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 I was at my desk at work on the morning of September 11, 2001 when I received a phone call from a coworker. A plane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. We turned on the television in our boardroom and with the rest of world watched in disbelief as the horrific events of that day unfolded. Over the next several days we watched the news and talked about it with family and coworkers trying to understand how it was possible that this could have happened and grieving for the victims of this disaster. As we saw world leaders condemn these acts of terrorism we knew that we were all victims. Any illusions that we could travel, work or go about our lives without fear from the violence that seemed to always be someplace else in the world disappeared.

One of my coworkers has had no word yet from a cousin who worked on the 77th floor of one of the towers. She is presumed lost. Although none of my family members died in the New York City attacks the overwhelming sense of loss is very real and made more so by the memories of a recent vacation there. I spend a week in New York City with my wife and two young sons in 1997. We marveled at the skyline as we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on our way into the city from the airport. We mingled with the crowds in Times Square and climbed the long staircase to the top of the Statue of Liberty. While on the boat to the statue and back we gazed at the incredible structures of the city and took the obligatory photos. My, then, six-year-old son pointed out to us in his words the "Entire" State Building, Chrysler Building and the World Trade Center towers.

The next day we took a trip to the top of one of those World Trade Center towers. From there we looked down on the city below watching the ant-like movements of thousands of people. We could see the courtyard below where a few minutes before we had sat watching the fountains and looking up at the impossibly tall buildings. Though a futile effort, I tried to point out to the boys Canal Street, where our ancestors had lived. In the second half of the nineteenth century my great-great-grandfather, Michael Melvin, called NYC home. He labored with his brothers on the nearby docks of the Hudson River to support his wife and three children. From his meager earnings he sent money home to County Mayo, Ireland so that other family members could join him in America. We have a letter dated 1860 passed down the generations. It is from Pat Melvin, in Ireland, to his brother Michael, my great-great-grandfather and describes the situation there as desperate. Patrick pleads for funds to make the passage to America. The letter states a lock of a young son's hair is enclosed, probably in hope that it would touch the heart of the reader …as it still does 140 years later.

I am thankful that we had the fortune to make the trip to NYC when we did and that we were able to experience with our sons so many of the sights of that great city. But it is sad to know that we can never again stand in awe as we did that day far above the city. We may never again be able to look upon this land of our ancestors with the same confidence or feeling of complacency we once did. This is but a small loss however, compared to that of so many others. My coworker's cousin left behind a baby and loving husband. That child will never again experience the loving touch of its mother nor that husband the warm embrace of his wife. Of course the death of a single individual affects many more family members and friends as well. With all that have died in this catastrophe, it is a loss replicated thousands of times over. My Irish ancestors endured and overcame the heartbreaking deaths of some of their children and siblings to disease and other misfortunes as did many of our forefathers. We will go on as well. If those that died have given us anything it is the bond we now share with the rest of humanity in our sorrow and desire to make the world a better and safer place. May they rest in peace.

Rich Pettit, Clearwater, Florida, USA

World Trade Center twin towers.

My son Nick looking at the New York City skyline.

My son Mark with the World Trade towers.

At the courtyard between the towers.

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Copyright ©  2008 Rich Pettit