Chair of Community Board 1. She was walking her child to school on the morning of 9/11.
My life has completely changed, because my whole life at this point is dedicated to rebuilding lower Manhattan. The initial couple of weeks were about terrible loss of life and destruction. The only glimmer in this tremendous void, this depression, was the hope that we could build something better out of it. I used to think of Love Canal: Why did they stay? And here we are with fires burning for five months. Am I being just as stupid and naïve? We stayed in the hopes of a better life, so to speak. Because it was our home. It was a completely traumatized community. When you think you had 14,000 businesses below Canal Street, not including Chinatown. We lost 5,000 the first week. Residents came back to clean their apartments only to find someone’s eyeglasses or pieces of flesh. There was a study recently that said 31 percent of the people who live below Canal Street continue to have pulmonary problems. Thirty percent have emotional problems. It’s not something you get over. But we all got very close after 9/11, the business community and the residents, working together to create the bond of rebuilding. We don’t agree on everything, but we do on most of the substantive issues. That was new. It was important that we not get stuck in the muck of 9/11.
Daily News photographer. He was buried in rubble.
Before September 11, all I did was go out to murder scenes and fires. I photographed the occasional wedding for friends; at one, somebody introduced me as “David Handschuh, disaster photographer.” That was my beat. I photographed things blowing up and falling down.
I went from being a Weegee-esque New York newspaper photographer covering cops and firefighters and paramedics to never, ever wanting to either see or photograph anybody dead or dying again. The World Trade Center was every natural disaster and unnatural disaster rolled up into one big horrible day.
I missed a year of work. I had to learn to walk again. I still don’t run. I’m just lucky and thankful that I’m here. The next day, somebody asked me how I felt and I said I felt like I won the Powerball, but instead of $30 million, it was my life that was the grand prize. I’m thankful for the firefighters and police officers and paramedics who literally saved my life—the people I covered for years.
Now I’m photographing chocolate mousse and doll refurbishing. It’s still photojournalism, it’s still going out and making great pictures, it’s still meeting people I’ve never met before. Just without the blood, without the gore.
Student. her stepfather, Port Authority executive director Neil Levin, was killed in the attack. Her mother is Christy Ferer, City Hall’s liaison to the victims’ families.
My school wanted to put me in therapy. I’m not against therapy—I think anyone can use it, and I want to be an art therapist when I’m older—but when I saw a therapist, the first thing he wanted to do was give me an antidepressant. I remember saying, “Are you absolutely nuts? I’m not depressed; I’m getting over the death of someone who was a father to me.” Then I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t do this,” and I left his office. While I’m sorry I was rude, I’m glad I did it, because I really believe it’s acceptable for the first year or so not to be yourself. I thought about all these little kids who lost people on September 11, and I thought what happens if these shrinks just give these kids a lot of pills—it’s gonna mask their feelings, and they’ll be on them the rest of their lives.
We are a group of people—the victims’ children—but that is the only thing we share. You can’t say children who lost parents on September 11 all deal with it in this way or that way. I wanted to do a project that had different people’s experiences and reactions and feelings and emotions all coming together. The aids quilt gave me this idea for the Art for Heart program. It’s a square foot of canvas every kid gets to paint on with acrylic paint, and then the sections are sewn together. It just shows we’re a group of individuals together.
The Friday after September 11, there was a candlelight vigil, and a bunch of friends of mine were sitting on the sidewalk. My friend Lani said, “Ali, don’t think of it as you losing a person; think of it as you gaining an angel.” I don’t really believe in angels or the afterlife, but the way I interpreted what Lani said was that people are only put on earth for a certain amount of time, and you’re lucky to get to know them for as long as you do. We were still in the early stages, but I decided right then to take the attitude that everything is finite and that I’m grateful that I had a few good years with Neil. My only regret is that my mom didn’t marry him earlier.
