Remembering September 11, 2001 – Five Years Later
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
As the Nation Mourns, Five Tell Their Stories of Sadness, Hope
When Frank Hussey was a child growing up in the countryside of Jamaica, he molded dams out of clay and then poured buckets of water on them to see how they would hold. Little did he know that decades later he’d be working at the World Trade Center site overseeing one of the most important construction projects in America. Mr. Hussey, 44, was the first of eight superintendents for Tishman Construction to arrive at 7 World Trade Center just three weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks and is now — after 2,000 construction and trade workers have come and gone — the only one left. A father of two, he has been there as every beam of steel was put in place and every inch of concrete poured at the only building to be destroyed and rebuilt. “As the buildings are progressing, my mentality is getting stronger, my spirit is getting stronger,” he said while sitting on a bench outside the gleaming 52-story glass tower. “After 9/11 I was down and out, but here my spirit is rising, just as the buildings are rising.” As he fiddled with a chunky set of keys, Mr. Hussey, who was overseeing the installation of two antennas on the roof of a Church Street building when the planes struck in 2001, said the camaraderie among the crew to get the building erected was palpable. And, now that the core work is done, he has started overseeing construction at the nearby Freedom Tower on weekends. His other dream as a kid was to serve in the army (which he did in Jamaica). But in a way, he says, he’s fighting the enemy in Lower Manhattan by helping to bring it back to life.
— Jill Gardiner
“I am 17 years old. And my father and uncle died on 9/11. My father was a cop in ESU Truck 10, and my uncle a firefighter in Squad 252. I am writing on behalf of my family, because I do not feel that our voices have been adequately represented. I am writing this to discuss who has a voice, and who the public is listening to. The views and opinions of the victim’s groups you see on TV and in the news do not represent all of us. You should know the people to which I refer. Those who carry the picture frames of their loved ones with them everywhere or who have every family member boasting buttons with the face of the deceased. My family is not one to showboat. You will not see us with buttons or picture frames.We are stoic in our grief. By not parading around their acts, we honor their memories best by doing what they had done. What is important here is not a building. Its meaning will become trivial in a matter of years. Not all the 9/11 families cry for a monument. But all the 9/11 families carry their loved ones with them. What needs to be established is that the greatest memorial any person can give is to keep the promise made nearly five years ago. Never forget.”
— Caitlin Langone
Street vendor Tom Carr — whose offerings include World Trade Center light-up crystals and ground zero baseball caps, each “only $5″—takes issue with the mandate to boot vendors from ground zero. “What do a hole got to do with my T-shirts?” Mr. Carr, from the South Bronx, said as his city-issued vendor license swung from his neck. “My T-shirts and my hats — it’s a symbol that represents New York City.” Mr. Carr, who served in the Army, mans a table six days a week several blocks south at Bowling Green and Broadway. He used to sell socks and watches on Liberty Street until September 10, 2001. Terrorists struck as he was driving his van on the West Side Highway downtown.
One day last week, Mr. Carr’s table was busy with souvenir-hungry tourists. As the mid-day sun shined on Broadway, Mr. Carr talked up a Twin Towers light-up statue to a father and son visiting from Iraq. They declined to buy it, but that doesn’t discourage him. Have no fear, we got souvenirs!” Mr. Carr shouted as tourists bustled around the Financial District. “See?” he whispered. “This is what I do all day.”
— Matthew Chayes
WILLIAM W. WILLIAMS
RETIRED HIGH SCHOOL HEADMASTER
William Williams was in a motel in New Hampshire on his way back from picking out a new sailboat when he watched the second tower go down on the television in the room. Having been through the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, he knew how sick and upset his students would be. He said to his wife, Linda, “I’ve got to go down there and be with the kids. They’ll need me.” And Linda said, “No, Bill, they won’t, they have a new headmaster.” “Which really hurt, that was really cutting the cord,” he said. Just the year before, Mr. Williams had retired after 30 years as the principal of Poly Prep High School in Brooklyn. The school had lost 10 alumni in the attacks. “I handed eight of those boys their diploma and I can see them now, Joey Della Pietra with his fierce tackle, how physically tough and fearless he was … Christopher Grady playing jokes on the teachers. Mark Hindy was a tremendous pitcher. Billy Peterson loved basketball. Joe Hassan III — who named his little boy Joe Hassan IV — he was one of those kids who grew up while he was at Poly. And the Abate boys were tremendous athletes. These were kids so full of energy and so full of life. They’re forever young to me.”
— Deborah Kolben
Clinical psychologist Janet Bachant, an instructor at Empire State College, has taught many police officers and firefighters over the years. She knew that these men and women belong to “a culture of courage,” which often precludes them from seeking mental health care — even if it is covered by insurance. So just hours after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Ms. Bachant founded the New York Disaster Counseling Coalition to provide the confidential, paperwork-free mental health care she was sure the first responders would need. The nonprofit organization, which relies on grants and donations, offers no-cost, one-on-one and family counseling to the city’s police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. About 7,500 first responders and their family members have accessed NYDCC services, which include private counseling and relationship renewal seminars. “They’re heroes, too,” Ms. Bachant said of the 500 clinicians, indefinitely providing some form of pro-bono assistance. While the organization is charged with “breaking down the sigma” of treatment for all New York City first responders and their family members, nearly three-quarters of those receiving assistance from NYDCC have some connection to September 11, Ms. Bachant said. Five years on, troubled marriages and alcoholism have supplanted the grief and traumatic stress that many police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians suffered from in the weeks and months after the attacks, she said.
— Gabrielle Birkner
TEAMSTERS UNION 817
Shane Boyle sat on his surfboard awaiting another wave when, suddenly in the distance, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center only a few floors below his former office. About two years before, Mr. Boyle had left a long-tenured position at Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond trading company that occupied the 101st through 105th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. “I could see the ocean from the 105th floor,” he recalled. “I would check the surf from work.” This was the same floor from which several of his longtime co-workers jumped to avoid flames after the attack. After graduating from college, Mr. Boyle spent six years at Cantor Fitzgerald before leaving for a hedge fund in 1999. On September 11, 2001 Mr. Boyle took the day off from work to go surfing. While he still often heads to the ocean to surf, the experience is marred by the memories. Mr. Boyle has since left Wall Street to work for the Teamsters Union 817, setting up stages for concerts and plays in New York. He does his best not to think about the long list of friends he lost on September 11 and now, away from Wall Street and five years removed from the attacks, his tactics are beginning to work.
— Christopher Faherty