Tuesday, September 13

Memories of 9/11

On the corner of 7th avenue and 11th street sits a very organic memorial to 9/11 victims, New York and the U.S. as whole. Hand painted pictures of hearts, the towers, doves and iconic slogans like “United We Stand” adorn tiles that cover the majority of fenced lot . Saturday and Sunday volunteers handed tiles to passing pedestrians inviting anyone who wished to hang one.

Amongst the volunteers was Frank Crapanzano, 77 years old and a resident of Greenwich Village for the past 47 years. A self-described “creature-of-habit” Frank recalls that on this day ten years ago he began his day like any other. “Every day I go across the street. There’s a Korean Deli and I grab the New York Times and a banana.”  Crossing 7th avenue Frank remembers he saw smoke coming from the World Trade Center but thought little of it. “ I was naive, it didn’t look intense then, in retrospect it probably was,” he recalls.

“From 9/11 on everything changed instantly. My life and everyone else’s life; People’s consciousness was raised.” Crapanzano continues. “ Within tragedy they always say that there is a gift, and that was the gift, it put everyone together.”

Sometime after September 11th an old friend invited Frank to be part of a volunteer group that would go down to ground zero and support the efforts of firemen, police officers and other volunteers by becoming servers at a diner that stayed open 24hours a day and provided meals to those who wanted them. “Generators kept the place running. I took a shift from 4pm till 12 at night I worked. Brooke Shields came down, Candice Bergen,” he reflects.

“It was the most bizarre, surreal, but interesting thing I‘d ever done in my life cuz’ I met firemen from all over the world, policemen and volunteers, and there was a feeling I had not experienced since World War II. A feeling of unity, you don’t feel that now. Everyone spoke to everyone,” here Crapanzano pauses, a small smile crosses his face.

“In New York we’re so trendy, 9/11 is old hat...It’s not for the people who lost people and it never will be. I’m not trying to be negative ya know’. Look at the media; the hurricane was on for five days. It was like the whole world disappeared, what about now? No one cares all those people that got flooded out. It’s like NEXT! Give me the next story; but that’s the way New York is. “

“New Yorkers are so resilient. I mean we have had our share of everything and we just go on...If you can’t take it then don’t stay here this is not a place to relax, this is a place where you learn how to deal and that line from “New York New York “ ‘If I can make it here I can make it anywhere’ is absolutely truth; it means if you can survive here you can survive anywhere in the world because New York is a litmus test everyday,” Frank concludes. 

Monday, September 12

September 11th Interview

Michael Carroll is the type of hero everyone likes to learn about.  A lawyer in downtown Manhattan, Carroll answered questions about his experience of the collapsing towers, risking his life in an effort to find his brother.  With no obligation to put his life at risk, and a wife and three kids at home, Carroll crossed the police lines into a village of destruction.

1.    What is your name?
Michael Carroll
2.    What do you do for a living?
I am a lawyer in downtown Manhattan.
3.    Where in Manhattan is that in relation to the World Trade Centers?
My office is about 5 blocks from where the World Trade Centers were.
4.     What were you doing when the first plane hit?
I was on the metro north train to work at the 125st station when I heard that the plane struck the towers.  I could see the black smoke billowing from that far away.
5.    What was your immediate reaction when you found out what happened?
I was very worried about my brother Pat who is a Port Authority cop and was working at the World Trade Centers.
6.    How did you plan to help out?
By the time I had reached Grand Central the second tower had been struck and I realized it was an attack.  I took the #4 train downtown and there were huge delays.  I told the passengers on the train what had happened and the minute I reached City Hall I began running to the World Trade Centers.
7.    How far from the towers did you get before you hit debris?
Within two blocks I heard a massive noise that I felt could only be caused by one of the towers collapsing (because I couldn’t see through all the debris) and I ran to Church Street where I was stuck by a wave of ash.  When it was cleared, both towers were gone, the 1st having collapsed while I was on the subway.  I helped some injured firefighters back to their firehouse on Duane Street and then made my way by foot to where the towers had fallen.  Although the police blocked it, I snuck through in the midst of all the confusion.
8.    What did you see/hear/smell/taste when you got to the scene?
I don’t recall the smell, a very fine ash filled the air, and there was so much of it that I was surprised I could breath without coughing.  It was very loud and the flames coming out of all the windows on 5 WTC sounded as loud as a train.  There was also a constant noise that sounded like gunfire; I still don’t know what was causing that noise.
9.    Was it hard to stay and be witness to such wreckage?
It was hard because I was concerned that my brother Pat might be trapped.  No one was present when I got to the corner of Vesye and Church Street.  5 WTC was where the Port Authority police station was.  It was on fire from the 3rd floor up but hadn’t yet collapsed.  I ran in and down to the station.  It was partially wrecked, and I yelled if anyone was trapped, but no one replied.  I ran back not even thinking that the building might come down on me. 
10. How did you keep from panicking when you came upon the destruction?
I didn’t even have time to panic.  Like I said, I was so concentrated on finding my brother that it didn’t occur to me that the building could have collapsed on top of me.
11. What did you do after you left the Port Authority building?
After I went into the police station to find my brother, I ran back outside and used soda from a hot dog stand to try and put out a fire truck that was burning.  A wheel and landing gear from one of the planes had crushed a police car next to me.  A fireman showed up and we began breaking the windows of police vehicles looking for dead or wounded police officers.  You couldn’t see through the windows because burning jet fuel had scorched them.  More firemen showed up and I helped run fire hoses.  We had to break into a police emergency truck so that we could get the equipment.  Eventually I came across a Port Authority Police commander and he told me that my brother wasn’t on duty that morning.  I asked how many men he lost and he said none, that they would have pulled, back before the collapse.  If only that were true.  A few firemen were guarding a body that was in the street.  A jacket, covered its head at the time I did not know it was father Michael Judge, who I had known.  His body was dropped there when the second tower began to fall.  The fireman took him up the block to Saint Paul’s church.
12. How has September 11th directly affected you or your family?
My brother Pat ended up being one of those directing the rescue effort that day.  He was brought up before a televised joint session of Congress and thanked by the President for his efforts.  He lost a lot that day, his whole village really.


