9.11—final thought

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I have a friend named ToniAnn Guadagnoli. We attended Mahopac High School together, and she’s gone on to become an excellent writer. One of her books, Chitter Chatter, was among my daughter’s favorites. Highly recommend.

The other day ToniAnn posted photos on her Facebook page of her husband Dom—also a Mahopac native whose brother, Chris, was a classmate of mine. I knew Dom had had some involvement in 9.11 rescue, but didn’t realize the extent. Then I found the below piece, from February 24, 2002 Observer. Chilling.

Dominic Guadagnoli was a US Marshal, went to the World Trade Centre shortly after the first plane hit to help rescue survivors. He has since made contact with the …

Dominic Guadagnoli was a US Marshal, went to the World Trade Centre shortly after the first plane hit to help rescue survivors. He has since made contact with the woman pictured, who is too traumatised by her ordeal to be interviewed or named

IT TOOK me a day or so to call her. I introduced myself and she was silent. I could hear she was upset and I started to get upset, too. I said, “Listen, I don’t mean to bother you. I’m only calling because a TV show wants us to meet, but if you’d prefer I have no problem doing this on my own.” The TV show called me because they wanted to reunite us on air, but my partner John and I had already plugged her name into the computer at work because I wanted to contact her anyway. She said she would love to meet. When I carried her to the triage centre on September 11, we were together for a very short moment, but a very intense one. We met down at her house, had something to eat and just hung out. We decided this is going to work, we’re going to keep in touch. And that’s what we’ve done. She and I talk as if I’ve known her all my life.

She’s come a long way. She’s done a lot of rehabilitation. Mentally, of course, she’s very traumatised, but she’s a tough person. She was right close by when the second plane hit and she was very badly burned. She was in a lot of pain going down the stairs, but she knew she had to get out of there. She got very bad third-degree burns on her left arm, her whole back was bruised, she had a fractured wrist and some very bad lacerations on her leg. She lost almost everyone she worked with. Can you imagine going to work tomorrow and finding there’s no one there any more? The physical stuff will heal in her case, but the mental part will never go away.

My whole life has changed. There’s not a time I’m talking to someone, whether it’s talking about the disaster or talking about work, that I don’t see images in my mind. It’s a video that goes over and over in my brain. Especially working in the city, I can’t get away from it. East Side or West Side, I keep expecting to see the Towers, but they’re gone. I can still function, but it’s always there. Some days I don’t feel like getting out of bed. Everything reminds me of it. I don’t watch it on TV. What am I going to see? A building falling? I don’t need to see that on the screen because I was right at the bottom of it. A burning building? I saw it right in front of me. People jumping out? I was there when it happened. So what do I need to watch it on TV for?

What I went through is nothing compared to what she’s going through, but we have a bond. I was with her recently in one of those huge malls that move in the wind. We were walking and the floor moved and we stopped and looked at each other. We didn’t have to say anything; we both knew we wanted to leave. We’ve both said that at least one thing to come out of it is that we got to know each other. I did an interview for a newspaper that asked if we were going to get together and I thought, “What kind of question is that?” I began to imagine the headlines saying, “US Marshal runs away with Trade Centre victim.” I just didn’t think of it that way. Her husband’s a great guy. A real nice guy.

Dee O’Connell Observer

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