9/11 20 years later: ‘A very painful part of my life’ – Local victims remembered by friends, family

Steven Cafiero Sr., a Glenville resident who lost his son, Steven Jr., in the Sept. 11 attacks,  wrote a long poem about his son and the tragedy, which he presented to then-Gov. George Pataki.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Steven Cafiero Sr., a Glenville resident who lost his son, Steven Jr., in the Sept. 11 attacks, wrote a long poem about his son and the tragedy, which he presented to then-Gov. George Pataki.

Frank Tatum doesn’t allow himself to get too emotionally invested in 9/11 memorial services. They’re a good idea, but he really doesn’t need the reminder.

“It’s a very painful part of my life, but I try to remember that it’s not just about me,” said Tatum, a resident of Stillwater in Saratoga County whose mother, Diane “Dani” Parsons, was one of the 2,606 victims who died when two planes struck the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. “My mom died. I’m not going to forget, but the tragedy belongs to the whole country and it’s important that we remember everybody who was killed that day.”

This year the 9/11 Memorial & Museum invited all family members of those who died in the Twin Towers to return to the site of the tragedy in New York City and read the name of their lost loved one. Tatum, however, probably won’t attend.

“I’ve been down there a few times, usually around Sept. 11, but never actually on that day,” said Tatum. “I’ll probably go to a small ceremony right here in Stillwater. Most of the people who knew my mom will be here. It will be a tough day but we’ll get through it, and then I’ll probably go to the Willie Nelson concert the next day at SPAC.”

In 2011, as the 10th anniversary of his mother’s death approached, Tatum told The Gazette about his struggle to deal with the pain.

“The last 10 years, yeah, they were tough,” Tatum said 10 years ago. “It’s almost a lost decade for me. I’ve just trudged through. That’s about all I can really do.”

Dealing with the pain, especially this time of the year, continues to be a challenge for Tatum, who along with his mother worked for the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Parsons, who was 58, just happened to be in New York City that day at the World Trade Center.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but you can’t afford to let it take over,” he said. “You have to find a way to deal with it. You have to work out a way to process it. If you swallow it and internalize it, it will just eat you up from the inside out.”

Tatum said he gets plenty of support from friends and other family members.

“I have friends who may bring it up, or just make themselves available to talk about it,” he said. “They know what I’m going through. My mom was a great lady and she deserves to never be forgotten. She’ll always be with us.”

NATIVE SONS

While people throughout the region lost loved ones or knew people who perished, the city of Schenectady had two native sons killed that day. Both were 30 years old and worked at the World Trade Center.

More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section 

Mike Canty, one of nine siblings, grew up near Central Park and played high school football at Linton High. He was working on the 92nd floor of the north tower when the plane hit. In 2001, Canty was an uncle to 16 nieces and nephews, all under the age of 10.

James Patrick, meanwhile, at work on the 105th floor, had a young wife who was eight months pregnant. A graduate of Albany Academy and Fordham University, Patrick grew up with three sisters on Parkwood Avenue in the Union Street neighborhood of Schenectady.

Although not a Schenectady native or resident, city officials were also devastated by the news that former police commissioner Charlie Mills was killed in the Twin Towers that day. Mills, director of the state Bureau of Petroleum, Alcohol and Tabacco in 2001, was working in his office on the 87th floor of the south tower when the plane hit the north tower at 8:46 a.m. Twelve minutes later, another plane hit the building Mills was in.

Mills, while at odds with Schenectady mayor Frank Duci during his time in Schenectady — 1995-1997 — had made many other good friends, including Al Jurczynski.

More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section 

“I knew he was in Manhattan and I was thinking to myself, ‘Call him, and tell him to get over there and take care of the problem,’ ” remembered Jurczynski, who was the city’s mayor from 1996 through 2003. “That’s the kind of guy he was. You had that kind of respect for him because you knew he could handle trouble.”

Then, Bill Seber of the Parks and Recreation Department, walked into Jurczynski’s office and reminded him that Mills’ office was in the Twin Towers.

“We eventually heard the story how Charlie was rounding people up and sending them down the elevator,” said Jurczynski. “He was stuffing people in the elevator and said, ‘Don’t worry about us, we’ll catch the next elevator.’ But there wasn’t another elevator.

“Charlie Mills was just one of my favorite people,” continued Jurczynski. “He was a man’s man, a ladies’ man and a smart law enforcement man. And he loved Schenectady. I still miss him. I just couldn’t fathom the idea of him having perished. He was a great guy.”

Current Mayor Gary McCarthy, who served on the City Council during Mills’ time as police commissioner in Schenectady, also remembered him fondly.

“He started the transition of the Police Department, an entity that had its organizational structure and management out of the 1950s, and Mills helped bring it into modern times,” said McCarthy. “I worked with him a lot while I was on the City Council and he was a very good guy. A very competent guy who demonstrated great leadership.”

Don Kauth, a Siena graduate who lived in Saratoga Springs and coached youth hockey, was also among those killed that day, as was Delmar’s William Raub and Troy’s John Armand Reo.

Steven Cafiero Sr., a Glenville resident since 1987, lost his son Steven Jr. that day.

“The thoughts never leave my mind, and when those thoughts come to you it’s like you’re reliving it,” said Cafiero, who moved from New York City to Glenmont in 1987, then to Glenville in 1998. “The feeling I go through is tough to explain. You deal with the trauma at your own pace and in your own way, and the pain never completely disappears, but I guess it does get less intense.”

Cafiero wrote a long poem about his son and the 9/11 tragedy, which he presented to then-Gov. George Pataki.
“I still think of Steven each and every day,” said Cafiero. “He is still with me.”

More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section 

Categories: 9/11 20 Years Later, Life and Arts, News

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