Artist and Tribeca resident. She was out jogging the morning of 9/11.The same things happened to me that happened to everybody in the neighborhood. We went to give blood in midtown the next day. And people were sitting outside having lunch, having wine. Meanwhile, down where we were, you couldn’t even see, there was so much dust. It was so raw. It was shocking to me. It was like another world above Houston Street. People eating foie gras.I wrote a piece right after it happened for the Chronicle of Higher Education about, basically, how the media took it over and logo-ized it. The way it became an iconic image—instantly. There was music accompanying the towers’ coming down on TV. The images became very dangerous, because they stopped people from thinking. It horrifies me that people make money off it, frankly. I got paid for the piece in the Chronicle, and I almost threw up at the idea—I had them donate the fee to the Red Cross.Afterward, the neighborhood got richer and people moved in. It was like after Mount St. Helens erupted—all these ashes, everything’s dead, and then a few years later there are these huge forests. The real-estate opportunism just took over. The little guy with the little tiny shoe-repair shop is gone. When the richies move in with their Mercedes SUVs and $1.2 million lofts, they want a different sort of shoe-repair shop—one that will deliver.I think a lot of people who went through September 11 downtown are the walking depressed. That’s a modern word for it—certainly the people who lived through the Blitz were the walking depressed. I do think that there’s something to that. But I just go on with my life.
Attorney. He represents the three firefighters in the now-famous flag-raising photo.
My firm is primarily a personal-injury firm, and years ago we had represented George Johnson, the guy on the left in the picture. George grew up a couple blocks from where I did, in Rockaway Beach. In October 2001, I met with the three of them at Dan McWilliams’s house—Dan’s the guy in the middle. Because they have publicity rights—the rights to the reproduction of their likenesses—the three firefighters were probably going to be entitled to a couple hundred thousand dollars each from the licensing of the photo. They split the revenue 50-50 with the Bergen Record, which owns the copyright. The guys said, “No, we don’t want the money—set up a charity.” So there’s a Website, thebravestfund.org, and the charity has brought in about $1 million. We were inundated with requests for licenses, from guys who make everything from commemorative coins to mouse pads. A gun manufacturer wanted to do it as a carving on the stock of a rifle. We turned that down. In addition, there were the millions of people who were doing it illegally who we were trying to stop; it was on a billboard for a strip club upstate. For the first year, it was my full-time job.
The big interview requests came in: Oprah, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America. It was surreal to hear Barbara Walters on my voice mail. The guys said no to every interview. They said, “Look, we gotta walk into the firehouse every day—the guy next to you may have died, and you’re running around looking for a spotlight?”
The whole experience has taught me a lot about the power of media—and the power of silence. It has made them more suspicious of people. They spent weeks debating whether to do the Newsweek cover for the first anniversary. At one point, one of them said, “Don’t you think if we put ourselves out there, that would be sort of a trophy for Al Qaeda, to say, Hey, look, we killed those guys?” Because in Afghanistan, American soldiers were attaching the image to bombs. I don’t know if that’s a realistic fear. But it’s something that passes through these guys’ heads.
Head of the FDNY’s Special-Operations Command. He led the World Trade Center FDNY rescue effort after his boss and mentor, Deputy Chief Ray Downey, was killed in the collapse.
The awareness that there’s a lot of really bad people out there looking to hurt us, that’s sunk in. It’s a big step. It will save lives in the future. For the department, that’s the biggest change.
Retirements have eased off a lot, basically because everyone with twenty years and over who was eligible to retire already has. There’s an experience issue; I wouldn’t call it a problem. Some of the people we lost were tremendous resources. I’d love to have them back again, but that’s not going to happen. What has happened is that the people we’ve got are very highly motivated, and it allows us to mold them into something it would take a long time to get to otherwise.
On the equipment level, in many areas we’re ahead of where we were on September 11. The federal-grant money is finally starting to flow. It’s almost two years, but it’s starting to come in. We now have 21 rapid-response units that were bought in the aftermath of the Trade Center. They’re two- or three-man vehicles that carry a variety of hazardous materials and rescue equipment. They were deployed during the blackout and were very useful with all the people stranded in elevators and subways. There’s still a lot of Hazmat slots open.
