When I was in High School my dad worked on Wall Street. Sometimes I would take a bus to the Port Authority and meet him downtown in the main lobby of the World Trade Center. I went to the observation deck several times. The view was incredible but scary for me. I don't like heights.
September 11th 2001 was a sunny day. I had just finished doing the Birthday Honor Roll at 8:45 and walked to my office. My phone was ringing. It was my friend Mayor Fistal from West Milford. He wanted me to know a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. I ran back into the on air studio to watch the news reports on our small black and white T.V. and started giving live updates in between songs. As traffic and news helicopter reporters were live on the air we saw a second jet crash into one of the towers. It was not a small plane. At that moment we knew our country was being attacked.
I was on the air until 4PM that day with our News Director Steve Spadifino and the late Vince Thomas who was the WSUS Program Director. We stopped playing music and commercials and tried our best to be calming voices during the tragedy. Sussex County Emergency Management coordinator Skip Danielson updated us hourly and the late Pastor Ed Casey from Stockholm United Methodist Church prayed with us on the air. Many people later told us they turned off their T.V.'s but kept the radio on because they appreciated the fact that we were not trying to scare our listeners anymore than they were already scared.
It's also important to point out Vince Thomas' brother Joe was missing for 4 hours while Vince was on the air with us. Joe was on the last subway train to leave Cortland Street before the station was destroyed. Since there was no cell phone service he had no way to call his family to tell them he was alright. It was a struggle for Vince to keep his composure but finally Joe walked uptown and called from a land line.
Our General Manger at the time was Bob Dunphy. Bob worked as a Program Director in New York City for many years. Bob wanted to bring our local community together in one place somehow. So he organized "Colors and Candles" at Skylands Park. The stadium was filled to capacity the next evening. The speakers reminded us of how great our country is and we prayed for the families who lost loved ones that day. Pastor Casey and Reverend Ernie Kosa lead us in prayer. They are both gone now. The most memorable moment for me was Freeholder and retired Air Force Major Howard Burrell reminding us "Freedom is not Free."
In the weeks that followed I joined all of our local radio personalities helping to collect money for the families of fallen firefighters and policeman. As the weeks turned into years our local radio station WSUS, WNNJ and MAX 1063 were instrumental in raising the funds to build the Sussex County 911 Memorial at SCCC. I was very honored to speak at the dedication ceremony two years later.
It took a few weeks for me to realize someone I knew was killed 17 years ago today. I worked with Bob Cirri at the A and P in North Bergen in the 1980's. He was a few years younger than me. I used to drive him home after work. He was from a law enforcement family and wanted to be a police officer himself. Bob was one of the Port Authority Police Officers who rushed to the World Trade Center and never returned. I remember him as a very kind young man who wanted to help people.
Several people I know suffered directly from the events of September 11, 2001. My friend Joe Maloney was a copy machine repairman for Xerox. That morning he was in a nearby building with plans to head to the World Trade Center in the afternoon. Joe heard a woman in that office building scream as the first tower fell. He knew many people who died in the World Trade Center that day and spent the rest of his life struggling with his mental health. My long time friend Larry Kirwin was a Patterson Fireman who spent months at ground zero after the attacks recovering the bodies of those lost that day. A heartache he will remember for the rest of his life.
Today people who want to put America first are often criticized. As for me, I care about the rest of the world but I will always be proud to tell you " I stand with those who put America first."