For several years now, a group of bloggers have banded together to write remembrances of September 11th victims for the 2996 project. And as the years pass, I suppose it is easier to forget and maybe some people want to. I as well as others, however, have promised never to forget. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed that day through no fault of their own – simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
This year, I remember Bruce. Affectionately known as Chappy – although I couldn’t find out how or why he got his nickname – you’ve got to like a guy named Chappy, don’t you?
Bruce was one of many Cantor Fitzgerald employees who did not survive the attacks. He was strong, athletic and handsome. From all accounts a great father, husband and friend. Even though he was a financial broker for a prestigious firm, he was also a physical fitness advocate who regularly swam, biked and competed in marathons and triatholons.
He loved the ocean and often told his wife, Irene “The beach is my church.” He shared his love of the ocean with his daughters Brittany and Stacey. Like their father, they went on to be lifeguards, helping others, and looking out for people in trouble. And I’m sure, making him proud.
Chappy loved Hofstra University’s football, basketball and lacrosse teams, and attended most home games. In short, it seems that he was a great guy, with a lovely family and a love for life. Sadly, he was taken from his family on the day of his 19th wedding anniversary.
Rather than trying to speak for his family I will instead offer his wife’s words:
“The pain is there every single day. Time does not heal. You learn to kind of put your grief in your back pocket and carry it along with you. My husband is on my mind 24 hours a day. I don’t think that will ever go away and that’s good. I have memories of him. They’re not sad memories. We talk about him all the time. We laugh about the quirky things he would do. He would be happy that we’re happy I had 19 wonderful years. As sad as it is, at least I have that. Those memories will never go away.”
I cannot know what was in Chappy’s mind when he went into work that day or his last thoughts. Nor can I know what the loss of this man in his family’s and friend’s lives has meant. I can only say that the world is a little less happy because he is missing from it. And maybe someday when you’re at the beach you might catch a glint of something special, the spirit of a man who loved that vast expanse of water and whose sparkle reflects on aquamarine waves.
The only thing certain that you can absolutely rely on in life, is change.
No matter how secure, content and safe you may feel in your life, with your friends, family or job – it can change in an instant. A fraction of a moment. A shard of time.
Your friends can turn their backs, your spouse could find someone new and your company could go out business without warning.
Or…the country that you love could be attacked on a beautiful late summer morning. The building you work in could be transformed from a benevolent old friend into a blazing enemy determined to destroy all within and without. Your countrymen could be murdered for a sin no greater than being in the wrong place at the wrongest of times.
Never forget the way that day changed all of us – please.
I humbly dedicate these words to all the victims of September 11th, their families and loved ones, and to we who mourn the loss of that day, still.
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
who received its gift
Her father still remembers his firstborn daughter as an infant, asleep on his chest, safely enclosed in his protective arms. He remembers her childhood games, of hoola hoops and bicycle rides – her first words, first steps.
Her friends remember her without time or goodbyes. The quick smiles and laughs they shared. The closeness despite the distance that separated them. The joy, the plans, the I-miss-you’s.
Debbie was a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. Like many women, she had a promising career, a happy family life and good friends. Everything to live for.
I’m sure that when she boarded Flight 175 on the morning of September 11th she had no idea that life would change forever for her and her family and friends. Though she and her husband, Michael, were both traveling to Los Angeles, they took separate flights. Debbie always said that if anything ever happened to her, she wanted to be sure someone would be there to take care of her daughter, Cassandra. And maybe despite those terrible last minutes, she took comfort in knowing that her husband would be there to take care of their little girl.
I cannot pretend to know who Debbie was or what she meant to those who did. She was a private citizen going about her life when the course of it was radically shifted to an unthinkable fate.
I can only tell you that she was loved by her friends and family. That she is missed by those who knew her. That she brought comfort and joy to those in her life – and that the world has a little less sparkle and shine without her.
