I’ve worked in lower manhattan for many years and was excited that my 23 year old niece, Jennifer Mazzotta, had begun a job at Cantor Fitzgerald in WTC Tower 1. I thought we would meet occasionally for lunch. On the morning of 9/11, my trains were running a little behind I remember sitting on the LIRR train hearing the conductor make an announcement that the WTC was on fire. I was slightly alarmed but never thought for one second Jenn was in danger.
When I finally arrived at John and William Streets at about 9:20, the city was eerily quite except for the sounds of policy cars and fire trucks. I recall seeing the shocked faces of the massive crowds heading toward the South Street Seaport and began to ask what happened. At that time no one knew, but I could clearly see the WTC and the destruction that was unfolding. I asked people what floor they were on, do you know anyone from Cantor Fitzgerald? Do you know my niece Jennifer? One particular lady asked me what floor she was on, when I said the 101st, she hugged me and said “God bless you and your niece”.
There was not a question in my mind that I needed to get to the WTC. I had to try and find Jennifer. I knew she would be afraid. I walked up John Street to Broadway where the streets were already barricaded. I again questioned any passerbys, “Do you know Jennifer? “Can you help me find her?” I tried to get through but a police officer prevented me advising very strongly that I head away from Broadway. I could not leave, all I knew was that I had to find Jennifer. I did not for one minute think I was in any danger. I stayed right where I was until a very loud rumbling noise jolted everyone from their spots. I saw Tower 1 begin to crumble.
Police Officers were screaming for everyone to run, run fast, get away. At that moment, I felt two very strong emotions, one, a deep sense of loss for I felt in my heart that Jennifer had died. The second was intense fear. My insides were trembling and I thought that the Tower was falling my way, just one block away. I started to run down John Street, losing my shoes as I ran, (I have not worn mules since!) in doing so I was knocked down and couldn’t get up as there were so many people running past me. One older man grabbed me by the under arm, and shoved me down the block. At this point, thick, acrid smoke began to fill the streets. I tried to hold my breath and ran as fast as I could.
I had just gotten to John and William Streets when the smoke was so thick I could no longer see or breathe. I noticed some people entering an office building and I thought that was my safest move as well. The building lobby was somewhat smokey but much better than outside. As I began to look around I noticed the stunned faces of everyone. I asked what happened. No one really knew but there were many opinions on the subject. I looked down and my feet were bleeding, I had lost my shoes and when running stepped in glass. There was not much I could do about it but a very kind lady actually gave me the socks off of her feet so that I had some protection. I never even thought to ask her name.
The building started to fill with smoke and inner panic began to overtake me. What if this building was next? What is going on out there? JENNIFER DIED! How am I going to tell my sister-in-law that I couldn’t find her baby. Will I ever see my baby, Steven again? After some time, the smoke began to clear and I knew I had to leave that building. I exited the rear entrance near Pace University and just started walking toward The Brooklyn Bridge. I knew I had to get out of the city but I also knew I had to try one last time to find Jennifer. I walked up toward Broadway once again asking questions, everyone just shook their heads in shock and dis-belief. One woman told me to try and get home, that was where I would find my niece. Strange but I thought maybe she was right and Jenn had gotten out. That statement motivated me to start over the bridge.
I remember standing on the bridge, looking back and feeling so terrified. Half way across the bridge, another loud rumbling noise and the second tower began to crumble. I stood on the bridge and said prayers I had not uttered in some time. Everyone was extremely quiet and subdued, no one really spoke yet everyone continued to walk over the bridge, not many people looked back. As I found my way through Brooklyn I was astonished at how normal everything seemed there. Had no one heard or seen what occurred in lower manhattan? I tried to make phone calls but could not get through.
I walked and walked until I found a bus stop that I knew would take me into Queens where my Father-in-Law lived. The stories people told on the bus were so far fetched. A Helicopter crashed into the trade center, a bomb exploded etc. No one up to that point had told me it was an airplane.
It took me 4 hours to get to Queens but when I did, my Father-in-Law, filled me in. I relive that day often, not because I want to, but because it was one of the most terrifying heart breaking days of my life.
It is with great sadness that I must tell you, my niece, Jennifer Mazzotta, did in fact die on 9/11/01.