I was down at the medical office a couple of weeks ago, and the doctor is asking me, “Well, how do you feel?” ’Cause I’d been out on medical leave. I say, “I’m fine, Doc—put me back to work today or tomorrow.” He says, “Are you gonna be all right? Suppose you have an emergency?” I say, “Doc, I’m a noncombatant desk commando. I can do what I need to do behind a desk.” Which is not totally true. But it’s close enough that I can get by.
In my office every day, I’m going through Ray Downey’s files. Or Jack Fanning’s. Every day, there’s a reminder. A lot more than one.
“Terrible things happen all the time, but what can you do to change that? What can you do to make life better? We figured having a child was a good way. It’s all about hope.”
Fashion stylist. He lived a block away from the towers.
I lived at 120 Cedar Street—a little stubby street that dead-ends at the Deutsche Bank building. When the first tower fell, we were chased by the smoke into the bathroom. It was pitch-black in our apartment. We grabbed water jugs and tried to get out, but we couldn’t open the door because of all the debris. The fire escape was flaming. We called 911 and they sent somebody over to get us. We got out literally four minutes before the second tower fell.
We had nothing. Absolutely nothing. When my partner went down the next day to get his laptop, our apartment had already been looted—it was looted maybe four times between September and February. We slept on people’s sofas for weeks. It was the worst experience of my life dealing with the Red Cross. They didn’t believe the situation we were in. It became a full-time job dealing with the bureaucracy.
I became a person who was numb, not having a home. I became obsessed with the people who had died. I went through all my savings. I was a refugee. When we were finally able to get into our apartment, in February, the officials there asked us if we were Muslims—I had all these artifacts from the Middle East. We had to throw out everything that had been sitting there since September collecting dust.
Our building opened up again that July, and my partner decided to move back. On the advice of my therapist, I decided to move to Los Angeles. Commuting back and forth was the best thing for me. I am planning to move back to New York this year. But I don’t think I want to be there when they start construction. To build these skyscrapers where all these people would house themselves in the shadows of the footprints of the World Trade Center—it just seems so egotistical. It seems like they should respect those people who lost their lives.
Former chef and director of Windows on the World. On his way to work, he stopped for an errand.
I’m alive only because I took a right turn. I stopped at Lenscrafters to get reading glasses instead of taking the elevator to the restaurant. It was a lucky moment. It doesn’t trouble me to have been lucky. I’m okay with that. But I can never forgive or forget the loss of my co-workers. I’ll see someone from the back, walking down a street, and they’ll remind me of my friends. I’ll forget. I’ll think, I’ve got to go say hello.
The city’s psyche has been normal for a while; we’re not looking back as much anymore. But there are so many people I miss. And I miss cooking. I’ve raised money, done some consulting, written a cookbook. But I want my own kitchen again. I’ve been looking for space, but given the recession and the economic and real-estate environment, it’s a time-consuming effort. I’ve had very good offers out of the city, but Diane and I don’t want to go. Work is very important to me. It gives meaning to my life.
I’ve spent the last year trying to be healthy. After 9/11, I ate a lot of chocolate cake and pastrami sandwiches. Since then, I’ve lost 25 pounds and I work out every day. I feel better about life. After what happened, I feel a responsibility to keep living life, to keep pursuing the dream.
Widow. She is the founder of September’s Mission, a memorial-at-ground- zero-advocacy group.
Every day, I think about it. Not a moment goes by when I don’t think about Michael and how I’ll never see him again, how there is no sense of closure for me. He’s still at that site somewhere. I have nothing of him. I have a memory. I have pictures. For me, it’s hard to digest the fact that he went to work one day and nothing of him is left behind.
That’s why I chose this mission. I want to stand on that footprint and say to Michael, I’m here to honor you. That’s when I’m going to be like, it’s okay to move on.
