I Remember Paul Lisson – a 9/11 Tribute

About three years ago I became involved in a project called 2996. Which is an aggregate of bloggers who volunteered to write a tribute to a single victim of September 11th 2001. The project had such impact that it carries on. I have promised myself that as long as I have a platform like this blog that I will continue to do these tributes. Each year. One person at time. I do this, not as a political statement but as an act of respect and love for those people who had the misfortune of going to work, getting on the wrong plane, acting like that day would be like any other day. Wrong place, wrong time. Life cut too short. I honor those people and through a tribute in some very small way I am able to give them just a little bit of the life back that was taken from them. This year, I honor Paul Lisson.

Paul was forty-five and worked for Pitney Bowes in the World Trade Center. By all accounts he was very a shy man and kept to himself much of the time. An only child, he grew up with a mentally ill mother, trying to take care of himself and her at the same time. It must have been very difficult and lonely for him to have such a burden as a child and even as an adult. His parents were divorced and so he was the main emotional support for his mother.

Despite his shy and retiring ways anyone who worked with Paul or knew him, spoke of his kindness and care toward other people. If it was your birthday or your anniversary, you could expect Paul to take you to lunch, surprise with a bouquet of balloons or something equally kind and thoughtful. He was just sweet that way – perhaps because he grew up with the special sensitivity of a child who had a vulnerable parent, perhaps just because it was native in him to be kind.

He never married and lived alone in his Brooklyn home – was a conscientious worker and often arrived early at work. Though in his very quiet way he had touched lives and had friends whom he cared about and who cared about him – which was apparent when nearly forty people arrived for his memorial dinner. His father, though they were estranged for many years, was also thankfully a part of Paul’s life and it was a terrible loss, when he realized that he had lost his son.

At the memorial, Bill Kirkhuff, an old family friend, described the Ed Sullivan routine that Paul had spontaneously performed as an 8-year- old. Mr. Vidal marveled over Paul’s utter reliability. Sidney Lisson, a retired graphics artist, discovered that his son had won attendance awards and had a personnel file brimming with commendations. “I’m so full of grief, still,” Sidney Lisson said. “My heart is absolutely shattered.”

It’s amazing isn’t it that we often learn about the people we know, so much more once they are gone than we knew about them in life. That seemed to be the case with Paul as well. Though, unfortunately there was not a lot of information I could find about Paul – it seemed to me that the people who were in his life cared deeply about him, that he was a constant cheerful presence in their lives and that they continue to miss his shy smile and kind nature. It’s always a tragedy when we lose a gentle soul – the one who always smiles when they see us, remembers our birthday, makes us feel a little bit special. That was Paul Lisson.

He liked foreign films, introduced to him by his friend Vera, mystery novels, discussing current events, ballgames and wristwatches. He was shy and kind – making his own quiet way in the world.

His friend Vera tells this story about Paul:

‘I’ll tell you a funny story about Paul,” she added. ”He was supposed to work 9 to 5 every day and he got there at 8 every day. He was always there early. One morning he got there and some people were robbing our computers. Paul offered them coffee and held the door for them. That’s how good and kind he was. He couldn’t conceive that someone would be robbing us.”

On Septemeber 11th :

Genya Sookoo, a Pitney Bowes worker who was with him on Sept. 11. After smelling smoke, she said, they and a third clerk began to descend the stairs. Then came the public address announcement that the problem was in Tower 1 and that it was safe to return to their desks. ”And at that point,” Ms. Sookoo recalled, ”he said he was busy and was going back.” She said she begged him to keep going, but he told her he was dizzy and just wanted to return to his desk.

”It’s funny,I had the pleasure of telling him how much I cherished his friendship that morning and he said the same thing.” She added, ”I used to tell him I wished I had a friend whom I could get him together with. Cause he was just so lonely and I’d feel so bad about it.”

Ms. Sookoo told these stories to Mr. Lisson’s father, Sidney, who called her in the days after the attack to try to determine his son’s fate. Father and son lived just blocks apart in Bay Ridge and, in his view, they had been working on a relationship tainted by hardship and regret. ”I think we were developing a very decent father-son relationship in the last few years,” he said. He was not surprised that Paul had turned back to his office. ”He would tend to be ruffled by that kind of thing, and he was kind of sensitive,” said Mr. Lisson, a retired calligrapher and graphic artist. ”I don’t know how to explain it. He had a very bad adolescence living with an emotionally unstable mother.”

I’m sure that there are many people out there who still miss the shy man with the kind heart and big smile – I hope that they have found peace with the loss of their friend and son and that Paul’s spirit lives on in each of them.

Your smile never fades
from the memory
of those
who received its gift

with respect – wc

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19 thoughts on “I Remember Paul Lisson – a 9/11 Tribute

  1. Absolutely beautiful tribute. People like Paul are just too rare, and my heart breaks that, as you said, he just got up and got on with his day at the wrong time and the wrong place. Still unfathomable to me.

    My tribute to Jean D Roger, a 24 year old flight attendant on that first flight is up on my blog.

    Hi Maggie,
    Thank you for coming by. Yes, I do think that people like this man, are rare – so losing one is always devastating. I will be by to all the tributes today. It is still a very tough thing for me, this day.

