in New York added fresh spark to her advocacy work on behalf of the physically challenged, said her friend Maureen Linehan Howard, who also has multiple sclerosis.
For many years, Ms. Gilmore was active with the Greater Illinois Chapter of the North American Multiple Sclerosis Society. Her testimony before the Chicago City Council in 1999 helped get an ordinance passed that requires a certain percentage of taxicabs to be wheelchair accessible, Howard said.
Born in Australia, Ms. Gilmore grew up in Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines as the family followed the career of her late father, Harry, an executive with Amoco.