As we remember the tragic events of 2001, my eyes cannot help but tear as I recall the myriad of connections I had to the event, the people who died, and the World Trade Center. Like most New Yorkers, it’s impossible to forget those small, personal memories.

I lost two cousins, father and son, both firefighters – Joseph Angelini Sr. and Jr. – not to mention dozens of childhood friends and family of friends, schoolmates and neighbors. Having grown up in Rockaway Beach, where many of the police and firemen who died had lived their lives, I was touched deeply to hear that many I knew growing up had died that tragic day.

One that died hurt particularly – FDNY Chief John M. Moran – whose sister Mona was my classmate from Kindergarten through 8th Grade.  Her younger brothers, including John, just a year younger, were always in the school yard, enjoying a joyous childhood in our beachfront community.  I can barely think of John as a firefighter, but remember him in his school uniform, out there playing with our schoolmates.  It was Mike Moran, the youngest Moran brother – a NYC police officer, who famously said in Madison Square Garden the words which are heard in the video below, setting the Nation’s collective sentiment …

When I was a young man, and learned to paint – taught by no less than Salvador Dali and Alexander Rutsch, I painted a canvas I wish I had now – of the World Trade Center as seen from New Jersey.  I donated that painting to raise money for charity at an event in Albany, NY in the 1970’s.  Weeks later, I took my first job at a law firm on the 102nd floor of the South Tower.

I remember looking down from there to see the Cunard QE2 sailing out of the harbor, looking like it was the size of a cigar… despite its 962 foot length.  Years later, when I sailed on her, I couldn’t help remembering that view.

As a child, growing up, from my part of NYC, we could see the towers rising. I remember everyone saying how ugly they were, but oh, how those simple square towers with their elongated pinstripe design became a beloved part of New York.

Our company’s legal counsel, living in Manhattan, had a close up view as the planes flew into both towers and had to slam his windows shut to prevent the ash from bellowing into his condo.  I remember being at a party long before that fateful day, at his home, seeing how close he was to the WTC and commenting how I felt I could reach out and touch them from his living room windows.

On 9/11, I had been out that morning, and remember listening to the radio, when CBS reported that a small plane had crashed into the North Tower. As the reports unfolded, I had gone to breakfast at a diner before the second plane struck.  I recall saying to someone at the next table that it wasn’t an accident as the media was still reporting.

After the second plane hit, I rushed home to be with my Dad who I knew would be affected. Walking in, I saw his eyes tearing – his great national pride shaken.  Later that day, I joined my sister in Red Bank, NJ awaiting the wounded – but alas, there were none. As the sun set, realizing we’d see no-one needing medical care, the volunteers – dozens and dozens of them – went home, their hearts sunk to their toes.

The chef at Windows on the World, Michael Lomonaco, was a personal acquaintance whose teacher was one of the first writers on, survived, but so much of his wonderful staff were killed – trapped above the impact zone, unable to get down.  A charity was formed called “Windows of Hope” and I was one of the first to donate time and effort to make it a success. Eventually, it raised several million to help the families of victims who worked in the restaurant and hotel industries.  I took such pride at bringing in over $350,000 to help, from restaurants around the world I had called upon to donate.

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