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Rediscovering What Is Important

by Joseph Sapienza, Program Manager

On September 11, 2001, I was headed into Manhattan on business to visit a couple of my accounts. I parked at the Oyster Bay Station in Long Island, then took the train to the 23rd Street Station at Lexington Avenue. When I came out of the station, I noticed one of the towers was on fire. Someone told me a bomb went off. Everyone was standing just staring at the tower. I started walking toward my appointment and all of a sudden I heard this loud boom. I turned around as

Pedestrians watching the towers

the second plane hit the tower. At that moment, I was in shock. I kept thinking, do I go to these appointments now, what do I do? Everyone on the street started saying it was a terrorist attack. At that point, I called my account and said I wasn’t going to be there. I started heading downtown to get closer to see what was going on. I got to about 14th street and the police said to get back.

My first thought was about my wife because she knew I was in the city that day. I called her and she asked if I was near a TV, which I was. Cell phone service went out so I couldn’t make any phone calls. The trains shut down, so I couldn’t get back to Long Island. People were crossing over the Brooklyn bridge by foot to get out of Manhattan. I got stuck in the city overnight because I couldn’t make my way home. By the time I figured out I couldn’t get home that night, all the hotels were taken. I went to the library and saw this guy put his briefcase down on the steps outside and lay down, so I did the same thing. I slept on the steps of the library that night with my briefcase as my pillow.

Oyster Bay Line in Long Island

That day, I saw people jumping out of the buildings. At the time, I thought it was office furniture being thrown out because I was so far away. I later learned it was people jumping.

The most impactful sight was when I got back to the Oyster Bay Line parking lot in Long Island the next day and saw the dozen or so cars parked there. Cars who belonged to people who went to work that day and never made it back home. Those cars didn’t move for about 2 weeks until they were towed. 9/11 changed my entire community – we became closer because of everything and everyone we had lost.

The weeks and months after that tragic day, I found myself rediscovering those things I needed to be grateful for and once again started to take stock of my own life and what I needed to do to become a better brother, husband, and father to my family.

Today, I don’t really talk about that day much - it's too difficult - but it's nice to continue to come together as a community and nation to remember and honor those we lost.


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