At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragic destruction of the World Trade Center, I was in the middle of writing my novel. I had retired from the New York State Tax Department a few years earlier, and I knew we had a district office in the tower.
I later found out from former co-workers that 48 people from the Tax Department perished, I saw a list of names of these innocent people. I recognized two of whom I did not know personally but saw them in the hallway whenever they were required to come to Albany for meetings or conferences.
On Sept. 8, 2003, a holy day, I went to Mass and while in prayer for the 9/11 victims, the words to (my poem) “Song of Sorrow” came to mind. I had to find some way to show my respect and sorrow. I decided a poster with pictures would tell the story of how 343 brave New York City firefighters rushing toward this horrific disaster, risking their lives to save others, not knowing what to expect, were met with the unthinkable, the collapse of both towers.
I was watching TV that morning and witnessed the unconscionable attack and said to myself, “This should not be happening. This is real.” That’s when emotions indelibly sink into your memory. The worst part is seeing people jump to their deaths. Months later, the TV stations omitted this part, for good reason.
My poster was displayed in the New York State Museum in Albany for about a week.
Believe me, there is no room left for memorial items to this tragedy. The curator took me to a locked room stuffed with the personal effects of the victims, which included watches, shoes, articles of clothing, papers and other everyday items found in business offices. It is a sight I’ll never forget and never want to see again.
I took my poster to Schenectady Assistant Fire Chief Michael Gillespie, who told me it would be placed in the room dedicated to fallen Schenectady firefighters.
I was under the impression that he felt somewhat similar feelings from his experience as a firefighter. I have not seen my poster since that day.
-Donald DeFilippo, Schenectady
More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section