Tag Archives: 9/11

9/11: A Lost Video, Found In A Pandemic

Alert “06880” reader Robin Gusick writes:

The anniversary of 9/11 always takes me back to when I lived in downtown New York, on 14th Street and Avenue A with my husband Dave and our 6-month old baby Sam.

Early that morning, a friend called and said, “you better put on the TV – now.” We watched in horror and disbelief the footage of the first plane hitting.

Sam Gusick with his young parents, Dave and Robin.

We had plans to take Sam to his first baby music class, and wondered whether to go or not. Since we presumed the plane crash to be a terrible accident, we put Sam in his stroller and walked outside.

On the way we saw people huddling around a Radio Shack with multiple TV sets in the windows, all showing the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. We considered heading home, but figured we might as well go to the class as a distraction.

Ten minutes in, the teacher stopped playing her guitar and said, “I’m sorry, but it just seems wrong to sing when the world is falling apart. I just heard that a second plane hit. This is not an accident — it’s a terrorist attack.”

As we rushed out and hurried home with Sam back in his stroller, we saw massive smoke rising up from further downtown. People watched TVs in windows all along Union Square. They stood silently in shock, watching both towers fall.

Back in our apartment, we put Sam in his “exersaucer” and watched TV — and watched and watched, in horror. We saw smoke from our apartment windows, and smelled the most toxic smell imaginable.

It was particularly surreal to see this innocent 6-month old baby staring at the TV, and wonder what kind of world he would grow up in. We videotaped that moment on our bulky camcorder, knowing one day we would want to show Sam.

Fast forward 18 years to September 11, 2018. Sam is a senior at Staples High School (we moved to Westport when he was 2). I told him a bit of our story of that somber day, mentioning I had a videotape somewhere. He said, “Wow, I’d really like to see that.”

I was glad he was way too young to remember that awful day. I tried to explain to him that when you go through  something like 9/11, you forever see the world through a different lens.

Sam headed off to the University of Vermont the following fall. My first baby quickly found “his people” and his “happy place” in Burlington. He came home for spring break in March. The pandemic hit, and his time in Vermont came to a screeching halt. Sam said, “My generation really has not lived through anything major like this… well, except September 11th. But I have no memory of that.”

Sam Gusick (Photo/Kerry Long)

Sam’s last 2 months of school were at home with no friends, no campus, no Burlington. He was a good sport. He was happy to have Zoom calls, and movie nights with his college buddies. There were silver linings: family dinners that never fit into his busy Staples Players and Orphenians schedule, and decluttering and simplifying our home.

During one of those long pandemic days in March, sorting through mountains of old papers while watching “Tiger King” with Sam, I felt a small item mixed in with the papers: a videotape labeled “Sam — September 11th.” It was a pandemic miracle!

However, the miracle was trapped in what seemed like caveman technology. Plus every business was shutting down. I left that tape on my night table, though.  It took until today — September 11, 2020 — for me to research how to transfer that camcorder video to a watchable format.

And so, my 9/11 “gift” to Sam (who is back at UVM now) is this video, along with a message: Life can change in an instant.

It did on 9/11/01, and it did this past March. Keep being the resilient, positive man you have grown to be. Keep smiling like you did in that exersaucer on that very, very sad day.

Even if it’s under your mask. Click below for the 9/11 video.

Roundup: 9/11 Babies, Gas, More


From time to time, “06880” has noted Hillary O’Neill. The Staples High School graduate — and daughter of Coleytown Middle School social studies teacher Glenn O’Neill — was born on September 11, 2001.

She and a number of other young people have embraced their now-infamous birthday, dedicating themselves to service on a day that is difficult to celebrate.

Yesterday, Politico ran a story headlined: “The Children of 9/11 Are About to Vote.” The piece explored what “the youngest cohort of American voters thinks about politics, fear and the potential of the country they’ve grown up in.”

Hillary — now an EMT and student — was one of the “9/11 babies” interviewed. Among her thoughts:

From what I understand, there’s a certain aspect of fear now that didn’t necessarily exist before. It’s weird when I talk to my parents and they say, “This is not what it was always like.

