BALD KNOB, Ark.—Twenty years ago, on September 11, 2001, one Arkansas woman who was determined to make it big in New York City, walked into work for the very last time.

Malissa White worked on the 99th floor of the North Tower in the World Trade Center, making a living working for an insurance brokerage.

“We never thought she’d move to the city because she was a country girl,” Sylvia Ball, Malissa’s sister said. Ball still lives in Arkansas.

The two—just the 17 months apart—remained close after the move to New York City and talked every day over the phone.

“She always wanted me to visit New York and I never did until after 9/11,” said Ball.

Ball says she was teaching on September 11, 2001 when she heard the news that a plane hit the World Trade Center.

“I was praying that she didn’t go to work that day but we found out later that she had gone to work.” Said Ball.

Ball says their family spent days searching New York City hospitals and waiting for the phone to ring.

Several days following the terrorist attack, Ball says authorities told her that her sister died instantly.

“It actually feels like yesterday. It’s like an open wound that never heals,” said Ball.

Sylvia has spent the last two decades in the days before 9/11 teaching her fifth-graders about the significance of this day and the legacy her sister lives behind.

“They see the memorial plaque outside of our school building and they know that it honors my sister,” said Ball.

Usually, the family goes to Ground Zero for the anniversary, however, with an ongoing pandemic, they’ve decided to stay in Arkansas.