She leaves behind her parents, E.F. & Betty Lou Medwig, her brother Michael, sisters Deirdre and Michelle, husband Michael and daughter Cassandra. This is for them:
She flys with angels
glistening gossamer wings
whisper her spirit
Last year I stumbled upon this website and was truly touched by what I read. A blogger decided to put together a tribute for all the 911 victims and called it Project 2996. I signed up to do a tribute on this blog and pulled the name of a NYC fireman – Steve Mercado. You may have noticed his picture in my sidebar. I keep it there as a reminder to myself of what we lost that day and also, so that I will never forget that there are real heroes in the world.
This year I will be doing another tribute and I suppose as long as I have this blog I will continue to do tributes to these citizens whose lives were cut short simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I would encourage any of you to please visit the website and consider doing a tribute. It really doesn’t take that much time and it can mean so much to those who lost loved ones on that terrible day.
But I warn you, if you endeavor to be part of this project, it will change you. It will take hold of someplace deep inside of you and give you eyes you didn’t know you had. And you will feel things you didn’t know were there to feel. It will make you step outside of yourself and your world and take you on a journey to your heart of hearts.
I hope that you will consider doing a tribute and that if you do, it will forever change you.
If you could go back in TIME and kill Hitler, would you? How about Stalin? Jack the Ripper? John Wayne Gacey? Ted Bundy? Pol Pot? Or any other maniac in history?
Is life fated? Could one go back and change a significant event in history and not upset the whole planet?
If I went back to September 10th 2001 and prevented 9/11 from happening, would that have been a good thing? All of those people we lost that day would likely still be alive today if I had.
What might they have contributed to the world had they lived? A cure for cancer? The answer to drug abuse? A new invention that could save millions, or enable 3rd world countries to compete in the world market?
Children who are now fatherless or motherless would have their parents there to guide them. That empty place at the table would be no more. Could this possibly be a bad thing? Wouldn’t any of you out there have stopped it if you could have?
Or, would it have made no difference at all? Would there have been another attack somewhere else? Would we have been lulled further into a sense of false security, only to ultimately lose thousands more?
Would it rip the fabric of intended events and cause an even worse result? I’d like to think that it wouldn’t. I’d like to think that we aren’t just pieces in the giant chess game of life. That we have a choice. That the whole universe and all of life isn’t already mapped out and preordained. That while there may be a giant blueprint of the future and even a master architecht out there somewhere that the design elements can still be changed and improved upon. That we can opt out of certain features, even at the last minute.
Because if it is all fated. If it is all preordained then what are we doing here? What is our purpose? To sit and watch? To be spectators as the future rolls out before us? To supply the oooohs and the aaaahs and things unfold?
I don’t think so. I think we all have a choice and make a contribution. I think it is encumbant upon us to seize life by the throat and insist on changing the bad things and on making a difference.
So, I ask you – if you could, what would you change? Who would you stop? What terrible world event would you reverse?
(Oh yeah, he probably never also heard the ‘hell hath no fury’ quote either – because well, he was a stupid-ass terrorist. Now he is a dead stupid-ass terrorist. Like i always say ‘a good terrorist is a dead terrorist.’ )
I just wanted to say thanks for coming and reading, for commenting, for sharing your own tributes – for all the blood, sweat and tears that went into this project and still is. I have a completely different perspective on Sept 11th than I did before this – and that’s a good thing. To all the families, loved ones, friends of those we lost that day – deepest respect & love.
I did not know Steve Mercado, but he was my kind of guy. He was funny, handsome, made a mean chili and damn it, he was a hero. On September 11th he and eleven other of his firefighter brothers were lost in the World Trade Center. I imagine him charging up those stairs, intent on answering the calls for help. Intent on fulfilling his mission to save and protect. He was that kind of guy. He lived to help people. To make them laugh, make them feel like things were really okay. And I think that when Steve was around, people did feel that way.
He was born and raised in the Bronx and dreamed of playing for the New York Yankees as a kid. He played stickball in the streets with his pals – a game his father had taught him and eventually a game he would teach his own son and countless other children. A tradition he carried into adulthood.