Elizabeth Verrochio, 54, will never forget 9/11.  Verrochio, resident of the East Village for more than two decades, had just arrived to work in SoHo when she heard the plane flying low overhead. 
“There have been few moments in my life when I can really say I was afraid,” said Verrochio. “But when 9/11 happened, I was afraid for myself, I was afraid for my family, and I was afraid for this country.  None of us knew what was going on.”
Verrochio was born and raised in Boston, and most of her family lived in New Haven, Connecticut during the time of the attacks.  No one in her family, however, was in lower Manhattan at the time. 
Yet, ten years later she continues to relive the fear she felt as the buildings fell to their destruction just blocks from her.  Verrochio feels that she was changed by her experience.
            “I have bad dreams all the time,” said Verrochio.  “I still do.  Most of them have nothing to do with what happened on 9/11.  But I know I never used to feel anxiety the way I feel it now.”
            Verrochio’s life has changed considerably in the past decade.  She no longer works as a graphic designer, but instead invested her savings into a private yoga studio in Fort Green, Brooklyn.  Today she teaches classes three days a week and rents the space out during the time she is not there.  She finds that yoga keeps her balanced and relaxed.  She had practices yoga prior to 9/11, but her enthusiasm grew in the years following the attacks.
            “I think that New Yorkers were affected differently than the rest of the country,” said Verrochio.  “I know, for me, it put certain things in perspective.  Like that I didn’t want to be working in graphic design.”
            Verrochio is content with the changes she made in her life. Yet she is almost certain that she will never leave the city.  Like two people who together experience something profoundly intimate and life changing, Verrochio feels that she is bound to the city.  New York has become an integral part of her identity because of 9/11. 
            “…I wonder what I would be doing with my life had 9/11 never happened,” said Verrochio.  “Maybe I’d still be working downtown here in the city.  Maybe I wouldn’t even be here.”  


Dearborn, MI hosts the distinction of being known to many as the Arab American capital of the United States. Despite a substantial presence in the greater Detroit area for more than 8 decades, Arab Americans in Dearborn found themselves a focus like never before, post 9/11. I spoke to Betty Brown,87,  a soft spoken, lifelong midwesterner and resident of Dearborn, MI(her drawl is so classic Midwestern that she pronounces Dearborn 'Dearburnn'.)We spoke about how Dearborn was affected on that day, how it has been in the years that have passed, and how it may be shaped in the future.

"The morning was my same routine: Wake up, work in the garden for 45 minutes to an hour, and head to church. This was actually a similar routine to when I heard about the Pearl Harbor attacks, the same kind of unassuming morning. In this case, my friend had called me about the first plane striking the Towers,and she just simply said: 'I can't go anymore'. Honestly, I thought it was a hot shot pilot who had made a huge mistake."

Brown lives right behind Dearborn High School, and she tells me it was the sudden crowds outpouring from the school gymnasium doors that alerted her: "I have to say, watching those kids, I had memories from the WWI days, when children were told to save their chewing gum wrappers so people could use the aluminum to make weapons. I was very worried about everything."

