Thursday, September 18, 2008
Last Thursday Morning while driving to The Guardian’s White Plains offices, and listening to live coverage of events at Ground Zero, I glanced at my dashboard clock, which read, “8:46am”, just as the names of all 2751 victims of the World Trade Center disaster had begun to be read,
and all the memories of that day came flooding back.
Seven years seemed so long ago, and yet so vivid; still so painful. At precisely 8:46 that fateful morning, Tony Castro and I were getting up from our table at the Starbuck’s in Larchmont, having stopped for coffee following two hours of greeting commuters at the railroad station. We, together with campaign workers, had given out more than 1700 palm cards that morning to a very strong reception. Tony was running for District Attorney against three-term incumbent Jeanine Pirro.
It was less than two months from Election Day, and we had less than $50,000 in the bank. She had already raised more than $1 million. But
we were out there, doing a different railroad station every morning at 6:30am, and had already handed out more than 40,000 palm cards.
Leaving Starbuck’s, we drove, each in our own car, to Democratic Headquarters in White Plains, each oblivious to the fact that a huge passenger
jet had just slammed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center, oblivious as well to the fact that our lives, and the lives of every American, had just been forcibly changed forever.
Just six weeks earlier, Jeanine Pirro, in a fit of anger, having seen Tony at the Arab-American Festival in Yonkers, had screamed from the stage,
“And remember, I am one hundred percent like you; not fifty percent, but one hundred percent.” She would not be touting her Lebanese roots again. Instead, she would avoid every opportunity to debate Tony Castro.
When she ultimately ran out of excuses, she fled to Galveston, Texas in a breakaway pursuit of Robert Durst; harassing him and ultimately
providing him with the perfect cover story, as well as an acquittal, in a gruesome murder and chopping up of boarding house resident Morris Black.
We weren’t at Democratic Headquarters very long when it occurred, spontaneously to each of us, or so we thought, that there would be many
injured persons in need of blood. It was nearly 10am when we walked into the lobby of the White Plains Hospital. There were already more
than 150 people lined up, waiting to give their blood. Rocco D’Agostino, a fellow Pace Law graduate, with whom I had just shared an office, my first year out of law school, was there, as were many other familiar faces. Little did any of us realize that blood couldn’t be the answer.
We left the hospital after doing our duty, returning to Democratic Headquarters. The only television station we were able to pull in was British
Broadcasting. We watched, stunned, as both towers continued to burn, knowing that each tower was damaged beyond reclamation, but
totally unprepared to see them, one after the other, come crashing down in a cloud of dust and twisted metal.
With the collapse of each came the sickening knowledge that some enemy of freedom, some cowardly group, had succeeded in bringing
us to our knees. The thought “what’s next” gripped us as reports of the Pentagon horror filtered in. We could only image how many innocent men
and women, perhaps people we knew, or had given a palm card to, as they boarded the train, had died. Suddenly, a sense of the magnitude of the events we were witnessing began to register. None of what Tony and I had had on our agenda, either jointly or individually, had any relevance, made any sense; certainly not for the balance of that day, nor for the forseeable, immediate future.
There was, of course, the issue of preoccupation, nationally, and worldwide, with the horrific events in New York, in Washington and in a field in
Pennsylvania. And, perhaps as compellingly, there would be the day-today immediate impact on our lives locally; the question of what activity
was appropriate, especially for those of us so caught up in the momentum and thrust of a political campaign brought to a sudden halt, yet full of
It would take major league baseball to signal the resumption of normal American activity, whatever that was, or would come to be. However,
to this moment, those of us, those who are true down-state New Yorkers, know our lives have never been the same since 9/11, nor can they
ever truly be.