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With a Passing Decade, the Memories of 9/11 Are Still Poignant

The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Larchmont-Mamaroneck invited three guests to talk about their experiences of 9/11, yesterday morning at Hector's Cafe in Mamaroneck.

The stories of 9/11 are never easy to tell. With faltering voices, some attempt to convey the aftermath of a tragedy that bears more resemblance to a certain form of hell as envisioned by Dante’s "Inferno" than a simple terrorist attack.  Words cannot convey the initial panic and ensuing heartbreak as family members dialed the same numbers over and over again, desperately seeking the reassurance of the voice on the other end amid the panic that ensued.

For , an attorney practicing in Mamaroneck, that reassuring voice would stay silent on 9/11.

Ten years ago, Sullivan was a sergeant in the New York Police Department (NYPD) and working in Manhattan.  His brother, Patrick, was working at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center that day.

His voice wavering, Gregory explained how Patrick had recently given he and his wife the down payment for their first home on Stanley Avenue in Mamaroneck.

After the first plane hit the towers, Gregory said, “I had a cell phone—I called my brother—nobody answered. I called his cell phone and I didn’t get him.”

Later, as more chaos ensued, he described a chilling scene straight out of a zombie movie with plumes of black smoke clouding the air, powder coating the streets and buildings like an otherworldly atmosphere and people emerging from smoke clouds with dazed expressions, their faces streaked by tears.

“I was on Fulton and Broadway—two blocks away.  Out of the smoke you could still hear the yelling and screaming and the bodies hitting the ground,” he said, adding that many of these grim details had escaped the media’s portrayal of 9/11.

Later, Gregory scoured hospitals in Lower and Upper Manhattan to find his brother, whose body has not been recovered to this day.

“It’s really weird not having the opportunity [to bury the body]..it being so open-ended,” he said.

John Caparelli, the captain and acting chief of the Larchmont Fire Department, said the day started out like any other, with clear skies and normal routines.  After the news that the first tower had been hit, he was quickly deployed to 233rd Street in the Bronx to await further direction.

His cousin Joseph Mascali, also a firefighter at Ladder 122 in Staten Island, was off-duty that day but was called in to work.  Several days later, Caparelli made a startling discovery: The remnants of Mascali’s smashed firetruck, helmet and clothes outside one of the towers.

“We surmised he was outside the building when it came down,” he said.

Unable to sit passively at home, Caparelli worked the “bucket brigade” for the next few days, gathering rubble in buckets and passing it down an assembly line to be disposed of.

“I felt so miniscule sending a bucket down the line,” he said, describing the enormity of the devastation.

On May 11, 2002—Caparelli’s birthday—Mascali’s body was found.

“They buried him next to his father, uncle and grandparents on Staten Island,” said Caparelli, his voice wavering.

Lt. Michael Cindrich of the Town of Mamaroneck Police Department was called in for back-up after the tragedy occurred.

“This was very disconcerting to each and every one of us,” he said, referring to the call for mutual aid from the NYPD, Port Authority Police and the Westchester Department of Public Safety.  It was then that the scale of 9/11 began to sink in.

Cindrich provided security detail around the United Nations and was struck by support of fellow firefighters—many who took vacation days to do so—from departments as far-reaching as Los Angeles and Chicago.

As audience members dabbed their eyes, Larchmont-Mamaroneck LWV President Elisabeth Radow urged others to not let the memories of 9/11 fade away.

“This is something we have to remember as a legacy—it’s part of the fabric of the United States,” she said.

 

 

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