Betty Brown soon went for a drive with her daughter. They saw students huddled in groups(she would learn later that teachers told students to go straight home. Do not go to your friends house. But who did not reach out for someone at that time?), crowds of people in East Dearborn crying, others going about their business but numb. "I can remember prayer services being organized almost immediately. It was one of the only times I didn't care what I prayed. I didn't even care about what language. I just wanted to pray something(italics mine).

This same area would have national attention thrust upon them, good and bad. Only five days after 9/11, the FBI would raid a house in Detroit and arrest four men on terrorism-related charges(According to the Houston News, this was the first major terrorism trial post-9/11). 'Sportscenter' was rumored to have a done a special about the DHS football team. The Arab American National Museum was unveiled in 2005. Recently, Dearborn has come into the news yet again: "A lot of us remember that pastor(Terry Jones) from Florida who came to burn the Qur'an  on the steps of a mosque in Dearborn". (Or Newt Gingrich, who recently called the city of Dearborn a victim of 'Radical Islamism'). "It was good to see so many people come out to protest. People of so many different faiths.Dearborn will not be intimidated by Islamophobia". Some Arab Americans continue to see Dearborn as the best place to be, others one of the worst.

I ask if  she thinks things have improved in the decade that has passed, or if the decade of increased attention on Dearborn will be assuaged. "I don't know yet", she said. "It's easier to see the starts than the finishes, right?"

Sunday, September 11

9/11 Interview

When I called Frank Nunez, a former Jersey City firefighter who was a teacher and coach of mine, he was hesitant to answer questions about his 9/11 experiences. Here is the story he was willing to share.

Nunez worked shifts in a 48-hour span, and had worked from Sunday night until Tuesday morning. Every Tuesday at 5am, he would meet at the same diner with his father, a fellow firefighter who was about to start his 48-hour shift. After breakfast, he returned to his Jersey City apartment, closed the blinds, and went to bed as the sun rose. Around noon that Tuesday, he awoke to 15 voicemails, calls from family, friends, and his fellow firefighters.

“It was a sort of ‘call to arms’,” explained Nunez, who wasn’t even twenty-four at the time. “They needed all the help they could. I went down to a park right by my house with a clear view of the New York skyline. The skyline was covered with smoke, billowing out of the towers.” He couldn’t recall the specific images, calling them a ‘mish-mash’ of emotions and memories, but was overwhelmed by the amount of people coming together to witness this view from the park.

Nunez went to work shortly after, and assisted throughout the entire search and rescue process. While he was trying to describe some of the things he saw, he kept reiterating that everything was “hot, smoldering, and covered in soot.”

When I asked for more specifics as to some of the things that stuck out in his memory, he became very quiet, and didn’t speak for a few minutes.  I tried to return to the question later, but he stated that he didn’t feel like talking about the things he saw.  “Nobody should deal with what we did,” he said, and didn’t care to get into any further detail.

Shaken up by 9/11, Nunez went back to school to become a teacher, and is still a math teacher and varsity coach at Madison High School in New Jersey.  He said that he still feels “pangs of anger and sadness around the day”, but said that every day makes things a little better.

A Child, Changed

Eleven-year-old Sophia was in art class at Convent of the Sacred Heart when news of a terrorist attack arrived. That day’s lesson was on creating an enlarged version of a photograph by drawing a grid and replicating images within each box. She had chosen a picturesque photo of an entrance to Central Park.
A little after nine o’clock, the headmaster ran in and whispered to the teacher, whose face turned to panic. The girls were told to stop working and walk single file to the 2nd floor chapel. Once inside, the girls in grades 4-12 were informed of the attack on the World Trade Center.
“My dad was a commodities trader at the time, so there was a possibility that he may have been down there. Everyone around me freaked out and started crying and asking about how we would get in touch with our parents. Many of the girls had fathers who worked in the building. Anyone who needed to make contact was immediately taken to a private room with a phone,” Sophia says.
Sophia’s father, deciding to work from home that day, was safe in their Upper West Side home. The students were separated into grades and taken into rooms to watch movies until their parents were able to pick them up. Sophia was halfway through “Sister Act” when her dad arrived.
Walking out onto Madison Avenue, Sophia witnessed a line outside Lenox Hill of eager blood donors. Many had come to help even before returning ambulances had made it uptown.
“The city was still except for the sounds of ambulances in the distance. I walked by some parents discussing the eeriness of the symbolic date. I remember how freaked out I got when I put two and two together and recognized today’s date as the emergency number I had been taught to dial.”
Once home, Sophia ran to the window and stared out at the giant black cloud in the sky. “I felt like I stood there forever. It was incredibly surreal and didn’t make sense until my dad sat down with me on the sofa, held my hand, and turned on the TV,” she says.
When she saw videos of men and women jumping from the towers, Sophia started crying. Her father quickly sent her to her room, where she sat and listened through the door to her parents’ frantic phone calls.
That afternoon, Sophia’s mother took her to see one of her best friends who had made it home safely from the World Trade Centers.
“ We were sitting in her kitchen when my mom’s best friend came out from her shower and threw her debris-covered clothing in a bag. I reached out to touch it out of impulse, but my mother suddenly jerked me away. Stupidly, I asked her why she didn’t want to keep it as a souvenir. It was a stupid question, but I was so curious,” said Sophia.
“This contains the ashes of people. Nobody wants that memory,” she replied.
The rest of that night, Sophia sat in her room, watching recorded television, and looking out to see black smoke dominate the Southern skyline.
Ten years later, Sophia remembers that day’s impact, saying, “ It really hardened me as a kid. For a long time afterwards, I didn’t really feel the same. It forced me to grow up and recognize the presence of evil in the world. If growing up in New York had allowed me the chance to be carefree, my world view was, on that day, grayed out.”

