This year’s anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 has extra significance. The tenth time that date has come around since the nation suffered its wrenching entrance into a world of vulnerability has many people remembering the feelings of that day, and for some, loved ones lost.
“If you lived in New York, you knew someone” who died that morning, said Larry Magel, vice chairman of the Marco Island City Council. Magel was in New York that day, and still finds it emotional to talk about. “For New Yorkers, it was personal.”
As the day, 9/11, approaches, TV screens are once again filled with images of the World Trade Center towers burning, airliners impacting, and terrified citizens fleeing. And every time we write the date this month, 9/11, we see it again and remember.
Michael Fagan never forgot. The Marco resident and former New York City policeman has made keeping alive the memory of that day and the people died into a personal crusade.
“It’s his life,” said Fagan’s wife Nancy Fagan, his partner in Kerry’s Café on the island. The couple own not one but two former NYPD patrol cars, a 1968 Plymouth Fury and a 1996 Ford Crown Victoria.
“Tourists see them, parked outside the café, and come and take pictures,” said Nancy Fagan. Michael Fagan is president of the local chapter of the 10-13 Club, an association of former NYPD officers. The 10-13 designation is the radio call for “officer needs assistance,” and the organization is dedicated to the memory of those lost in the line of duty, including on Sept. 11.
“I’m from New York. We lost New York City cops that day,” said Michael. “We lost 23 NYPD officers, 37 Port Authority officers, and 343 New York City firemen.” With the 10th anniversary approaching, he has a full schedule of memorial after memorial for him, his organization, and his police cars to attend. From Cape Coral down to Naples, Fagan, who was a patrol officer in Manhattan and Queens, will show the flag and help keep the memories alive.
Living next door to the Fagans, Michael and Brigitte Vignari have memories of their own. Mike Vignari, a retired detective and Collier building official, is another former NYPD officer, and his wife Brigitte had her office in the World Trade Center. The first terrorist bombing there, in 1993, convinced them to leave the city.
Brigitte Vignari has a painting she purchased on the streets of Manhattan that helped her make that decision. It shows the twin towers and a New York skyline, in front of a cosmos filled with planets and fanciful colors.
“It looks like planets colliding. It’s as though it was depicting death from the heavens,” said Brigitte Vignari. “My husband doesn’t like it, my daughter hates it, nobody wants it displayed.” The eerie quality, she said, made her uneasy. “That’s what I thought way back then. It was like a premonition.”
Her business was headquartered on the 28th floor of Tower Two.
“We were there from the beginning, I think it was 1973,” she said. “We leased space in the towers even before the buildings opened. First we were in Tower One, then in Tower Two.
In her family firm, they worked as freight forwarders, customs house brokers, and travel agents. “We moved anything, from people to freight.” After a bomb set by Islamic extremists exploded in the basement of their building, they were stuck on the 28th floor, cut off from the rest of the world.
“It took us four hours to get rescued. The building was filled with smoke, and we had no connection to the outside world.” Eventually, firefighters came to lead the employees to safety.
As the attacks of 9/11 slip into history, Michael Fagan says there is one simple thing ordinary citizens can do to witness, and keep the feeling of solidarity from that period alive.
“Please fly your flag on 9/11, in honor of the people who died,” he urged.
- Calendar: Search for 9/11 events in Southwest Florida
- Participate: Share your 9/11 anniversary photos
- Special Coverage: Find videos, photos, databases and stories about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in special page
- Poll: Is it time to relax airport screening procedures?
- Poll: Has your opinion of firefighters changed since 9/11/01?
- Should plans for the Freedom Memorial be scaled back?
- Poll: Have you made any plans to commemorate 9/11?
- Video: 9/11 Interview: Michael Chertoff
- Video: 9/11 Interview: Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)
- Video: 9/11 Interview: Janet Napolitano
- Photos: Patriot Day Service in Bonita Springs
- Photos: Marco Firefighters mark 9/11 anniversary
- Photos: 9/11 Remembrance Mass at St. Ann Church
- Photos: 9/11 Mass at St. John the Evangelist in Naples
- Photos: Firefighters talk about 9/11 to North Naples Middle schoolers
- Photos: Air travel after September 11
- Photos: Local residents reflect on their experiences on 9/11
- Photos: Firefighter hero status threatened by politics
- Photos: September 11: St. Ann students commemorate attacks with ceremony
- Photos: Freedom Memorial at Freedom Park in Naples
- Photos: Fort Myers artist’s 9/11 sculpture
- Photos: Patriot Flag Memorial visits Naples
- Photos: Marco remembers 9/11
- Photos: Flight United 93 remembered, September 11, 2001
- Photos: Iconic images of September 11
- Photos: Septeber 11, the Tillman legacy
- Photos: Post September 11, are we safer?
- Photos: September 11, 2001, then and now in photos
- Photos: A new skyline emerges after September 11
- Photos: September 11, more powerful than fiction
- Photos: September 11, a tale of two Presidencies