The country has done a very poor job of handling the pandemic. It’s exposed a lot of the disorganization and divisions in our country and in our government. The fact that we are so divided has prevented us from actually being able to move forward with anything. It’s just frustrating when you hear experts on the topic who have been preparing their whole lives for an event like this, and they’re not being listened to.

When I was younger, I always thought that in America there was equality—that everyone had rights and everyone had freedoms. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized although that’s the ideal, that’s not the truth.

As a young woman, the way that (President Trump) talks about women is very disheartening to me and a lot of my friends. To know that that’s the person who is supposed to represent your country is a very frustrating feeling. You would think that everyone looked down upon that. The fact that not everyone does is a very frustrating feeling.

I hope that my generation can bring back a sense of community to the country. That is really something that will allow us to accomplish more things and move forward as a country. Rather than just accepting something the way that it is—because that’s the way it’s always been or accepting certain institutions—people my age have grown up learning to challenge those. If you don’t agree with something, challenge it.

Click here for the full Politico story, with more comments by Hillary and others. (Hat tip: Kerry Foley)

 

 

 

 

The cost of many things goes up. The price of gas keeps dropping.

As Chip Stephens put out his state representative campaign signs yesterday, he noticed at least 3 gas stations charging less than $2 a gallon.

Now, if we only had someplace to go, other than around in circles …

(Photo/Chip Stephens)


And finally … Ronald Khalis Bell — a founder of Kool & the Gang — died Wednesday. He was 68. Let’s celebrate the group’s monster hit, which he wrote:

Unsung Heroes #115

Among the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11, 161 were from Connecticut.

Two lived in Westport: Jonathan Uman and Bradley Vadas. Brothers Keith and Scott Coleman grew up here. All worked at the World Trade Center.

They were sons, fathers and brothers. They had much of their lives still ahead of them.

They may not be “heroes” in the traditional sense. They simply went to work one morning, and were killed minutes later in random, brutal and senseless acts of terror.

But they were heroes to their spouses, girlfriends, parents, siblings and friends. They were good men, good sons, good fathers and good brothers.

We remember them today. And every day.

The Sherwood Island State Park 9/11 Memorial honors the 161 Connecticut residents killed 18 years ago today. (Photo/David Squires)

9/11: Andrew Colabella Remembers

On September 11, 2001, Westport native and current RTM member Andrew Colabella was in 7th grade at Bedford Middle School. He remembers:

I was sitting in Mr. Summ’s English class. We were called to the auditorium. Another fire drill? Motivational speaker? A boring play? Seemed too soon in the beginning of the year to be doing this.

Mrs. Wormser spoke with Ms. Reneri, standing with Mr. Delgado, about 2 planes hitting the World Trade Center. They had no other information to give.

Why would they call us to the auditorium about that? Planes crash every year. I started thinking, what if there is more to this? My friends said I had no idea what I was talking about.

Terrorism wasn’t new to me. My cousin John DiGiovanni was killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

We headed to lunch at 10:32. Parents were coming to the school picking up their kids. Some cried hysterically as they left the guidance office. Even teachers tried to hide their tears.

I went into the hall to hit the power button on the TV. There it was: 2 smoldering towers. People jumping from the high floors. Maybe they’ll land safely. Maybe they’re bringing helicopters with water to put it out, or throw rope to get them out.

It was serious. It was real.

The iconic 9/11 photo was taken by Westport’s Spencer Platt. He lived near the Twin Towers on that awful morning.

I called home. Dad was safe.

A girl walked out of guidance, crying with 2 friends. I never forgot that memory.

Later I learned about Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. I stood with my mom at Burying Hill Beach, watching smoke pour out like blood from a bad cut.

We had been cut. Nearly 3,000 people died, including 343 firefighters, 71 police officers, and EMTs and military personnel. That’s not counting the countless number of people who became sick and died long after the attacks.

Sherwood Island State Park, my backyard, holds the memory of 161 names — all Connecticut residents who died on 9/11. On a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline from the site.

I never forgot. If you’re reading this, you never forgot where you were or what you were doing that day.

As we grow older, more and more people born after 2001 have no memory of it. I’ve spoken with youth, even people my age, who never heard of the 1993 attacks, Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, the Oklahoma City bombing, even World War I.