New Yorker 9/11 Interviews

The New Yorker has a number of interviews with New Yorker contributors on how their lives and work were changed by the September 11th attacks. I found the interviews similar to our assignment for this past week. Linked above.


Cindy Kong tells me that her first reaction when hearing that a plane had hit the World Trade Center was shock. “I never even thought that could happen. One building and then both buildings.”
September 11, 2001 her coworkers were all watching the news on their computers. Several people were on the phone with loved ones. Cindy’s first reaction, like many others’ on that day, was to call her spouse, a pastor at a church in Chinatown at the time. After being unable to reach Ben, she contacted the church and was told that Ben’s train had been stopped on 42nd street and that he was headed back home. Before leaving work to pick up her two sons, ages one and four, Cindy watched the first tower fall on the television in the lobby of Columbia University’s business building.
Accompanied by a colleague unable to return to her home in New Jersey, she walked to the daycare and found that inside “it was like nothing was different…They were all getting ready for their nap. The lights were off. It was really quiet and they were oblivious.” She recollects how it was clear that all the teachers and parents were thinking about the morning’s events, but no one wanted to talk about it in front of the children.
That day was the first time Cindy “really felt scared. Scared about security.” She stresses the word “ever” when telling me emphatically that “having been born here and grew up here, I never ever thought about there being war here or there being something bad that could happen.”
September 12, for many New Yorkers, was the uneasy first day of the resumption of their lives. Cindy and Ben stayed at home and accepted an invitation from other parents at the daycare to go to Central Park for a play date. While the parents exchanged their stories, in the background to the south were distinguishable plumes of smoke. Cindy recollects how one dad cried when remembering his clear view of the World Trade Center from his office in the Metlife building.
This past Thursday, September 8, 2011, while watching “Big Brother” with her husband and now eleven-year-old son Evan she felt a flash of her fear from ten years ago when the words “Breaking News” interrupted the program. After watching Mayor Bloomberg speak about the upcoming weekend and the heightened security alert, Evan began to feel nervous. Cindy tried to answer his questions and reassure him. “I was trying to explain to him, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll protect you no matter what and God will protect you no matter what.’” She admits to me that, “I think when it’s this real, sometimes that’s not good enough.”
She continues to hold on to two things she discovered as a result of 9/11. One, that the law enforcement and fire department has a “core good that you hope these professionals go into” these situations with. Two, that “when bad things happen [New York] can really pull together and that is something I think is remarkable.”

Links of Interest(Vol. 2)

Interview with John Avlon:"John Avlon, then the chief speechwriter for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, led the group that spent the weeks after 9/11 writing eulogies for each fallen fireman and police officer, giving him the "dark distinction of probably writing more eulogies than anyone else alive."


'Why We Haven't Seen a Great 9/11 Novel'


'Pigeon Portraiture'


'In Oral History, Candid Talk By Young Kennedy Widow'(An oral history is scheduled to be released Wednesday, 47 years after Jacqueline Kennedy spoke with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.)


'After September 11, Our State of Exception'


An Unforgettable Day

A tall, slender man stops in the middle of his tracks due to a crowd of people blocking the middle of 14th street. He looks around to see what all the commotion is about, wondering why he can’t make it to the corner of 6th avenue. Suddenly, a unison group of voices begin to belt notes that although are gentle, could be heard from the end of 7th avenue, possibly further. Then, he remembers.

It’s a gloomy afternoon in Greenwich Village as today marks the 10-year anniversary when tragedy unexpectedly hit the city. To commemorate all of the lives that were lost, The Salvation Army New York Staff Band, perform outside of the Centennial Memorial Temple, which unconsciously causes one to look up at the top of the building, just like the Twin Towers once did. But in 2001, the former tallest buildings of the world, a part of the World Trade Center, were struck by planes.

