Guest Column: Remembering the fateful, horrific day

As we approach another anniversary of Sept. 11, I’d like to thank our local fire departments, in particular the Southold Fire Department, for the yearly display of remembrance, reflection, honor and duty for those lost in the horrific 9/11 attacks.

I am a multi-generational Shelter Island man now living in Cutchogue for nearly six years. Seeing the display of the helmet, boots and uniform on my way to work is a painful but important memory of a day that should never be forgotten.

As many of you know, or don’t know, I worked for many years for American Express Corporate Travel Services, in Tower One of the World Trade Center, on the 94th floor. We serviced Cantor Fitzgerald Financial Services and Marsh & McClennan Insurance Companies.

Through an extremely fortuitous series of events, I happened not to be in my office that fateful, horrific day. I was lucky, twice! I had been working in the North Tower on Feb. 26, 1993, when a bomb exploded in the parking garage under the building, killing many innocent people. Extremely terrified, we all walked down to safety, helping one another in the dark, having no idea what had happened or why.

I worked in a number of beautiful office buildings over the years. In my estimation, none was more majestic than the Twin Towers. From the magnificent plaza where we often gathered for lunch by the fountains, to the beautiful sphere that stood between the towers, which was a symbol of world peace and trade; how ironic.

My office view from the 94th floor looked south to Governors Island, the bridges, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and beyond. We had three security checks between the lobby and 78, then again on the express to the upper floors to 94, where the American Express offices were, and the final security clearance that let us into our offices. We often made reference to how safe we were in that building, as the security was unequivocally stringent and your computerized ID card was your lifeline. The mere thought of being attacked from the air seemed unfathomable, unreal, unthinkable.

I lost 11 co-workers and many friends that morning as American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower. The memorials were overwhelming, the emotional scars still felt today. What I think I found most disturbing was looking at the children of these wonderful people, many not knowing why their moms or dads just weren’t there anymore, not comprehending the enormity of this tragic event that had touched their families so deeply and forever. The 11 Tears 911 Memorial at the American Express headquarters in downtown Manhattan is a beautifully designed memorial to honor these wonderful people. The design is truly exquisite and reflective of the lives they lived.

I am extremely grateful for having known these people and remember them every day. I am also grateful to my friends, neighbors and relatives, who continue to send me messages of thoughts and prayers all these years later. It means much to me.

The author lives in Cutchogue.

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