9/11 hits home

By Kristen Catalanotto
September 16, 2004

Craig Vagell/Guest Photographer

Etched into American’s minds like a scene from a horrifying movie, the third anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon took place this past weekend. For one Cabrini student the anniversary hit close to home.

Senior Craig Vagell traveled home to Cedar Knolls, N.J. this weekend in order to honor those who lost their lives. Vagell has been a volunteer fire-fighter for the Cedar Knolls Fire Department since July 2001. He wanted to become a fire-fighter because he liked the idea of helping people during times of distress. All fire-fighters talk about a camaraderie that exists between them and their fellow fire fighters, which drew Vagell to become one.

The morning of Sep.11, 2001, started out just like any other day for Vagell. He was running slightly late for class and as his roommate turned on the television he saw that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. “I was terrified at the fact that the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists,” Vagell said. His training and heart led him to his first reaction, “My gut instinct was to call my chief to see if I was needed to assist them.” His chief got back to him shortly after and said that he should stay at school for the time being.

In many ways some people still can’t believe that the attacks happened. It’s an event that changed not only the lives of the families, but everyone glued to their television sets. It’s a time of year where strangers ring bells at noon in order to remember the ones lost or candles are lit representing the faith that was lost when the towers collapsed, but for Craig Vagell it’s a permanent change. He can no longer see the tips of the towers from the deck in his backyard.

Towns all over the country had moments of silence and bells were tolled representing when the first plane hit, “I got chills and goose bumps that were unexplainable when I heard that horn represent when the first plane hit the tower,” Vagell said.

The saying “never forget” is always tossed around regarding the attacks on 9/11. The term means something different for those who were there and experienced the devastation hands on. One story that hit Vagell hard was said at a memorial service over the weekend.

Sgt. Kennedy who is a member of the New York Port Authority worked at Ground Zero for eight months after the attacks. During his speech he spoke of one particular incident involving the children of a man who was killed in the attacks. The children asked Kennedy question after question. Their final question was, “Do you come home?” Sgt. Kennedy was perplexed by the question. The child repeated the question, “Do you come home from here?” The child meant did he come home after the work day was done. Kennedy responded “yes” and the child then said, “My dad doesn’t come home from here.”

That story hit home for Vagell, more than most he had heard. “I don’t think anyone will feel the pain like those families who lost loved ones. I never felt so much pain until this weekend realizing 343 of my brothers were killed in the line of duty.”

N.Y. is in the process of rebuilding and the Pentagon is already back to business. The gap in the sky will never be filled with the lives that were taken that day. Life will go on, but through ceremonies like the ones in Cedar Knolls, N.J. will forever remind us of the sacrifices that were made and the resilience of the human spirit.

posted to the web by Lori Iannella

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Kristen Catalanotto

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