9-11 Plus 19

The question one often is asked on the anniversary of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon is, “Where were you?”

That clear September morning I was here at Swain County Hospital on business.

Swain County Hospital is a small rural hospital located in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. Back in 2001, it had recently been re-licensed for 15 beds under the Critical Access Hospital program.

As I’ve noted before, I had arrived a little before 9am and found out that the North Tower of the World Trade Centers had been hit by a plane. The hospital administrator’s secretary suggested we go watch for more information on the TV in an unused patient room. The TV couldn’t have been more than 12 inches square. The hospital administrator, his secretary, and I watched in horror as the second plane was flown into the South Tower.

Needless to say, no work got done that day.

Just like with the assassination of JFK, I will always remember where I was that day.

9-11 Plus 17

It is hard to believe it has been 17 years since the attacks of September 11th. As others have noted, it is was one of those “where were you?” type of days just like JFK’s assassination and the Challenger explosion.

The things I remember:

Watching the second plane hit the South Tower just after 9am on a small TV at Swain County Hospital in Bryson City, North Carolina. I had gone to the hospital on business and learned about the attack soon after I arrived.

Learning that one of my friends in Human Resources lost her older brother who was working on the 102nd Floor of 2 WTC and the outpouring of support she got from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. While she might have been an Italian-American from NY, her husband’s family was Cherokee and thus the tribe felt a connection to 9-11.

23 alumni from one high school – Monsignor Farrell HS in Staten Island – were killed that day. Two of my cousins had graduated from there and had graduated with some of those killed.

Feeling relief that my second cousin Kevin McEntyre was off-duty from his job with the Fire Dept of NY and had already gone home by the time of the attack. However, in the days that followed he was there helping with the cleanup and rescue efforts. He took a medical retirement a few years ago due to all the toxic dust he inhaled over those days and months.

That the United States was united in our resolve to fight back against those who attacked us.

These are indelible memories for me just like when Kennedy was assassinated which I remember as a first grader in Asheboro, NC.

Steve And Richie Huczko, RIP

When I visited my grandmother’s house in Staten Island, NY during the summers, I got to know some of my cousins’ friends. Steve Huczko hung out with my cousin Bill and his younger brother was my cousin Tom’s best friend.

I forgot about them until September 11, 2001 when I read the names of the police officers and firefighters killed in the attack.

Steve Huczko had grown up to be a Port Authority police officer, registered nurse, and certified EMT. He was the the Port Authority of NY and NJ’s headquarters in Jersey City when the attack began. From his obituary:

Officer Huczko, 44, of Hampton, N.J., was at the Port Authority’s Jersey City headquarters on the morning of Sept. 11. He was among those who rushed to help with the rescue effort. Officer Huczko’s plan was to retire in five years and start a second career as a nurse. “He could never sit still,” Mrs. Huczko said. “It was the idea of continuing to help people.”

He was killed when the North Tower collapsed. His body was found in the lobby a mere 24 inches from the exit door along with four other Port Authority officers who were attempting to free a woman strapped to a rescue chair.

Steve’s younger brother Richie was an engineer who had trained at the NY Maritime Academy. He wasn’t killed in the 9/11 attack but died from a terrorist ambush in Iraq in 2004. He was working for General Electric who was under contract to rebuild the Iraqi electrical infrastructure.

I can only imagine the pain that their families went through at the time. For a mother to lose not one but two sons to Islamic terrorists is almost beyond comprehension. I hope that time has allowed their families to heal.

Rest in peace, Steve and Richie.

Quote Of The Day

Mark Steyn is a Canadian who gets it as does Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle.

What’s missing from these commemorations?

Firemen?

Oh, please. There are some pieces of the puzzle we have to leave out. As Mayor Bloomberg’s office has patiently explained, there’s “not enough room” at the official Ground Zero commemoration to accommodate any firemen. “Which is kind of weird,” wrote the Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle, “since 343 of them managed to fit into the exact same space ten years ago.”

I find this especially poignant since my second cousin Kevin McEntyre is a New York City fireman, who by the grace of God, had gone off duty that morning and was on his way home when the terrorists hit the World Trade Center. Many in his fire company were not so lucky and were among the 343 that died that day. Kevin spent many days afterwards at Ground Zero searching for survivors and then for the bodies of the dead.