Portraits

September 11, 2002

Sun photographer John Makely covered the destruction of the World Trade Center. Recently, he returned to Lower Manhattan and found some of the people from his most memorable images. In their own words, they recall Sept. 11.

(Eddie Sanchez)

"IT KIND OF REMINDED ME OF A combat zone. I have 14 years in military service and I was in Desert Storm, and seeing that was almost like going back to some other world, another place, just total destruction.

"Today, we had a bunch of kids asking us if we were involved in September 11, and I didn't know how to answer them, because how do you respond to a 9-year-old -- what you did there and what you saw? Even going back to the site weeks and months later, I would find myself getting angry at the smallest little thing, even though I had nothing to do with what was going on ... anger that it happened to us, that these people had the nerve to come here and do this to us. ... We're supposed to be the superpower, the big boys, and then they come here and do something like that.

"I tell people, the cops call their place a precinct --offices. We call this a firehouse -- it's a house. We sit here, we cook together, we eat together, it's a brotherhood. ... When you lose 343, it feels like you lost 343 brothers.

"They teach you at the academy, never leave anybody behind, never. If you get hurt, that's one thing, but if the guy next to you gets hurt, that's worse. So losing a lot of guys like that was painful.

"I named my son after two guys that died down there, two of my friends. ... He was born January 19th, named Christian James. ...

"I want to take him back ... once everything is set up, and I want to go with him and explain to him, or try to explain to him, what happened and what we went through and what it costs for freedom. That's the way I see it. It's just the cost we had to pay."

"Today, we had a bunch of kids asking us if we were involved in September 11, and I didn't know how to answer them, because how do you respond to a 9-year-old -- what you did there and what you saw?"

(Rich Lasker)

"MY FAMILY HELPED BUILD the WTC, my Uncle Tom ... I remember going there when I was 12 years old and seeing it as it is now, with a ramp, and the excavation. ... I've worked there daily off and on for a couple of years. ... I actually worked there September 10th; I was on the 80th floor of Two World Trade Center.

"September 11th, I got off on Fulton Street and Broadway at 8:38 in the morning. I was late for work because I was watching the Giants game the night before. ... We felt the hit, I guess the first plane and then the second. ... We stood there watching it from Pearl Street and Maiden Lane. I watched as it burned.

"I couldn't sleep at 4:30 in the morning. I packed my bags, made some calls to my union and my brothers and said we'd meet at the Javits Center ... go there early in the morning and help move material. I went out and did my job and worked. I was a witness to it. I did my best. I helped that day.

"I know a lot of people have gone to seek counseling and things like that. My wife told me I should. It's not that I don't believe in it, but I think that my reaction to it was the way it should be. I tried to reinforce my patriotism, which I have always had. I've always flown a flag in front of my house, and I was in the military, and it's helped me appreciate my freedom."

Joan and Mark VonLehmden

JOAN: "THEY WEREN'T GOING TO LET me in, and I just pleaded with this one guy, I think he was a chief or something, and he said, 'OK, 10 minutes.' I came in, and I had 10 minutes and I still couldn't find the cat. I just grabbed some clothes, some jewelry and some important papers, the checkbook, and finally the cat came out and we had a long walk up all the way to Chinatown, to try to get back on the train to get back out to my brother's house on Long Island."

Mark: "Once the smoke cleared enough so that you could see where the south tower had been, there was this huge rectangular column of smoke, roughly the same dimensions as the building had been, and it was just foaming around ... but it kept its shape. I don't think I want to be reminded for a while. ... One of the problems of living here -- there are a number of them being a block from Ground Zero -- is that you're just reminded of it every day for months and months and months."

Joan: "It was a really nice neighborhood, and we were beginning to enjoy it and we still do. I mean the crowds on weekends really irritate me; the vendors selling all this 9 / 11 stuff drive me nuts."

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