Has it really been 15 years since 9/11?

Mary Joan Nastri, Staff Writer

My family and I ran a small business in 7 World Trade Center. This building was a relatively new addition to the trade center complex. The façade was made out of red granite that had been imported from Italy, and the width of the building was the size of two football fields. Our shop was located in the lobby and we sold, coffee, drinks, magazines, and newspapers, much like the shops you see in the airport, just much larger. Our customers were mainly people that worked in the building and visitors.

One of my customers, a gregarious hippie in a three-piece suit, stopped in almost every day and we often chatted. Several days after 9/11, I saw his picture in the New York Post saying he had died on one of the planes that had hit the building.

And the security guard, who walked slowly and deliberately, flew into action the day of the disaster. He was helping people evacuate the twin towers and went in with the firefighters to help more people, putting others’ lives ahead of his own. He never came out.

My dad, who was helping me that day, while I was at another store l run nearby, must have run out immediately, I imagined. He suffered from panic and would have been one of the first people to escape. At least, this thought kept me sane until I finally reached him 4-5 hours later. Someone driving a van had picked him and others up and drove them home. I, on the other hand, needed to wait until the trains were running again.

Everything stopped that day. It was devastating, of course, however I’ve never seen the people in my city come together and be so helpful to one another.

Someone dropped my mother off at my other store, and I could see she was in shock and visibly shaking. Next, a cousin who worked nearby came in. And days afterward, the people on the train seemed more desperate for a kind smile or a connection with others; it moved me. It wasn’t until months later that things went back to normal on my usual commute.

My other store couldn’t survive because I had opened it in August 2001, and I paid myself with the proceeds of the store in the trade center. So, sadly, I closed it in the later part of October.
Another experience that I remember clearly was the help from the Red Cross volunteers. The volunteers I met were mostly from the Midwest. I appreciated their time to get our urgent bills paid, but they also talked with us and filled me with hope for the future. I made a mental note to visit the Midwest one of these days.

So, two years after 9/11, I made the move to Madison. I picked it out of a magazine’s review on best small towns. I forget which magazine. I knew I wanted a quieter, smaller place to live. Madison was rated with high marks in safety, which was important as a single woman, as well as health and education – things that were just as important to me.

I can’t say the move was easy. It was a bit of a culture shock. People noticed my accent, and I theirs. The nights were too quiet to fall asleep. Luckily, that didn’t last that long, and I began to relish the silence.

On my visits back to New York, my friends would comment how less stressed I looked and they stopped teasing me about the cheese and snow. Although, since I’ve moved here, it seems like New York City has had worse weather storms than here.