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WTC Remembrance: Anthony Schirripa, Architect

Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, which so deeply affected our lives as New Yorkers, as well as the lives of those who were killed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and in Washington, D.C. My annual series returns this year with the recollections of architect Anthony Schirripa, who was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when terror struck on September 11, 2001---a late summer Tuesday morning, much like today.

As a preface to this year’s installment, I wanted to state, first, that I have never used this series as a place to discuss the historical, political, cultural, or economic preconditions and effects of the causal chain of events that led to the attacks on September 11, 2001. I have spent much room elsewhere on Notablog discussing these issues (see here, for example) and pointing to the provocative work of others on this subject (such as my friends and colleagues Roderick T. Long and Irfan Khawaja.) Ultimately, however, any end to the longest war in U.S. history cannot be disconnected from the profound significance of memory. As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk once wrote: "The beginning of the end of war lies in Remembrance."

For eighteen years now, this series has been an exercise in remembrance. And as long as I am here, I will continue to add installments to this series to keep alive the memories of those individuals whose lives were forever altered by the events of this tragic day.

One aspect of this exercise in remembrance was reflected in remarks I made on a recent Facebook thread, prompted by a 2015 book review essay by Robert Kirchner, "A Paradise Built in Hell" that my pal, Ryan Neugebauer, shared on FB. The article highlights the role of mutual aid as a response in times of crisis. I testified to the importance of such mutual aid on that horrible day in my home town: "Nothing proves this point more than what I saw and experienced in the city of my birth on 9/11. So much for 'rude New Yorkers.' Nothing could be further from the truth." I expanded on my point:

... I do have to say that as a native and life-long resident of New York City, who was here on September 11, 2001, the "communal disaster reflex" never truly diminished, certainly not in relationship to those who continue to feel the effects of the nightmarish events they experienced. Let's not forget that over 1,400 first-responders have died from all sorts of weird cancers and diseases in the wake of their voluntary work at a toxic Ground Zero, and the community outreach and assistance that has been provided to survivors remains strong.
This will be the seventeenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, which I will mark with my own annual essay on 9/11. But this Tuesday, thousands will gather at Ground Zero, at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and participate in the annual reading of the names of those who were murdered in 2001.
I think that since that day, I have seen a change in the culture of this city. It's a palpable response to anything that even hints at another terrorist attack, whether it's a water main break or some nutjob riding an SUV down the bike path of the West Side Highway. Let nobody doubt the resiliency of this town, where people of remarkably diverse backgrounds, still "have each other's backs" in crisis. That has been the one "silver lining" that remained from the clouds that darkened our skies on that horrible day.

This year's installment in my annual WTC Remembrance series tells the story of Anthony Schirripa and gives us a glimpse of the nature of that mutual aid in action. I want to thank Tony, as he is known to his friends, for giving of his time to my project.

For those who have not read previous entries in the series, here is a convenient index:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial (This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos.)

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine (This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos.)

2017: Sue Mayham: Not Business as Usual (This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos. It has also been translated into Russian by Timur Kadirov.)

2018: Anthony Schirripa, Architect

Never forget.