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Westchester’s 9/11 Memories

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As Westchester Magazine was in the home stretch of its first year on newsstands, 9/11 happened. Now, nearly two decades later, everyone who is old enough to remember that dreadful day has a “Where were you?” story to tell. These four Westchester residents were in different places when the planes struck the towers of the World Trade Center, but the one thing they have in common is the very vivid memory of what a spectacularly sunny day it was and how the sky had never seemed so brilliantly blue.

Angela Mullery of Yonkers was a 24-year-old office manager at KBW, a boutique investment bank on the 89th floor of the North Tower, when the first plane hit. She didn’t hear the impact, oddly, but recalls feeling the building sway, lights flickering, people screaming, and knowing she had to get out. “Someone shoved me into an elevator, which I immediately thought was the worst place to be, but that elevator saved my life because I made it out into that unseasonably beautiful day. I was just one of 20 of my coworkers who did; 67 others didn’t. The weird thing was, I never felt so close to people I barely knew, who survived with me. I actually pushed people who were really close to me out of my life. I had survivor’s guilt for a long time.”

Bronxville’s Dom Libonati, a retired FDNY firefighter with a 30-year career under his belt, was hustling on foot from the East Side to Ground Zero with comrades from Engine Co. 48 in the Bronx as the wind blew plumes of black smoke in their faces. “As we got close, it was unbelievable: Everything was on fire… cars, trucks, buildings. Ambulances were overturned. There was so, so much smoke. But, when we finally got to West Street, it went from night to day. The sun was shining again. It was like we had walked onto a movie set. It was surreal.”

”How could something so bad happen in such a beautiful sky?”

Maryellen Bottini-Golden of Pelham Manor, eight months pregnant, was reporting for jury duty when she emerged from the subway and saw a plane hanging out of one of the buildings. “Then, another plane came across that blue sky and went into the other tower. I thought I was going to die. I wanted to go into a church to pray and feel protected and to protect my unborn child, but I also had a daughter in the third grade who was in her first week at a new school, so I started walking uptown. I kept looking behind me, and that’s when I saw [the tower] fall. I suffered for a long time with loud noises.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer was chair of the county legislature when the towers fell. He was in a meeting at the Mamaroneck Diner when he glanced up and noticed a small group of patrons gathered at the diner’s TV. Thinking that was strange, he joined them, and together they innocently wondered whether this plane that had just struck the World Trade Center had simply gone out of control. “In the snap of your fingers, the second plane hit, and my immediate thought was, Is this the beginning of another Pearl Harbor? Is this the start of something big and ugly?’ In that moment, nothing else mattered — not the housing project we were discussing, nothing. I could only think of this one incident. As I walked out of the diner and into the sunshine, I thought, How could something so bad happen in such a beautiful sky?