Fassuliotis: In Memory of September 11, 2001

Letter to the editor Submitted by Karen Fassuliotis, Sept 10,2018

It has been 17 years since America was changed forever on September 11th. It has been 17 years since thousands of families had their lives inexplicably altered, losing loved ones and friends. So many did not get to experience the birth of their child, the marriage to their sweetheart, graduations, birthdays and anniversaries.

I am one of the thousands of people who worked near the World Trade Center that day. I was an eye witness to the horror of what we now call 9-11, a day that changed the course of my life and the lives of so many others.

I didn’t work in the World Trade buildings, although I didn’t work that far away from them. My office was perched on the 58th floor of the then Chase Building, looking directly at the Towers.

As did so many others that day I emerged from the subway on Wall Street and was greeted by a billowing of smoke and thousands of papers careening from the blue, bright sky. My subway car arrived a few minutes after the first plane hit the Towers. I panicked at first, thinking that the building over which my subway exit was located was on fire. But that was not the case and you know the rest. Fortunately I survived, but not after going up to my office and watching the second plane go directly through the South Tower and then walking 58 stories down to the ground level.

Once down I immediately started walking toward the Brooklyn Bridge, which was ultimately the best decision I made that day. I escaped by running for my life ahead of the plume that was the Towers as they crashed down with a roar. Like many others I walked to 42nd Street and beyond, when Grand Central was closed. I was lucky. I commandeered an express bus to the Bronx (the driver made me pay the $2.00 fare). I made it home that day. As we all know, so many people did not.

Even though that day was 17 years ago I can still close my eyes and see the day unfold before me. It is a film that has receded from my daily thoughts, although it is still there and never far from my thoughts. Every year since I have watched the ceremony in NYC and listened to all the names who gave their lives that day. How can I not? I witnessed their murders. A nurse friend of mine said that my brain was permanently scarred by the horrors I saw. I prefer to think of myself as a person who will always remember the 2,980 people whom I never met but who are always in my thoughts and prayers.

If you are reading this I also have a favor to ask of you. I hope that today you will also remember and say a prayer for the brave first responders – the police, firefighters, EMTs, construction workers and anyone else who responded and worked what they called the “pile” to search for survivors, then the remains, and then to clean up the devastation.

Many are now suffering from their exposure to the toxic dust and many have given their lives as a result of that exposure and their heroism in the days following the attack. I think of these men and women in addition to those I saw die that day. I watched them daily from my window at work in the days and years afterward. They have my prayers too.

I also ask, and I say this selfishly, that, in addition to those that gave their lives their lives and whom we remember today, and those that worked recovery, you remember the everyday workers who returned to their jobs in a war zone and also breathed the toxic air each time they went out for lunch. These folks bravely faced an unknown time and saw men and women with automatic weapons roaming the streets and subways protecting the area. They tried to carry on as though nothing happened, even if it did, and live with what they saw. I know, I am one of them.

I have never been able to call that day 9-11. To me it will always be September 11th. Maybe it is because I was born on the anniversary of another American wartime tragedy – December 7th, Pearl Harbor. To me that day will always be September 11th and it is never far from my thoughts even if it was 17 years ago.

Karen Fassuliotis
Greenwich, CT