By coming together, we were able to align forces and advocate on behalf of those who couldn’t do it. We were empowered by our loved ones’ spirits. That’s what made me get up every day. Yes, God took my husband away from me. But he also gave me the strength to be able to do this mission. He sent me angels to help me. Because I certainly couldn’t do this by myself.
I was overexposed in the beginning. I didn’t know how to handle it. I was one of the first people out, looking for Michael, on the 12th. The media just latched on. I was at Bellevue. Whoever had cards up, they called you up. I did Dateline the first week, I did the papers, I did everything. At that point, I was clueless as to what I was doing. I look back and I’m like, who was that? Who is that person? I’m finally coming out of that and getting a clearer perspective. I lost myself somewhere, because I’ve been fighting for someone else. Now I’m trying to get back on track and find Monica.
Cantor Fitzgerald Equity sales trader. He took the elevator down from Cantor Fitzgerald just before the crash.
I had dinner a month ago with the two guys who saved my life, Mike Segal and Dennis Fields. On 9/11, they were coming to see me at Cantor and they were late and they forgot their I.D.’s, so I had to go down to the lobby to get them. They absolutely screwed up, and normally I’d be mad at them for being so stupid, but I love these guys. It was good to talk to them, because when you think about that day, you don’t believe yourself. We were talking—did we really see that? We saw people get incinerated.
I take things a lot less seriously now. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m a type-A person, but I have more of a fuck-you attitude now. I’m a better person to my friends and associates and family. My wife, Janice, was talking about something that upset her the other day, and I just looked at her and nodded. She got it and smiled—she knew whatever it was didn’t matter. At the office, everyone is new. I went to the Christmas party, where I used to know everybody, and it was weird. It was kind of depressing, so I skipped the summer picnic. This is a new company now.
Former captain at Windows on the World. He lost many colleagues—and his job—in the attack.
After the buildings collapsed, and the loss of all those colleagues, we went to memorials and memorials and memorials. Too many. I couldn’t work. I went back to Egypt and stayed with my family. There they put me together, little by little. I came back, and there were no jobs. Finally, I was hired at Ben Benson’s steakhouse, on 52nd off Sixth Avenue. I liked the people there, and I started my life all over again. I would say 50 percent of us haven’t gotten our lives together. I made the mistake after 9/11 of going down there, and it was devastating. It was still smoking, all the wreckage. I try not to go down there—it feels like parts of you are still down there. And actual parts of your friends and colleagues are still there. All of us who survived stay in touch. We get together every month or so, at this Chinese restaurant—almost only foreigners go there. Sometimes we talk about one of the guys or girls and someone will just start crying. The scars in our hearts still haven’t healed yet. Every now and then we just cry for nothing. We just hope to God that we can help each other out.
Sculptor. He witnessed the attack and its aftermath.
I live three blocks away. I was there and watched it all. The thing that sticks with me was the people jumping. There was some denial of the fact that people were dying. I think the press rightfully withheld a lot of images of that. People actually holding hands as they jumped, people trying to fly. That was harder to erase than other images. If you lived there, you got a body blow and you got rewired. And that was hard to deal with for a while. I think the proximity of the event had a lot to do with how you register the trauma. The farther away, the more media-ized it was.
I was impressed by the community’s willingness to pitch together. But I was already unhappy with the administration: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft. Their indifference, intolerance, and arrogance. There was a big rallying around Bush afterward. It wasn’t how I hoped the country would proceed. In a way, it puts the country in more harm’s way. They lie to the U.N., they lie about weapons of mass destruction, they just lie, lie, lie. Ashcroft answers in the most smug, indifferent way. You’d think they’re talking to a child, not to citizens of this country.
Widow of firefighter Pat Lyons. Their son was born October 7, 2001.