"I was sitting in my U.S. history class talking to my friend sitting next to me when my teacher suddenly tells us to stop working," Alex Johnson, 27, said. He continues, "It took her a few seconds before she could tell us that she just received an e-mail from our principal, but wouldn't tell us what it was about, just that an announcement will be made in a few minutes."

At the time, Johnson was a third year student at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts when American history was changed. He and his classmates started talking amongst each other wondering what the announcement may be. The school year had just begun, so the only things the juniors were able to assume what the announcement may be about concerned with either football or the school dance. Finally, the PA system is turned on, and the school's principal began to speak.

"I remember the words that echoed throughout the school, 'Today, at approximately 9 in the morning, the Twin Towers were unexpectedly struck by planes,' and the whole class fell silent," Johnson adds, "But I kept asking myself why did this happen?"

Since the announcement did not go into any details, the class began speculating why the buildings may have gotten struck. "Some were saying that maybe the plane ran out of gas and was descending so fast that it didn't have time to move and avoid the towers," Johnson laughs.

It was not until Johnson was picked up by his mother at noon that he found out the real reason. "My mom embraced me really hard and asked me if I was okay, but I didn't answer her and just asked what happen," Johnson adds, "Her voice was kind of shaking when she said it was a terrorist attack."

Johnson and his mother arrived at their Queens apartment an hour later, and the first thing he did was turn on his television and put it on CNN. "I was sitting on my couched glued to the TV for hours, with my dad later joining when he got home from work," Johnson said. Although it was a tragic moment, for the first time in years, the event allowed his family to come together.

After 15 minutes, Johnson slightly bows his head towards the staff band, and finally makes his way through 14th street to reach 6th Avenue as he hums the hymn. He crosses the street, as the voices start to fade the farther he walks. But Johnson, will continue to have the hymn stuck in his head probably for another few minutes or hours, maybe even days or for the rest of his life.

9/11 From Across the Hudson

Outside my morning art class, back in 5th grade, a group of teachers met to discuss the 9/11 attacks that had just transpired. Naturally, as young children we had no idea what was going on. However, when art class ended, and after we headed back to our main classroom, the teacher sat us down on the carpet and explained what had happened. My first thought was my Dad as I remembered him pointing out the beautiful view of the Twin Towers from his office window. I had the feeling he was all right, but I made a point of going to the main office to call and make sure. When I arrived, as saw many other students doing the same. He was fine. On the ten year anniversary, I am 20 years old and curious about my Dad’s experience on that fateful day.

Where were you the minutes leading up to the first plane that hit the Twin Towers?

I was working down by Harborside in Jersey City on the 24th floor of the building. My office had a perfect view of the towers but I was in an internal conference room without windows for a meeting as it was happening. During the meeting my collegues and I heard some commotion. We didn't understand what was going on until one of the secretaries came in and told use the World Trade Center had been hit. Ironically, I could have watched the whole thing unfold from by office but I was in the conference room very close by.

What'd you think had happened?

It's interesting, even though I haven’t been a New Yorker all my life, I wasn't focused on the terrorism. I didn't realize the significance of it. I thought it was a smaller plane initially but then hearing reports the magnitude of the situation. After the first, people went back to their business, not really grasping what was going on.  By the time I got back to my office, the two planes had already hit.

What was the atmosphere in the office like, how were people acting?

After the second plane hit, the building was being evacuated and the whole time we had views of the Hudson and what was the World Trade Center skyline. For an hour, everyone was waiting to hear reports. As time went on we started to understand the significance. I remembered that I needed to go back into the building to get my car keys; I went in with a few coworkers, one of whom had been at the 93' World Trade Center attack. He was very emotionally attached to the situation. He understood that lives were being lost at that very second. Since we couldn't leave, we were able to watch the two buildings go down. A lawyer our company had been working with screamed as this happened because she didn't know where her husband. Fortunately, he was fine.

There wasn't a lot of panic, most people wanted to figure out how they could get home. We were concerned about other possible attacks. Instead of taking the George Washington Bridge, since we felt it wasn't safe, we went further North to take the Tappan Zee bridge. 

In the following days, what did you notice about the people around you, your fellow New Yorkers?

One thing I felt immediately was that we were all in it together. Everybody was your friend during that time because you had a common enemy. No one was as guarded as usual. It was nice.

September 11th FDNY Lieutenant Remembers Ten Year Later

Christopher Piazza, 55 of Ridgfield Connecticut
Ex-FDNY Lieutenant
Interviewed: September 10, 2011

Irene Lee: This was actually an assignment.  We had to find somebody who witnessed September 11th and interview them.