Educating future generations is imperative. The history of how we got to where we are today, and what we endured as a nation, is vital. We can never forget those who died for no reason. We can never let our guard down.

Our world changed. The unthinkable happened. We were brought to our knees. But we got right back up, and struck back.

Today I have been selected to read 21 names from the podium of Ground Zero. It is an honor to read names of men and women. I never knew or met nearly all of them, but they are known to and loved by others: a parent, child, grandchild, cousin, spouse, but overall, a soul. These are the 21 names:

  • Boyie Muhammed
  • Manuel D. Mojica Jr
  • Manuel De Jesus Molina
  • Justin John Molisani Jr
  • Franklyn Monahan
  • Kristen Leigh Montanaro
  • Michael G. Montesi
  • Antonio De Jesus Montoya Valdes
  • Thomas Carlo Moody
  • Krishna V. Moorthy
  • Abner Morales
  • Paula E. Morales
  • Gerard P. Moran Jr.
  • John Michael Moran
  • Lyndsey Stapleton Morehouse
  • Steven P. Morello
  • Yvette Nicole Moreno
  • Richard J. Morgan
  • Sanae Mori
  • Leonel Geronimo Morocho Morocho
  • And my cousin, John Di Giovanni

“No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory Of Time” is affixed to the Ground Zero wall. Each square is a different color, representing each different, unique person who died that day.

Where were you on 9/11? What were you doing?

Who did you know? Who do you remember?

This is my story. What’s yours?

Adam J. Lewis Academy Thrives

Adam J. Lewis grew up poor, in the Bronx. But he seized the educational opportunities he was given — scholarships to Dalton, then Hamilton College — and made a great, successful and fulfilling life for himself.

Then, on September 11, 2001 he was killed at his World Trade Center desk.

In his memory, the people who loved Adam — his wife and many friends — built a superbly fitting tribute.

Adam J. Lewis

Adam J. Lewis

Patty Lewis and Westporter Julie Mombello — friends from their days working together at Greens Farms Academy — knew the importance of pre-school education.

In Westport, pre-school — where children explore the world using all their senses, and learn letters, numbers, scientific observation, music, art, language, problem-solving, cooperation, coordination and many other skills — is a given. That’s far less true in Bridgeport, where the cost of preschool can be daunting.

Patty and Julie vowed to do what they could to give little children just a few miles from Westport the same advantages their own kids had.

The Adam J. Lewis Pre-School was born. And — despite daunting obstacles including fundraising, site selection and city bureaucracy — it has thrived since opening in 2013.

From its start — with just 12 children — it has grown steadily. This year there are 70 students, in pre-K3, pre-K4, kindergarten and 1st grade.

Last year the school relocated to a downtown Bridgeport campus. Its new name is the Adam J. Lewis Academy. They’ll add one grade each year. Ultimately they’ll serve 150 students, as a pre-K through grade 5 independent school.

The goal is to provide children from every background with an intellectually, socially and personally transformative educational experience. Students will leave empowered, and ready to make a difference in the world.

Westporters continue to play a key role in the Adam J. Lewis Academy. Lee Bollert is a longtime board member; 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker joined 4 years ago. Mombello remains a driving force.

Saba Pina — an original teacher 7 years ago — is still there. A new 1st grade instructor came from the Greens Farms Academy internship program.

Many other Westporters help too, volunteering their time and donating funds. (Fully 100% of school families receive need-based financial assistance.)

9/11 was one of the darkest days in American history. Out of those ashes though, a wonderful story of hope and dreams continues to rise.

(For more information on the Adam J. Lewis Academy — and to help — click here.)

An early class of very happy Adam J. Lewis preschoolers.

We Remember

Seventeen years ago today, America was shattered.

Westport was not spared on September 11, 2001. Neighbors and former residents were among the nearly 3,000 people from around the world who were killed that awful day.

Years before they fell, Ted Horowitz photographed the majestic Twin Towers.

(Photo/copyright Ted Horowitz)

He’s a Westporter now. His images capture the beauty of our town, and the many wonderful people who live here.

His photos are moments in time. They preserve forever the way things were.