I went from being married to being a mom. I exchanged one person for another. I never had them both at the same time, so I didn’t know what it was like to be a family. Little Patrick is my savior. If I didn’t have him, I don’t know where I’d be. I spend a lot of time scrapbooking about Pat’s life for the baby. And I’m videotaping people’s stories about Pat, so the baby can someday hear them firsthand. It’s very slow. But it’s also very therapeutic.
I was the chief financial officer of a small company. I can’t sit around and do nothing, so I’ve set up a foundation and a Website, patlyonsfoundation.org. It started when a bunch of his friends wanted to have a golf outing, and I said, “Let’s do it right.” We have a friend whose son has leukemia. He’s treated at the Cancer Center for Kids at Winthrop Hospital, so I decided that’s where I want most of the proceeds to go. On September 15, we’re having this huge golf outing. We’re filling up two courses with 288 golfers, and we’re still turning people away. I’ve always been very generous at cutting a check for a charity. But to actually be doing the work, it’s something I probably never would have done if September 11 never happened.
Time helps, but I don’t cry any less. I can burst into tears just sitting there having dinner. I was in Bermuda last week, my first vacation since September 11. Up near the outdoor bar, they had a radio on, and it was very loud. They cut to the news, and they were talking about the remains at the World Trade Center, something about new scientific ways to check the DNA. I’m lying on the beach, and I’ve got tears in my eyes. I’m very rational, but there’s that really deep part of me that ignores that it happened and thinks he’s still at work and he’s coming home.
“The media took it over and logo-ized it. The images became very dangerous, because they stopped people from thinking.”
Executive director, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She left Windows on the World moments before the first plane hit.
Afterward, it was remarkable the way the downtown community became like a small town. I still have that feeling. But I went through two rounds of post-traumatic stress disorder. And that was a surprise. The evolution of getting over it was surprising. I just had sort of severe stomach pains; I was told they were most likely stress. This morning, I walked out and I thought, It’s a beautiful day. And it feels like that September 11 day.
It’s been difficult, but it’s also been uplifting. People caring for each other. The concern we have now is to make sure that the new development turns into something diverse and interesting—that some challenging art and artists are involved in it. Because I think the greatness of our country is challenging ourselves, looking at ourselves in an honest and questioning way—though the work that’s done on the site itself should be reverential.
Student. He tried to join the war on terror by enrolling in Georgetown University’s Security-Studies program.
I was working for On magazine as an associate editor. It closed right after 9/11, in November. I wanted to join the CIA to help catch terrorists. I actually thought this was like World War II all over again. My dad called that night and said, “It’s just like Pearl Harbor! We’re living through history!” Good versus evil, lines being drawn, what are you gonna do? I thought about going down to Times Square and joining the Army until I realized that they didn’t need people to do that. So I decided to go back to school. I did lots of research for military-studies programs, and this one is a CIA farm team.
But when I got down to D.C., I found out I didn’t want to join the CIA at all. I didn’t want to live in a tract house in Vienna, Virginia, and have an I.D. on a chain around my neck and go home to my wife and not be able to bitch about my job. I didn’t realize it was going to be that white-bread and that dull. Everybody I know in the CIA hates it. Now I want to get back into journalism. I’m still going to probably stay in Washington, though. I go back to New York and everybody seems bummed out still. D.C. seems like a happier place.
Managing Editor, Wall Street Journal. The Journal’s offices are across the street from the World Trade Center.
I’m sitting in my office, which is the same office I had before 9/11. As I look out my window, I can see almost no difference. If I walk to the other side of the building, I look down into the hole. Everything is totally different. And I think that kind of sums up the way I feel about it. On the one hand, everybody here persevered and pulled together and we’re now back in our headquarters, doing journalism pretty much the way we’ve always done it. But I think all of us were changed; we’ll never be the same.
I feel as if we’ve all grown; we’ve all been tested. I think I have more confidence that we can work our way through just about any kind of challenge. I always knew the people I work with were capable, but I didn’t realize what they were capable of.
Certainly, for months after 9/11, I would find myself seeing, to me, the starkest memory, the bodies falling—the live bodies and the dead bodies—from the towers, which you could see looking out our windows. I had colleagues who were taking the subway into work and were coming out of the WTC even as bodies were falling around them.
