Windows on the World - then, and now
Ten years - it's not long enough to heal the scars of that day. But it may be long enough to see how spirits so wounded on September 11 have begun to lift again. Martha Teichner reports:
"It's much homier being down, you know, at this level, and really being able to see something as naturally beautiful as Central Park," said Michael Lomonaco.
The difference between the view out these windows and Windows on the World is telling.
"At Windows, the view from the 107th floor was otherworldly, it was beyond description," he said.
Lomonaco was executive chef at Windows on the World, the restaurant that occupied the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center - so high up that when it opened in 1976, a critic wrote,."everything to hate and fear is invisible."
We know now, that wasn't true.
Ten years after 9/11, are we all closer to the ground somehow, still seeking comfort? It took Lomonaco five years to find a reassuring space for his new restaurant, Porterhouse N.Y.
"I wake up every day and I'm really grateful to be here," he said, "And at the same time, I dedicate my restaurant work to my lost colleagues, because it was what they were doing on that day that I do today."
Lomonaco is alive because he decided not to go straight up to his office that morning. When the first plane hit, he was able to get out.
In 2001, he told Teichner, "I saw a fireball. I'm completely sorry that I witnessed any of this. I mean to say that it was just a terrible thing to see. I immediately began to make a mental note of who I thought would be there - Who's there? Who's up there?"
You can watch Martha Teichner's 2001 report by clicking on the video player below.
It was a question that ricocheted around the city in the days after the attack - a question repeated until there were no words left, only names on lists ... faces on walls smiling snapshot smiles.
In 2001 we followed Elizabeth Ortiz, human resources director for Windows on the World, and her assistant as they searched.
Until a few weeks ago, she'd never been back to the places she'd looked, those streets of sorrow.
"I don't know that you can put into words how difficult it was,' Ortiz said today. "I mean, there's hundreds, or, I mean, there's thousands of families that had to deal with it differently. But I think for us, there was a sense of responsibility of working with the families ... you had to be strong for the families. But, you know, I couldn't be alone at night, because it was just too ... scary, too sad."
Just struggling to comprehend that "missing" meant dead. Out of 450 Windows employees, 72 died.
Two days after the attack, Eulogia Hernandez couldn't speak. Her husband Norberto was a pastry chef at Windows on the World.
Family members talk about Norberto: "He called his sister at 9:00, 9:03, he said there was an explosion in the building in front of them."
Norberto Hernandez was from Puerto Rico. Banquet waiter Muhamed Saladeen Chowdhury was from Bangladesh. Windows employees came from more than 60 nations.
The end of this terrible story would bring the beginning of another, better one: Almost exactly 48 hours after Chowdhury died, his wife Baraheen Ashrafi gave birth to the son he would never see, Farqad - the first of the post-9/11 babies.
Michael Lomonaco couldn't get Farqad out of his mind, as he helped set up the Windows of Hope family relief fund. It raised $22 million to provide emergency assistance to the families of food service workers who died in the attack, and to educate their children through college.
The fund pays Farqad Chowdhury's tuition at a private school in Oklahoma City. Baraheen Ashrafi moved nearby to be close to her sister. In 2004, she became a U.S. citizen.
"It's my country now," she told Teichner. "My kids born here, my husband, you know, his soul and his body's in here. So I started feeling love for staying in here."
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