Tom De Martini, local editor of the Upper Macungie Township Patch, was a writer who commuted to New York’s financial district for 14 years. For the last eight of them – ending in 2001 – he worked at One World Financial Center. He was within spitting distance of the twin towers.
He has been silent on the subject of the attacks ever since. None of his colleagues ever guessed he was there that day.
Though he has written volumes about news, finance and sports, he has never written a word about his experience on Sept. 11.
“I couldn’t,” he said, “I saw things that day that no human being should ever see.”
He’s glad for the demise of Osama bin Laden, but that one life does not come even close to settling the score for him.
“It’s not enough,” he says, “My hometown, Middletown, lost 37 people that day, more than any other single town.”
De Martini commuted daily to New York City from his then-home in Matawan, N.J. His job at Bridge Information Systems afforded him a window with a view of New Jersey, so he did not see the planes hit first the North and then the South towers of the World Trade Center that day.
By the time he and his co-workers felt the rumble and the shaking of the second hit, they knew it was time to get out of the building. Theirs was the one with the green pointed dome roof seen in many photos.
“We had a fire drill about a year before Sept. 11. We had regular emergency briefings because of what happened in the towers in 1993.
"They told us not to use the elevators and that the staircases were ‘here, here, here and here.’ We listened, but we never really thought we would need to use the information.
"Do you know…that day, everybody went immediately to the right staircase,” he says.
Once he hit Vesey Street, right outside his building, there was the vendor’s cart from which he bought his coffee every morning. The cart was still there though covered with dust and money. The vendor had run for his life.
Unbeknownst to him, De Martini’s brother-in-law who also worked in the financial district, was running for his life too, over the Brooklyn Bridge. Another lucky one.
He lost countless friends that day: the son of a colleague called his mother from the Cantor Fitzgerald offices to tell her he would never be home.
Every year De Martini watches that boy’s father on television reading names of some of the approximately 3,000 people who died that day in New York.
“My cousin lost a bridesmaid,” he says.
There were too many memorials and funerals to attend in the following days.
So no, the loss of one life, albeit the mastermind of the horror, is not enough, he says.
“There’s a lot of emotion behind this topic,” he says.
Even driving near the site is enough to break his heart all over again. Every time.
“To this day I cannot look at that skyline without picturing the buildings there. They were a big part of my life. When I drive the Jersey Turnpike my eyes automatically go there, and in my mind I still see the World Trade Center,” he says.
"So no, it’s not enough. There were the 3,000 people in New York plus hundreds of people at the Pentagon and in Shanksville. Then there are the hundreds of people who have been killed trying to find bin Laden since then. And all their families," he says.
And people like Tom De Martini, who saw unspeakable things he will carry in his heart forever.
“A part of my soul was taken from me that day,” he says, “And I’ll never get it back.”
So no, it’s not enough.