Each year I am deeply committed to remembering the events of September 11, 2001. #NeverForget How about you?
This is how I #NeverForget:
1) I read about the events on that fateful day in the book, 102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers. 2) I find events in my community that support remembering 9/11. This year I attended a Patriotic Assembly put on by Carnelian Elementary School, one of the schools in the Alta Loma School District where I serve on the school board. 3) I display the American flag on my house. 4) I remember the time I met a 9/11 survivor on an airline flight. Here is that story: “On September 11, 2012, I was traveling and had a wonderful, chance meet-up with a real hero from that day twelve years ago. My family thought I was quite brave especially when you consider that on September 11, 2012 it was the first September 11th to fall on a Tuesday since the original September 11th in 2001. I had no fears however. I could think of no better way to pay my respect and to show how proud I am of America’s resiliency than by flying in an airplane on Patriot’s Day.
On my flight from Salt Lake City to Phoenix , the man sitting across the aisle from me happened to be a survivor; one of the real heroes from 9/11. At first, I thought the gentleman was a flight attendant or even the captain of the plane. He was wearing navy blue slacks and a white, short sleeved shirt with blue patches on the sleeves. He even offered to help me lift my suitcase in to the overhead bin. He just took my suitcase before I could reply and hoisted it above my head. I didn’t think anything out of the ordinary of that act of kindness until I settled in to my seat and actually read the patch on his sleeve: New York City Fire Department. Then it hit me: 9/11, NYFD….this man is not a flight attendant. This man has got to be a 9/11 guy. Being the shy person that I am, I proceeded to ask him, “Were you in 9/11?” and he promptly answered, “Yes, I was.” That was all I needed to hear. I then took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask him a million questions about his experience and thankfully, he obliged my curiosity.
Lt. Joe Torrillo was assigned to Ladder 10, Engine 10, right across the street from the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Like the rest of his crew, he was sent to the WTC to perform his duties on that fateful day. He was assigned to the South Tower and when the building came down, he was buried in the rubble. Luckily, he was pulled out but within 20 minutes of the collapse, the building crumbled around him once more and he was buried AGAIN. He truly feels that God had a purpose for him especially since he survived being buried TWICE. (No kidding)
From his ordeal, Lt. Torrillo experienced severe head trauma. His skull collapsed, requiring a steel plate to be inserted on the right side of his head. It took months for him to recover and get his faculties back. He tried several times to go back to work but because of his brain injury, he finally had to retire.To honor his fallen comrades, he now goes around the country giving speeches about his experience. Yesterday, September 11, 2012, he was in Utah and spoke in the morning at Utah Valley University. He was on my flight to Phoenix so that he could continue on to San Diego, California where he was addressing a gathering in San Diego’s Balboa Park later that evening. He was recently invited to go speak to a school in South Africa and he will be traveling there soon to share his message there. In addition to his speaking engagements, he also conducts tours at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center. His left wrist was full of all kinds of bracelets: the rubber “cause” bracelets, a red, white, and blue bracelet plus some rubber bands. I asked him the significance of all those bracelets. He said that often when he gives tours at Ground Zero, when people learn of his story, they give him their “cause” bracelets for him to wear while he works. Lt. Torrillo has a natural, charitable spirit that he is willing to share with strangers. I asked him about his health after 9/11. I’ve heard stories of how people who survived the disaster have lots of issues, especially with breathing due to all the chemicals in the air. (Just yesterday, the news was reporting how the government is finally recognizing the connection of cancer with all the debris from the fallen towers). Lt. Torrillo said his health isn’t that great. Of course, he has his head issues to deal with and when I specifically asked him about his breathing, he said he lost about 60% of his lung capacity. He is a walking miracle. What an honor it was for me to meet Lt. Joe Torrillo, to hear his story, and to be able to personally thank him for his sacrifices that fateful day.”