He married his childhood sweetheart Jovianna and eventually they had two sons, Skylar and Austin. He was a dedicated husband and father and took great joy in watching his children grow. I imagine that he had a picture of his wife and kids taped inside his helmet – I don’t know it – but he seemed the kind of man who would. Who loved his life so much that he would want to keep the things dear to him close. I imagine too, that his last thoughts were of his family, what kind of men his sons would grow up to be and how very much he loved Jovi.
He was a modern day warrior, facing life and death as a matter of course. Charging in to whatever task life had dealt him – unphased and unafraid. And, I believe the world was better for Steve having been in it. He made the world a better place, a safer place, and a kinder place. He had a passion for life and it showed.
He loved stickball and dreamed of it becoming an Olympic sport one day. He was a legendary player and the President of the NY Emperor’s Stickball League. According to Steve, “Stickball is all about community. For me, I learned the game from my father, and others of his generation. They were my heroes, the role models we looked up to. Stickball was an important part in our tradition of teamwork, determination and community. My goal now is to reach out to the kids growing up today to make sure we continue to pass down these values.”
Stickball was a true calling for Steve. His wife said that he believed that there wasn’t any problem that couldn’t be worked out by a game of stickball. I think he may have had a point. Nothing like whacking balls over the rooftops and running like the wind to give you perspective. He was responsible for creating many teams across the country, starting programs for kids who might otherwise have not had the opportunity to learn about the teamwork and tradition Steve so loved. What lucky kids to have had such a great role model as Steve. He made things better, not by words but by his actions.
Steve was a man who made a difference and I believe still does. In the words of Buddha, If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. I hope that I have in some small way shown you the miracle of Steve.
Steve’s poem to his dad:
Addendum: Sharon Cannone, Steve’s cousin was kind enough to share the eulogy she delivered at Steve’s memorial service in November 2001:
There’s only one way to deal with the pain of losing my cousin Steve and the thousands of other lives that were lost on September 11. There’s only one way to come to terms with the pain and fear we feel. The only way to get beyond this is to live our lives the way my cousin chose to live his. We must be brave.
I have a lot of memories of my cousin. We grew up in the same building together and always stayed very close. A lot of memories…. But one memory in particular has been playing over and over in my mind since I learned that he was among the missing. Among Steve’s many talents a long time ago he dabbled into the world of boxing. And with just about everything else he took on, he trained long and hard to hone his skills. Well, the hard work and training paid off, because Steve qualified for the Golden Gloves and had his big night at Madison Square Garden. Steve was well represented that night by family and friends. When he entered the ring for the main event, the Garden “rocked” with applause from his fans. After the usual introductions, the fight began. But a minute or so into the fight, Steve took a punch to the chin and hit the canvas with a thud.
The moment Steve fell, I jumped out of my seat and started screaming at the top of my lungs. STEVIE GET UP!! STEVIE GET UP! I don’t remember how many times I yelled to my cousin, but all of a sudden, Steve got to one knee, shook his head, got up and beat the living daylights out of his opponent. The Garden went wild.After the fight, we all went to a bar in the City to celebrate. Steve told me that as he was lying on the canvas he heard a voice through the haze screaming his name. And that’s when the haze cleared, he said “That’s Sharon – I gotta get up”. He told me that night at the bar that it was my voice yelling his name over and over that enabled him to win the fight. I never thought I could be prouder of my cousin as I was that night — the night he fought the fight of his life. But I was wrong.
From the moment I knew that Steve was missing, I thought about that night at the Garden. Over and over I prayed, Stevie please get up. But it wasn’t in the cards this time. Even though I was joined in prayer by friends, family, the City and the whole Country. We all screamed your name Stevie, but this time your opponent was a dirty fighter who hit way below the belt.
I’ll never understand the twisted minds of terrorists who can cause pain like this. I don’t understand why some people choose to live their lives with pure hatred in their hearts instead of love. Their hatred defines who they are. Steve’s love for life, great sense of humor and truly giving heart defined who he was. He put his life on the line for his fellow man on a daily basis. And I’m very proud to have been a part of his life.
Note: For those of you in the NY area, PBS will be airing a documentary called “Bragging Rights” that covers the game and tradition of stickball. Steve is featured in this documentary and it will air Thursday, September 14th at 8PM.