But I think our people got great satisfaction from being able to produce a terrific paper under just harrowing circumstances that first night. I mean, a paper that ultimately won the staff a Pulitzer Prize. It was amazing. People just knew what to do. We organized a rump newsroom in South Brunswick, where the paper was put out that night, and went from there.
The worst time, oddly enough, was when the anthrax business hit. Clearly, news organizations and political leaders were the two target groups. And yet this was something that was very hard to detect. That was the only time where the stresses and frustrations got to people.
And then, with Danny Pearl, there is a new recognition that the press can be targets. Every day when I get on and off the elevators, there’s the memorial to Danny. Sometimes when somebody gets killed, their virtues get exaggerated. That’s not true in Danny’s case. He was really a terrific reporter and writer, with a good heart and a strong spirit. What was done to him was barbaric, but we remember him as a wonderful friend and a wonderful journalist.
Executive director, Witness, a human-rights-advocacy group. She and her husband decided to have a baby after 9/11.
Having a child was something I had always planned to do at some stage of the game, but the timing never really seemed right. I was too busy to figure out how I was going to do both—parenting and my job. Then September 11 came.
A lot of people were having the reaction that they wouldn’t want to bring a child into a world this crazy. But other people had the opposite reaction. In the face of all kinds of disasters and death and destruction, people come home on some deeper psychological and emotional level. They reassess their priorities, and they reassess their lives. They say, “This is what it’s about: love and connection and communion.” And they feel they’ve got to get these priorities more squarely aligned. That was my reaction. That’s a blessing.
Gillian Caldwell’s partner.
Almost a month later, Gillian was out with a good friend of hers whose brother-in-law died. The next morning, I was in the front, gardening. She came out and lay down on the sidewalk. She was like, “Louis, come here. Lie down next to me.” Okay, fine. Then we moved inside. To the living room or the dining room, to wherever we decided was a good place. Before that, we had used contraception. But not after.
It was really clear that 9/11 was the impetus. We had talked about it before, but we were nowhere near saying we should do this right now. After that day, we had long talks about having a kid and what it means. I had been working at Streetbeam—9/11 literally knocked Streetbeam out of existence. We know the world is fucked up. Terrible things happen all the time, but what can you do to change that? What can you do to make life better? We figured this was a good way. It’s all about hope. Do you want to even bring a child into a world like this? If you have hope, then go ahead.
Retired firefighter. He was one of five people who were photographed carrying the body of Father Mychal Judge out of the World Trade Center.
I retired in June—I knew right away I wanted to get out. That was it for me. I got hurt down there. I tore up a lot of knee ligaments. In May, I had a total knee replacement, and I’m still recuperating. I’m taking things a lot slower, relaxing more, doing more with the family. Trying to move on. I pay more attention at home. We’ve gone to the Jersey shore, gone fishing as a family. I have two grown kids. One’s in the Fire Department, and the other one is going in January. It makes me nervous and proud, a little of both. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again and they both have good careers, like I did.
At the time, I thought photographing Father Judge that way was in very bad taste. I went after Shannon Stapleton, the photographer. I started screaming at him. I knew that thing was gonna be out on the Internet in a half-hour. How do you think Father Judge’s family felt looking at that?
Now, at night, I still see the faces of my friends, the guys we lost. I wake up thinking about it. I don’t know if that will ever go away. You say, Why me? I don’t know. I guess I was in the right place at the wrong time, or the wrong place at the right time. Father Judge got us out—or did we get him out?
“Now, at night, I still see the faces of my friends, the guys we lost. I wake up thinking about it. I don’t know if that will ever go away.”
Trader for AGS Specialist Partners on the floor of the American Stock Exchange. Nine Amex members who were at Windows on the World died in the collapse.
