Many 9/11 family members feel Americans have forgotten how it felt — seeing the Towers fall, the Pentagon burning, the United Flight 93 wreckage. Following are interviews with some family members, each one representing a cross-section of the American experience, each with a heartbreaking story.
Susan Rescorla’s husband, Rick, died a true hero. He was an army colonel who fought in three wars. After retiring, he became the security chief for Morgan Stanley at their offices in the World Trade Center. After surviving the 1993 World Trade Center attack, Rick implemented a mandatory drill — every employee, including senior executives, regularly practiced his emergency evacuations. After the first plane hit Tower 1, Rescorla — following his evacuation plans and ignoring building officials’ advice to stay put — evacuated Morgan Stanley’s 2,700 employees from Tower 2. He died during the tower’s collapse, as he had returned to the building to rescue others. His remains were never found. Susan Rescorla, choking back tears, commented:
I am writing a book about Rick and my journey together. My husband and I were soul mates. It is so raw with me, even today. I get so emotional I have to swallow my tears. I am so proud of him.
I am not much better than I was nine years ago, except back then I wished I had died as well. I am still trying to understand all of this. What happened should be felt by every American. One way of doing this is to bring these numbered WTC steel pieces to every state in the union. These steel pieces are treated like a casket, wrapped in the American flag. They are significant because people can touch it, feel it, and it brings forth the spirit of the dead.
Joe Holland’s 32-year-old son, Joe Holland III, was not supposed to be in the World Trade Center. He was called to attend a meeting on the 102nd floor of Tower 1. Because of a traffic jam, the meeting started late, and he was there when the planes hit. He was alive until the tower collapsed, but was trapped because the conference room doors jammed.
Among those he left behind was his ten-day-old son, who never would know his father. Says Holland:
My son was murdered. I want Americans to understand that. The pain never goes away. As this day approaches it gets worse and worse.
Americans lived it on 9/11 and maybe a few years after, but I have to live without my son day in and day out. I had to do something to focus, so I built a memorial for the 2,983 victims of September 11. I want to make sure we never forget.
I have iron from WTC, tile from the Pentagon, sacred soil from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and also a five-inch shell from the USS Cole which will be included in the site.
Maureen and Al Santora’s son, Christopher, had found his dream job — New York City firefighter. He graduated in June 2001, and was assigned to Engine Company 54. All fifteen men in this firehouse died trying to rescue others from the World Trade Center.
Although his body was found three days after September 11, it was incorrectly identified as someone else. It was not until November that Maureen and her husband Al were notified of the mistake:
I was one of the lucky ones, in that I have my son’s body. There are still 997 people who never had ID. I have needed the time to adjust to the fact my son was murdered. We keep thinking each year will be better, but even nine years later it is so very difficult. We still have not healed. I come to tears when thinking about my son, which is constant.