Michael's Story | Submitted by Michael Cantatore

Michael never liked working in the World Trade Center.  He always said working in the World Trade Center was like having a target on your back, and when a plane went in to the floors of Marsh and McLennan he was proved right. Michael was going in to work late on the morning of September 11th, waiting for his mother in law to take his son. Turning on the television he saw a gaping hole in the floors where he worked. Michael knew his friends were trapped inside a burning building with no way out. Soon after the Tower was hit, Michael got a page from his co-worker Greg. Greg’s first message to Michael was saying they were stuck on the 95th floor and asking Michael to get help. What could Michael do? Every fire and police department was at the scene doing their best to help those trapped inside. The only thing Michael could do was be there for his friend, exchanging messages every 5 minutes. The final message Michael received from his friend said “Fire here. Love you.” A half hour after that final message Tower 1 fell.  As Michael saw the Tower fall, knowing his friends and co-workers were inside, he could hear himself screaming but has no memory of the rest of the day. 

Waking up on September 12th, he was sure it was a nightmare but when the pain did not leave after he opened his eyes, Michael was forced to accept the events of the following day. Marsh and McLennan lost 300 people; two of these people were Michael’s close friends Gregory Reda and Astrid Sohan. On September 12th his surviving co-workers created a phone chain. Everyone checking in on one another and planning who would go to which funerals, making sure someone was present at each co-workers funeral. Marsh and McLennan also created a website for people to use as a forum to get information about loved ones who were lost.  Michael knew what happened on the 95th floor through all of his messages with Greg, and put his phone number on the website to answer questions from family members. Greg received hundreds of phone calls, each forcing him to recount that agonizing day. Marsh and McLennan set up a family center with grief specialists and ask Michael to call all of the next of kin of the eleven people who were on the 95th floor with Greg. Michael had to listen to widows and children cry and scream as he recounted their loved ones last hour.

Since September 11th Michael’s world has been falling apart. He developed a seizure disorder as a result of the stress and the lack of sleep he suffered from following September 11th. These seizures resulted in Michael leaving work and being out on disability for months. The guilt that Michael had for not helping Greg was so strong he began to plan his suicide in late 2002. The thought of his son growing up fatherless just like Greg’s son brought him back from the edge. His marriage was also not able to survive the trauma he suffered after September 11th and after he lost his job in 2005, Michael moved back in with his mother. The events of September 11th haunt Michael every day, the thought that it should have been him never far from his mind. Michael wants to ensure that the memories of his friends are never forgotten even as time makes it easy to wash away. Michael tries to treasure every day and take all opportunities because his friends did not have that chance.   

 

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