Chris Piazza: I didn’t witness the planes.  I got down there after the second building collapsed, but we saw number 7 collapse.  But I wasn’t there when the planes hit and I wasn’t there when they fell either.

IL: Okay

CP: We lost a lot of guys from our firehouse and I spent about a month down there.  I was actually supposed to work that day.  The guy who was my mutual partner wanted to switch it and I couldn’t do it because I was going to visit my mom that weekend.  Then my mom called afterwards and said, ‘it’s not a good weekend.’  So I called this guy up and said, ‘you can switch if you want to switch, I can work Sunday night and Monday and you can work Monday night and Tuesday’ and he said, ‘great!’  So I actually went in Sunday and worked Sunday night Monday day, and then Monday night I went home and all these guys came in to relieve us- those were the guys that went the next morning.  We had 16 guys in the house because we had an extra engine at the time and like 14 of those guys died.

IL: Out of 16!

CP: Not the guy that was working for me, he was one of the guys that got out, which is amazing.

IL: That is amazing. 

CP: So I think my mom saved my life, actually. (laughs)  I’m a pretty big guardian angel advocate.  She was mine that day.

IL: I think you’re a great person to interview because you were so involved in it.  You were working right there, so close to the people.

CP: How could I not be involved?  Not even a week before, I think it was five days before, I worked in the firehouse in the shadows of the Trade Center.  I was a lieutenant.  My area was Times Square down to like the Trade Center, or, Battery Park.  That’s the first division and that was where I was assigned.  I worked in Ladder 10, which is right across from the Trade Center.  So I knew a lot of the guys that died.

IL: So, you were there that day?  You came down after you heard about it and then you went down to help out?

CP: There wasn’t very much to do.  There were just a lot of fires, a lot of silence and chaos.  There really wasn’t much in the way of survivors; it was all very quiet. They assigned me to St. Vincent’s Hospital for a little while, to see if I could locate some guys that were missing.  Because some guys, if they got hurt, they’d just jump onto a bus or whatever, and guys weren’t really accounted for.  So I went there and there weren’t many survivors coming in.  They were all geared up for all these survivors to come in and there weren’t really any.  There was so much dust and there weren’t many full bodies, a lot of body parts and a lot of pieces of bodies.  There was just so much debris too, there was like 4 stories of debris. It wasn’t like it was wide open, there were two towers lying on the ground.  It was just this big mountain. I couldn’t believe that those were actually the buildings.  I didn’t know where they all went, compared to the size of those towers when they were standing up, there wasn’t that much to look at when they were lying on the ground.  For such tall buildings, it was just very surreal.

IL: I bet.  How long had you been working as a lieutenant before?

CP: Well, I was a fireman first in Queens and then I got promoted in June of 1999.  I was in Manhattan for 3 years before 9/11, working all over the area.

IL: What did you do after September 11th, I know that a lot of the firefighters had health problems afterwards, was that, or is that a problem for you?

CP: Well, I continued to work, and they were doing all these screenings on the guys, this was after like 3 years.  I had noticed; everybody was having problems breathing.  So we all had to go down for these medical exams.  I had an issue with my lungs. I wasn’t breathing the way they wanted me to.  They give you this chemical that you have to breath in, that judges your lung capacity and how much it decreases.  Mine had a significant decrease after I breathed in the chemical.  They put me out on disability.  I wasn’t really ready for that.  I was going to be a captain.  I was on the list.  A lot of guys had retired with lung issues after that, and many of them continued to get sick.  We actually buried a guy that we worked with just last week, came down with a real funky cancer a few years ago, and he just passed away.  Guys are having a lot of trouble with this.  My condition seems to be stable; I seem to be doing alright.

IL: I hope that continues.  That’s a huge, life changing experience.  How did you cope after it?  It seems almost like a war zone experience, surreal, intense.  How did you master it?

CP: I spent a lot of time with the guys at the firehouse; everyone was working 24-hour shifts.  So we just leaned on each other.  I was in an area where there was a lot of outside support from all over the country and the world.  Every day there was different choir groups, people making crafts, cards and posters, benefits.  They were sending us on trips.  It came to a point that we couldn’t open our doors.  It was just like ‘leave us alone for a little while.’ It never stopped. I worked in a really touristy area.  Meanwhile, a lot of the areas and ghettos that had lost a lot of guys, they didn’t get the same attention.  It was very tough.  We were doing 3 to4 funerals a day.  Sometimes there were 8 to10, but you could just go to the ones that you could get to, because we were stretched so thin.  Usually if one of our guys dies today you get like 10,000 men in uniform.  We didn’t have enough guys to give a proper burial.  Honestly, it was like a big blur.  Everybody was walking around in a fog and disbelief thinking, ‘how could this happen?’ 