Those guys worked in the booth across from where we work, and we were very good friends. Our floor has changed so dramatically since that day. It just never recovered. It’s never gone back to the way it was. We were famous in the industry for practical jokes, for having a sense of humor. Harmless things, juvenile humor. It’s absolutely different from the New York Stock Exchange. They wouldn’t put up with that stuff. But we were always the rogue exchange. That’s gone. It’s sad. But it’s gone. And it’s never going to come back. It’s remarkable how the loss of the lives of those guys who had breakfast up there just continues to affect an entire exchange floor. It’s amazing. There are no degrees of separation.
Oxford University Press sales director. She is the sister of Charlie Murphy, Cantor Fitzgerald trader.
Charlie was the fifth of seven children in our family, and he had the ability to make everyone laugh, to dissipate all the family tension. Nobody else has that talent. In August 2001, we all went to a beach house in New Jersey, which we did every summer, and he made us all gather together for a group photo. He called out, “Everyone get down here, no excuses!”
For the first month after my brother died, I had these incredible nightmares. But I also had a newborn, and it was hard for me to be miserable all the time. I got a lot of strength from my two children. And I made a conscious decision that the way to honor Charlie was to adopt the way he lived his life. To take the time to say, “Look at the sky, it’s a great color.” To live more exuberantly.
We see a lot of Charlie’s fiancée, Lynna Huie. She’s like a sister; she’s one of us. She had worked at Cantor, but she left a few years ago. As for the money in his estate, while legally it goes to my mother, we feel morally that some of it belongs to Lynna. My mother just helped her buy an apartment. That’s what Charlie would have wanted—we wouldn’t want him to think we acted like jerks. We loved Charlie, and he loved Lynna so much.
Fiancée of Charlie Murphy.
Charlie and I were involved for three and a half years and were living together, and we had just gotten engaged in June 2001. He was very funny and smart and a wise-ass type. I left Cantor in 1999, and he was supporting me while I went to John Jay College. After he died, his whole family stayed at our apartment for two weeks. They still invite me to every family event—Christmas, get-togethers.
After Charlie died, I withdrew from school for a semester, then I went back and graduated. I’m starting business school this fall, at night, going to Pace. This wasn’t in my plan. I don’t know what my life would be like if Charlie and I had gotten married. I just bought an apartment and moved in two weeks ago. The Murphys kind of suggested it, and I did it.
I was dating someone for a while recently—we just broke up—but Charlie’s family understood about the whole companionship thing; they weren’t upset. Liza has helped me enormously—all the paperwork, she just did everything. I love her. Charlie held his family together; he was the glue. Because of how he felt for me, I am a connection to him, and they take that into consideration.
Mother of Welles Crowther, who worked on the 104th floor of the south tower.
When the account of that morning came out in the Times, I saw that at 9:05 in the South Tower, in the sky lobby of the 78th floor, a large group of people were trying to figure out whether to head back up or down. One woman said that suddenly a man in a red kerchief came from out of nowhere and helped them out. He was shouting for a fire extinguisher, then he came back and said, “Go to the stairs.”
Welles always carried a bandanna, just like his father, in his business suit. Like his father, he was a volunteer with the Empire Hook and Ladder Co. No 1 of Upper Nyack.
Later, officials from the medical examiner’s office said that based on where Welles was found, he’d been working at an emergency-services command center. Most of the people they found there were police and firemen. They couldn’t figure out at the time why a civilian would be there. Save for his coming home, this is the greatest gift we could get. That’s a great blessing for us to know how he went—that he hadn’t been trapped in his office. It was his choice and his duty. He looked the devil straight in the eye that day and fought with everything he had.
Now Welles’s story is all over the Internet. We’ve gotten calls from people we don’t know asking for permission to name their children after Welles. In May, his sister had her wedding. I truly felt I was spiritually visited by Welles during Communion, and that was very powerful. I wasn’t expecting anything like that. When we came out of the service, the Empire Hook and Ladder Co. truck was in front of the church. It was a false alarm. We all figured Welles must have pulled it.