Because — as we all learned on that clear, beautiful Tuesday morning — it takes just one instant for the world to change, forever.

Bikers Honor 9/11

Around noon today, more than 2,000 motorcyclists roared through Westport.

Police blocked all side roads, and waved the bikers through traffic lights. They sped up Saugatuck and Riverside Avenues, then along Wilton Road, on their noisy way from Norwalk to Bridgeport.

Some Westporters fumed at the delays.

Many others cheered.

The bikers were part of the CT United Ride. Held annually since 9/11, the event honors all the lives lost on that tragic day, 17 years ago.

It’s Connecticut’s largest 9/11 commemoration. And it’s a fundraiser, supporting state firefighters, law enforcement and United Way.

“06880” reader Susan Birk was caught in the traffic.

She did not mind one bit.

She says, “It was very moving. It was my pleasure to wait for them, watch, pray and remember.”

She took this photo from her rear view mirror. She particularly likes the family with the flag, near the train tracks. They too honor the many victims of 9/11.

(Photo/Susan Birk)

Joe Valiante’s Badge, George Bush’s Library

Joe Valiante spent 35 years with the Westport Fire Department. He fought some of the town’s toughest fires, and rose through the ranks to become assistant chief.

When he was not working, the 1961 Staples High School graduate rode with New York City’s Rescue 1. Based on 43rd Street near the Intrepid, the elite company faces situations seldom seen in Westport.

But nothing could have prepared them for September 11, 2001.

The next day, Valiante rode with them to the still-smoldering World Trade Center. For a week he worked the bucket brigade, hauling material from the site.

Joe Valiante (center, in white) working at Ground Zero.

Valiante was there 4 days later, when President Bush addressed the volunteers through a bullhorn.

Valiante was back a year later too, on the 1st anniversary of 9/11. In fact, he was in the honor guard (with fellow local firefighter Todd Denke). After the ceremony, Bush stopped to chat.

Joe Valiante and George W. Bush, on the 1st anniversary of 9/11. Just before the photographer took this photo, a Secret Service agent diverted the president’s attention.

Valiante then gave the president his Westport assistant fire chief badge.

The next year, Valiante retired. From time to time, he wondered what became of his gift.

Joe Valiante’s Westport Fire Department badge.

Last January, Valiante took his grandson to Trump Tower. They watched a parade of famous people — Ben Carson, Kellyanne Conway, Senator Joe Manchin and others — head through the lobby to meet the president-elect.

Fox News correspondent John Roberts was there as well. Valiante asked if he knew what happens to the gifts people give to presidents. Roberts told him to contact the George W. Bush Presidential Library, at Southern Methodist University.

Valiante emailed the curator. Then he forgot about it.

A month ago, a library official got back to Valiante. She knew exactly where his Westport badge was.

It’s in the permanent collection.

Joe Valiante has not been down to Dallas to see it. But he doesn’t have to.

Just knowing it’s there makes him proud.

The front page of the New York Post on September 12, 2002. Joe Valiante (white hat) is in the lower right corner.

 

9/11 “Taps”

An alert “06880” reader who has never emailed before — and who requests anonymity — shares a special moment:

A friend and I were walking today. We took a seat at Old Mill Beach, on the bench next to the old Positano restaurant. We’ve walked there many times, but never sat down.

About 10 minutes into our conversation, a man appeared on the sidewalk. He started to play “Taps.”

Everyone nearby stood. A young boy put his hand over his heart.

When the man finished, we applauded and yelled “thank you!” He gave a quick wave, then disappeared.

My friend and I — who on September 11, 2001 were both newly married, and living in New York — cried our hearts out, right there on the bench.

We felt badly we had not taken a picture of the man playing “Taps.” Then we realized no photo could have captured that experience.

I don’t know the man’s name. But I hope he knows what a special moment he provided to the handful of people fortunate enough to have seen and heard him today.

9-11-taps

9/11 Clouds

September 11, 2001 was a spectacular late summer day. It turned dark — metaphorically — very quickly

September 11, 2016 dawned dark. Right now — meteorologically — it’s gorgeous.

Maria Calise captured this scene, earlier today at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Maria Calise)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Maria Calise)