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How 9/11 Changed Us

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John Norman
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.”

Stefan Campbell
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.

Michael Lomonaco
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.

Monica Iken
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.

David Kravette
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.


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