Listen to these personal stories ...
Joseph DiSabato
Joseph Gerry
Edward Morad
Earnest Wilkins
Barbara Abbott
Brendan Fitzgerald
Joseph DiSabato
Joseph Gerry
Edward Morad
Earnest Wilkins
Barbara Abbott
Brendan Fitzgerald
Click to listen
Click to listen
Click to listen
Click to listen
Click to listen
Click to listen
We Remember
Honored Dead: Victims of 9/11
Moments of remembrance on the South Shore and beyond
Stories of survival, heroics
Taunton man remembers the last day with his wife
Have things changed?
How attacks affected kids, and how are they now
Brockton native decided how much to give 9/11 families
Graphic: Sequence of 9/11 events
Audio interviews and editing for this series were conducted by Cory Hopkins, Diana Schoberg, Ryan Menard, John Kelly, Andrew Lightman and Ken Johnson from The Patriot Ledger, and by Jean Porrazzo, Elaine Allegrini and Craig Murray from The Enterprise.
Site Design: Stephen Ide


Awesome: 700-bike caravan

Motorcyclists ride in caravan to NYC, visit ground zero

The Patriot Ledger

ABINGTON — Brian Cherry knew his first visit to ground zero would be emotional, but the experience turned out to be even more moving than the Marine veteran expected.

“It’s overwhelming,” the 45-year-old Abington man said yesterday after visiting the site on Saturday. “You get all kinds of emotions standing there.”

Cherry was one of 15 motorcyclists from Abington who joined more than 600 others for a ride to ground zero in Manhattan.

The ride, which started on Saturday morning in Hopkinton with about 300 riders and picked up hundreds more in two stops in Connecticut, was organized to help raise money for families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Each rider paid a $30 registration fee to ride from Hopkinton to ground zero.

Cherry, a project manager for a local sheet-metal contractor, said the sight of close to 700 motorcyclists stretched over a mile without a single car was inspiring.

“It was awesome, it was unbelievable,” said Cherry of the 200-mile ride. “Just to be a part of something like that, to see 700 motorcycles in a mile stretch was just great.”

The group had a police escort for the entire ride, and Cherry said highway on-ramps were closed as they passed. As they approached ground zero, Cherry said, the ride took on a special feel.

“You could hear us coming a mile away. It was almost like a parade as you got closer,” he said. “People were cheering us and clapping. It was a great response we got from the people.”

When the procession reached ground zero, they held a brief prayer ceremony and observed a moment of silence. They also said a prayer for the soldiers who are currently fighting overseas.

“To see six or seven hundred bikers standing there in a moment of silence, it was something,” Cherry said.

Cory Hopkins may be reached at

Seeing ground zero

Visitors come to learn, honor

JOHN ZAREMBA photos/The Patriot Ledger
A crowd gathers before an illustrated timeline of the attacks at the World Trade Center site in New York. The display features emergency workers rescuing office workers from the towers; some died when they went back inside to save more people.

The Patriot Ledger

NEW YORK — People from all over the world still come to ground zero.

They take snapshots.

They look at photographs depicting disaster, suffering, sadness and heroism.

They peer into a 16-acre pit at the foundation that once anchored the mightiest buildings in the most famous skyline on the planet.

People come to make what happened here real.

“We watched it on TV. TV’s not the same as here,” said Nelson Pires, 23, of Dorchester.

Visitors are surprised at how much there is to see.

A visitor at the World Trade Center site takes a snapshot of a photo of a crying firefighter saluting a fallen comrade.

They come expecting a fence and an empty hole, but instead find a big, bright commuter rail station with dozens of photographs, a roll listing the dead and a chronicle of the attacks.

The many images are striking such as the towers’ twisted framework jutting out from the ground against a smoky backdrop; New Yorkers pumping fists and cheering the city’s police and firefighters; an emergency vehicle crushed; an Arab woman in tears.

There also are last-known photographs of officers who helped people out of the towers, then rushed back inside to their deaths.

“The pictures are profound,” said Laura Holmes of Lowell. “You saw it on TV that day, but it’s not as realistic. We’re seeing it.”

The photo gallery, which also includes a timeline of the attacks and a list of all the people killed, draws the most attention.

But downstairs, near the entrance to the trains, visitors can get a closer view of the ongoing construction of the Freedom Tower, the skyscraper that will stand where the twin towers once did.

The train station, which will be replaced by a larger one in 2009, is, at least for now, the tourists’ focal point.

Along Liberty Street, on the southern edge of the Trade Center plaza, a smaller collection of pictures hangs on the fence and construction scaffolding. Further down the street, people have signed the walls with messages of sympathy in several languages.

