I spent the night on Staten Island, where one of my colleagues fed me and bathed me, and I called my mom and said, "I can't believe I got out, I almost died, I love you, I love you." Afterward, I was scared to come out of my house in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and had nightmares every night, and loud noises made my heart jump.
In mid-November, I went back to New York and was passing through Times Square when I saw the recruiting office for the United States Air Force. Before the 11th, I would never have thought about going into the military -- that would be crazy -- but my perspective changed. Now it's reality. I wondered what I was going to become. What my goals were. Now I know I want to get into medicine and help the armed forces. Last week, I finished basic training in San Antonio, Texas. I did obstacle courses and mental- and physical-endurance tests.
My mom didn't want me to enlist; she wants me to go to college in Europe. But this is what I want to do. When I tell people I'm working for the Air Force, that's the proudest thing I can say.
-- BEN KAPLAN
A 16-year-old high-school student in Long Island, Gelormino lost her stepfather, FDNY Lieutenant Geoffrey Guja. He was running toward the World Trade Center when it collapsed.
Nothing's the same. Nothing. Not even sitting here eating dinner is the same. He was a fireman, and all firemen are crazy -- they do nothing normal. Wherever we'd go, we'd always be the family that stuck out, the loudest, the ones that got noticed. Now we're the same as every other family and the world is so much quieter now.
I don't really talk to my friends about it. I was the only one in my school who had a close family member in there. One time in December, we were talking about it in my English class, and some kid said to me, "Don't you think you should be over it by now?" He wasn't affected by it whatsoever. I said, "That makes me so mad, because my father was jumping in there for people like you."
For a while, when I went to sleep, I would cry every night. I felt so guilty, you know? I felt like he didn't know that I loved him. I thought I didn't appreciate him, and that he died thinking I don't love him. There's no way for me now to let him know how much I really did.
Four years ago, while he was already a firefighter, he became an R.N. I remember how hard he was studying in the dining room. Geoff's birthday was two days ago. It was snowing. Me and my sister and my mom went to the cemetery for a little while. We sang "Happy Birthday" and we talked to him and we let balloons go in the air. The headstone just got put in this week. It says WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD.
It has definitely gotten harder. The other day, I was wondering if I'd ever forget what he looked like. I was passing the Manhattan skyline and trying to picture him in my head. I won't forget what he looks like or his voice. I won't forget any of that. I can't.
-- ETHAN SMITH