    Thanks for being part of the tribute, we aren’t nearly as many as we once were.

    Annie

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  2. Beautifully written. Thank you so much for introducing me to Paul Lisson.

    Hi Cathy and welcome,
    I was happy to introduce Paul Lisson to you and everyone – a kind man – a gentle soul. Thanks for reading.
    Annie

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  3. Hi Annie,

    aww Thank you for this beautiful tribute for Paul Lisson. What a beautiful man he is.Your tribute is so touching yes beautifuly written, oozing with kindness and care in itself.

    An amazing tribute from an amazing woman. Your so special Annie, I love how you do all this stuff. Your heart shines through., you are one beautiful woman. I remeber your tribute last year for Steve. This is what I call love.

    Rest beautifuly Paul.
    love
    Di.

    Thank -you Annie.x

    Hi Di,
    I am glad you read the tribute and send your love toward his soul. I hope he is at peace, wherever he may be. No need to thank me for the tribute, I was honored to do it.

    love
    Annie

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  4. Thank you, Annie. We lost a family friend in the Towers. He was a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend….well, you get the idea. And since I’m here at work and not in a position to ‘lose it’ that’s all I will write. Again, thank you.

    Hi Panther, my friend. I am so sorry to hear that this touched you so personally. I was very lucky, no one I knew was hurt that day – a miracle in itself. I would be happy to write a tribute for your friend if you want to share? Email me.

    Love
    Annie

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  5. That was a beautiful and moving tribute. Thank you for sharing and helping us all remember what a tragedy that day was and how many innocent Americans lost their lives. God bless you for taking the time to write this.

    Hi Marti and welcome,
    Thank you for coming by to read. I am hoping that many people do – I would like them to know a little bit about Paul Lisson.

    WC

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  6. What a beautiful tribute, Annie. I’m so glad you wrote about someone who wasn’t married and didn’t have children. Sometimes I feel theses people are shuffled under the rug in favor of “father of fives” and “beloved husbands,” yet these people are just as important and were just as loved. They were somebody’s sons, somebody’s brother, somebody’s uncle, somebody’s friend. Every life has tremendous value and meaning.

    Hi Teens,
    I know what you mean – it is harder to define a person when there are not the obvious things/people in their lives to define them. But as you say, each one was important and loved. And I try to celebrate that – that each meant something to someone somewhere. Yes, his life had meaning – even if he didn’t know it.

    Annie

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  7. I find it difficult to get through some of the tributes as the people come to life in front of me ad then I remember why I’m reading about them. Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute. God bless.

    Hi Bec and welcome,
    I have the same difficulty – it freshens the wounds to remember. But how can we not? Paul Lisson deserved more than a tribute on a blog – but it is what I can offer him, his family and his friends. I hope it is some small comfort to them. Thank you for coming by and for participating in this project.
    WC

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  8. That was beautiful and heartwarming and so sad all at the same time. He sounded like such a nice soul. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about Paul.

    Love
    Joan

    Hi Joanie,
    Thanks for taking the time to read. The idea of this is make people aware of not just that we lost so many but that they were real, living, breathing human beings. I’m glad I could tell you about Paul Lisson, I really am.

    Love
    Annie

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  9. I am sure that his family and friends would be touched by your tribute. Thanks for helping keep the memory alive.

    hey darlin’
    I hope you’re right – I hope maybe they did read. It would make me feel good to know that it somehow helped them.

    Annie

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  10. Annie, this is beautifully written. So many passed but it’s not just a big number. Each person counted and mattered- I like what you’ve done here to show that. Each one has a story and left a mark behind. Thank you for sharing.

    Hey Bella,
    Thanks, honey. It’s one of the reasons I want to keep doing this each year – to show that it’s not a number, it’s a person. Who lived and breathed and was real. I’m glad this quiet man came to me this year as the tribute – he needed to be heard.

    Annie

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  11. Annie, You are a blessing. What a wonderful way to honor those precious lives that were lost on that day. We feel as if we knew him.

    Thank you for taking the time to get information about Paul Lisson and offer such a loving tribute.

    Be blessed because you are indeed a blessing!

    Hey Ange,
    I wish I could take the credit, but I am simply following someone else’s lead here. Though I do think it’s important to at least aknowledge with a few words, the people who were taken. Who are not heroes because of their death but because of who they were in life, you know?

    Annie

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  12. Beautiful. I was with Paul that day in staircase. My friend Patricia and I were walking down and Paul was also. We talked, laughed and yes when they made the announcement, he went back. I will always remember the look he had on his face. It is one that will be with me til the end. To say he was a loving person is not enough. No words can describe the beautiful person he was. I was at Aon for just one moth when this happened. And on my first day he brought me cake from a meeting on floor, introduced himself and that was where we became friends. Not a day went by that he would not stop by to talk or tell me where the goodies where at. Paul will always be missed and in my thought/heart forever. RIP my Dear Friend!

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    1. Hi Yolanda,
      I imagine those last moments with Paul would be forever in your memory. Thank you for sharing your memories of Paul. He was obviously a very special person.
      I hope I remembered him with respect and honor.

      Prayers to you.

      Annie

      Like

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