Liberty Street is also home to the FDNY 9-11 Memorial Wall, a 56-foot-long bronze sculpture that shows firefighters battling the smoldering towers.

“Dedicated to those who fell ... and to those who carry on,” the inscription reads.

The sculpture is imbedded on the west wall of the FDNY’s Ten House, the engine-and-ladder company that lost six of its men in the attacks and took until November 2003 to reopen.

Tourists are especially keen on peering inside the firehouse windows. They are reminded that Ten House is still a working station only when the giant red doors swing open and the engine, tattooed with an American flag, races out.

Tourists stop to ponder photographs of the funerals of New York firefighters who died in the attacks. Three hundred forty three firefighters were killed.

Pedestrians are allowed to walk on the street, which is blocked from most other traffic. Firefighters sometimes have to yell to shoo them out of the way.

The station is part of an unwitting tourist destination that spreads out for blocks.

People coming up to Rector Street from the subway are met with signs that point them directly to the memorial.

As you get closer, gift shops sell hats bearing the slogans “Always Remember” and “Never Forget.” Street vendors peddle clear glass paperweights with images of the towers imprinted inside.

Even at the Pronto Pizza parlor, the man behind the counter wears a Ten House hat dedicated to the station’s fallen firefighters.

A permanent and more intricate memorial, the design and construction of which has become a subject of controversy among the survivors’ families, is scheduled to open Sept. 11, 2009.

But until then, visitors to the site have plenty to illustrate the scope and devastation of the terrorist attacks.

“It’s incredible,” said Nick Rosiello, 19, a Tufts University student from Indiana who stopped at the memorial on his way back to school. “I didn’t know it was going to be this huge.”

Reach John Zaremba at

People and places

J. KIELY JR./The Enterprise
Brockton Hospital cardiologist Dr. Melissa Tracy, MD, talks about her memories of working as a physician in New York City on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Doctor watched towers collapse


Five years later, Dr. Melissa Joy Tracy’s voice cracks with emotion when she recalls where she was and what she saw on Sept. 11, 2001.

The cardiologist was running a little late for work at the Montifore Medical Center in the Bronx section of New York City. She was driving with her future husband, Dr. Jochen Reiser, who dropped her off.

“I got to the conference room and everyone was watching the TV,” recalled Tracy, 39, now a staff physician at Brockton Hospital. “I said, ‘Guys, what’s going on?”

The first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and everyone thought it was some freak accident, she said.

The doctors started going over each cardiac patient’s case and from where Tracy was sitting she could see the TV.

“As we were doing our table rounds, the second plane crashed into the tower,” Tracy said. “This was not an accident, not a fluke.”

In the next few minutes, the doctors in the room frantically tried calling their families, with no success.

Tracy called her future husband, but was unable to reach him. She had no luck reaching her mother in Philadelphia or her sister in Chicago.

“We paused and watched the TV,” Tracy said. “Our minds were on what was happening to our country and to our beautiful city.”

But in just minutes, they had to refocus on caring for patients and trying to answer their questions about the terrorist attack, she said.

“I was in charge,” Tracy said.

The patients were frightened and one woman was having a heart attack.

“It had been a really busy night,” Tracy said.

Her then-fiance returned to the medical center and when Tracy’s work was done, they went across the street to her office.

“We could see the World Trade Center,” Tracy said. “We watched them burning. We could see the smoke; we stood there in amazement.”

A short time later, they went up on the roof of their building and saw the second tower begin to collapse, she said.

“I still can’t comprehend it,” Tracy said. “The worst thing about it is they didn’t need our help. There were no survivors.”

Prior to her position at Montifore Medical Center, Tracy was the referring cardiologist for the New York City Police Department’s early retirement program.

Several of the police officers from the program became her patients and when they visited her after Sept. 11, the conversation always turned to the terrorist attacks.

“They had their own stories,” she said.

Tracy and Reiser lived on the west side of Manhattan and frequented an ice cream shop on Broadway.

“We went for an ice cream, and there was no chit chat, no car horns honking - everyone was numb,” Tracy said. “That’s when the impact of what happened sunk in.”

In the weeks and months that followed Sept. 11, whenever Tracy was on the subway, she was alert for places where someone could hide a bomb, she said.

In October 2001, Tracy and Reiser were scheduled to attend a conference in California and they were flying on American Airlines.

“We thought of canceling, but decided to go,” she said.

On the plane, the pilot announced that no one was allowed to leave their seat and that he hoped we had a pleasant flight, Tracy recalled.

“I do believe we’re safer now, but it came at a very high price,” she said.

Jean Porrazzo can be reached at