IL: How did you do you think American reacted to this, then and now?

CP: I think people are forgetting.  We’re being choked by political correctness, we can’t profile anybody and God forbid that we defend anybody in this country.  I’m not trying to point the finger but when you’re trying to find people that are trying to blow us up it’s usually the Muslims that are doing it.  I’m sure there are many good Muslims, but when you’re looking for someone who’s racketeering and doing organized crime you look towards the Italian guy.  If you’re looking for someone who’s driving drunk you look for the Irish guy.  There are these stereotypes and unfortunately they’re kind of accurate.  Everybody’s afraid of offending everybody.

IL: Especially after that.  Everything got so tense about the racial profiling.

CP: I think that now people forget and I don’t think we’ll be reminded any time soon, but we had a horrible attack on our country.  Unfortunately, much of our enemy is right here among us and they’re American citizens, living in our country.  It’s not like we’re wearing one uniform and they’re wearing the other one, and you can tell who the bad guy is.  The guy that tried to blow up the car in Times Square was an American citizen.  He was married and had had kids, it was unbelievable, it isn’t so much the Muslims, as the Muslim radicals.

IL: What do you think about the new building they’re putting up?  I heard there’s not enough money going into it.

CP: There’s been a lot of stalling, 10 years later and they don’t have something.  There’s so much red tape, and everyone’s so political and politically charged.  They changed the name of it too.  It’s not the freedom tower, people were thinking that you might as well put a big bulls eye on it.  So they changed it to the Trade Center, they can’t get people to move in and I don’t blame them for that.  We just passed a roadblock to check all the trucks, but they can’t check everybody.  It doesn’t even need to be a truck.  You can’t pull over every car and check every truck, and even if you open a truck and it’s full of lettuce so that you can’t see past it, it could be packed with explosives behind, you just can’t tell.  It’s a very tough war to fight.  We have to be right 100% of the time.  They only have to be right once.

IL: So you think this war on terror is still going on?

CP: Absolutely, I don’t think it will ever end.  It’s sad because I think if you took religion out of the equation, that’s what they’re fighting for.  They don’t like our lifestyle but it’s all based on religion.
IL: Which is so bizarre, religion is supposed to be peaceful.  What are you doing for September 11th?

CP: Honestly, I have mixed emotions about what I should do.  They have a piece of steel that they got from 9/11 in my town and they’re dedicating the memorial tomorrow.  So I may be the FDNY representative for that ceremony, I’ve been invited.  Tomorrow morning all this stuff starts at 8am because they want to have it at the time the plane hit, and then what time the buildings fell.  So, I’m not going to be in the city tomorrow.  And I feel like- I’m not a coward, but I am a little wary of what could be down there.  I want to see the memorial, but I don’t want to be there for 9/11.  A couple of times I’ve come close to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I missed it by the grace of God and my mom.  I don’t keep in touch with a lot of the older guys.  The firehouses now are all younger guys.  Some of the older guys come around, but many of them haven’t been there since they retired.  I think I’m just going to keep them in mind, say my prayers, go to the memorial tomorrow.  It’s all very emotional.  Yesterday I was riding my bike and started to think of it and began to cry my eyes out, I was like ‘where did that come from?’ That used to happen a lot after 9/11, it hasn’t happened in a while.

9/11 Interview

One of my good friends is related to the 9/11 attacks in a way unlike many others. She didn’t know anyone who died and she wasn’t in New York City, Washington D.C. or Pennsylvania. Her uncle however, George W. Bush was the President of the United States.
I was 12 years old, in 7th grade when the terrorist attacks took place. I was in my first class of the day--Spanish class. A teacher walked in, and announced a plane crashed into one of the twin towers, my Spanish teacher wouldn't be bothered, and continued on with class. Later in the day, as developments started to unfold, I didn't know what to think. At that age I wasn't aware of how iconic the World Trade Center towers were. My mom took my siblings and I out of class immediately, fearing for our safety. We camped out at home watching the horrible news over and over. A lot of people from school thought I had disappeared to a 'secret location'. I didn't know anyone who was directly affected by the attacks. However, I had family members that were around the area on that day, and felt the brunt of the terror that faced the day.
I didn’t go back to school for about a week but soon it went back to normal. Being in Texas most of the families at my school were not directly affected in terms of losing loved ones. At 12 years old I didn’t really understand what a terrorist attack was but let’s be honest, a lot of America didn't understand. It was initially hard to fathom such hatred especially when a lot of it was directed at my family.
After the 9/11 attacks, threats were made on the extended families safety. Secret service was assigned to each member of my family for about a year after that. My code name was 'trapeze' although I have no idea why. They were reported to us couple of months after the 9/11 attacks. The poor secret service had to post outside of my school all day. When my brother and I would drive to school together in his car, we had a trail of 3 cars following--we looked ridiculous pulling into our schools driveway. My mom always loved it because she always knew we were safe. They were the kind of secret service that blended in they didn't wear all black or anything, so we could all live somewhat normal lives.
The first anniversary I don't really remember what I did. I think I was with my grandparents and most of the family in Houston. It's hard to believe that it was 10 years ago already. I am not sure how I will spend the day but the memory of all the people that lost their lives will be in my thoughts. 

Interview with Lieutenant Christopher Love

Interview with Lieutenant Christopher Love 

September 11, 2011
By Emily Katz

On the tenth anniversary of September 11th, Lieutenant Christopher Love rode the downtown six-subway train to the site of Ground Zero, a trip he takes every year in remembrance. “Everyone comes together on this day,” said Lieutenant Love, “the ten-year mark is the big one, though it seemed like yesterday”.

According to Lieutenant Love, it was a beautiful and sunny day. He was with his fellow firemen at their base in Harlem where they watched on TV as the World Trade Center’s North Tower collapsed into the ground. “When the first tower came down, we knew that we had lost a lot of guys,” said Lieutenant Love. Eager to go downtown to assist with search and rescue, he immediately called the dispatcher who told his brigade to hold back “to protect the rest of Manhattan.”

Lieutenant Love and his brigade were finally able to reach the site of the attack at nine o’clock that night. “If you could picture what hell looks like, that was what it was like at Ground Zero,” he said. Love and his team crawled under debris and even went into the subway system. They found no survivors. He stayed at the site for two straight weeks, and cleaning up the aftermath took a total of four months.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, left Lieutenant Love with psychological scars. “I can’t stay in hotel rooms that are really high up,” he said, “and I can’t look at heavy machinery because they cause the horrifying images of that day to resurface.” The fire department was changed; it lost many of its senior firemen. According to Love, the men in the brigades today are much younger, much less experienced.

A New Yorker from Brooklyn, the Twin Towers were symbolic to Lieutenant Love. He recounts, “When I arrived at the site on that day, I couldn’t even tell where I was because the buildings were gone.” To him, the reconstruction of World Trade Centers is a way of telling the world: you can’t beat us.


As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks nears, scattered memories of that fateful day re-emerge slowly. It seems like everyone has a story, and for former NYPD lieutenant commander Michael Sweeney, the memories are distinct. Sweeney was working undercover on a narcotics case in New York on that warm September day, but when the first plane hit the towers, he was quickly told to make his way to the Financial District. “We were driving down there when the second tower collapsed,” Sweeney recalls. “By the time we got to south of Canal Street, everything was covered in dust. You couldn’t see where the street began and where the buildings used to be; it was just pitch black.” Radio communication within the police force had gone out, and the officers had no idea how many of their own were dead or trapped in the debris.

Sweeney’s team’s first concern was to get the people away from the scene as fast as possible. Power had gone out, and many were now stuck in elevators in the neighborhood with no way of calling for help. “At first we were looking for survivors stuck in various traps,” Sweeney says. “Fairly quickly it turned into a search for bodies and parts of them. We knew that everyone who had been in the WTC towers were gone.” After staying at the scene until four in the morning, Sweeney was told to go home and rest. “I hadn’t actually looked at myself until I got home, and realized that my uniform wasn’t blue anymore. My face was covered in dust, it was as if someone had poured baby powder on me,” he recalls.

Sweeney lived in what he describes as a blue-collar neighborhood – “plenty of cops and firemen with their families.” His neighbor, a firefighter, had been working at the scene of the attacks and his wife hadn’t heard from him all day. Sweeney told her that communication was difficult in Manhattan - at this point, he had no way of knowing that his neighbor had died when the buildings collapsed. Early the next morning, Sweeney was back in the midst of the mess. Standing on top of the bits and pieces that had been two skyscrapers less than 24 hours before, the vastness of the destruction started to sink in. “It wasn’t until I was on a bucket brigade that I realized how much had been destroyed, and I thought – what a fool I had been to give that poor woman hope that her husband might some day return.”

Cleaning the debris was a long and tiring process, and especially difficult since you had to be very thorough. “Even the smallest bit of bone could help with the DNA investigations and give closure to someone,” Sweeney says. “We had men working down there for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for months.” As for the future safety of New York, Sweeney has a grim vision. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” he says of another attack. Sweeney is aware of the impact that 9/11 had on the country. “It changed how we view security and it changed the police, the military, everything,” he says. “The whole world changed that day.”