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THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sun photographer John Makely covered the destruction of the World Trade Center. Recently, he returned to Lower Manhattan and found some of the people from his most memorable images. In their own words, they recall Sept. 11.

(Eddie Sanchez)

"IT KIND OF REMINDED ME OF A combat zone. I have 14 years in military service and I was in Desert Storm, and seeing that was almost like going back to some other world, another place, just total destruction.

"Today, we had a bunch of kids asking us if we were involved in September 11, and I didn't know how to answer them, because how do you respond to a 9-year-old -- what you did there and what you saw? Even going back to the site weeks and months later, I would find myself getting angry at the smallest little thing, even though I had nothing to do with what was going on ... anger that it happened to us, that these people had the nerve to come here and do this to us. ... We're supposed to be the superpower, the big boys, and then they come here and do something like that.

"I tell people, the cops call their place a precinct --offices. We call this a firehouse -- it's a house. We sit here, we cook together, we eat together, it's a brotherhood. ... When you lose 343, it feels like you lost 343 brothers.

"They teach you at the academy, never leave anybody behind, never. If you get hurt, that's one thing, but if the guy next to you gets hurt, that's worse. So losing a lot of guys like that was painful.

"I named my son after two guys that died down there, two of my friends. ... He was born January 19th, named Christian James. ...

"I want to take him back ... once everything is set up, and I want to go with him and explain to him, or try to explain to him, what happened and what we went through and what it costs for freedom. That's the way I see it. It's just the cost we had to pay."

"Today, we had a bunch of kids asking us if we were involved in September 11, and I didn't know how to answer them, because how do you respond to a 9-year-old -- what you did there and what you saw?"

(Rich Lasker)

"MY FAMILY HELPED BUILD the WTC, my Uncle Tom ... I remember going there when I was 12 years old and seeing it as it is now, with a ramp, and the excavation. ... I've worked there daily off and on for a couple of years. ... I actually worked there September 10th; I was on the 80th floor of Two World Trade Center.

"September 11th, I got off on Fulton Street and Broadway at 8:38 in the morning. I was late for work because I was watching the Giants game the night before. ... We felt the hit, I guess the first plane and then the second. ... We stood there watching it from Pearl Street and Maiden Lane. I watched as it burned.

"I couldn't sleep at 4:30 in the morning. I packed my bags, made some calls to my union and my brothers and said we'd meet at the Javits Center ... go there early in the morning and help move material. I went out and did my job and worked. I was a witness to it. I did my best. I helped that day.

"I know a lot of people have gone to seek counseling and things like that. My wife told me I should. It's not that I don't believe in it, but I think that my reaction to it was the way it should be. I tried to reinforce my patriotism, which I have always had. I've always flown a flag in front of my house, and I was in the military, and it's helped me appreciate my freedom."

Joan and Mark VonLehmden

JOAN: "THEY WEREN'T GOING TO LET me in, and I just pleaded with this one guy, I think he was a chief or something, and he said, 'OK, 10 minutes.' I came in, and I had 10 minutes and I still couldn't find the cat. I just grabbed some clothes, some jewelry and some important papers, the checkbook, and finally the cat came out and we had a long walk up all the way to Chinatown, to try to get back on the train to get back out to my brother's house on Long Island."

Mark: "Once the smoke cleared enough so that you could see where the south tower had been, there was this huge rectangular column of smoke, roughly the same dimensions as the building had been, and it was just foaming around ... but it kept its shape. I don't think I want to be reminded for a while. ... One of the problems of living here -- there are a number of them being a block from Ground Zero -- is that you're just reminded of it every day for months and months and months."

Joan: "It was a really nice neighborhood, and we were beginning to enjoy it and we still do. I mean the crowds on weekends really irritate me; the vendors selling all this 9 / 11 stuff drive me nuts."

Mark: "It's changed forever, really. The one hope we have is that they're able to come together on something to rethink Lower Manhattan. This is no longer the financial district . ... If they can realize the memorial should be the starting point for anything they build, and everything should flow from there ... and the memorial is to the victims, not to the twin towers. All these people say we can build them higher than ever, well that's not the point ... they were ugly, they were banal."

Terence Dolan Jr.

"I REMEMBER THINKING TO MYSELF the day of September 11th that we might not be walking back in there, and that many of us might choose different professions, and / or the exchange itself might have a longer time before it was able to open. So it [the 17th] was a day where we do see that things are going to continue, we are going to have a place for us again, and it was good to be back up in that regard.

"But it was the kind of day where you walk to the place almost with your head down ... instead of normally walking with your head up. I just didn't want to take in too much of the surrounding area and be more reminded of the event, and I remember the way the air smelled and the quality of the air and the smoke and all of those efforts that were put in by people cleaning up and the barricades and getting in through security.

"There were a lot of people that we knew that we had lost and ... there was a certain element of that respect as well, where you didn't want to in any way, shape or form take away from that either. Plus, the destruction and devastation were clear. We still had the wreckage of the World Trade Center; every time you picked up your head you saw a reminder.

"Comfort is a difficult word now, because we all know that at any time something can happen, maybe will happen. Who knows?"

"Comfort is a difficult word now, because we all know that at any time something can happen, maybe will happen. Who knows?"

Stephen Zicchinolfi

"BETWEEN [PEOPLE] WORKING there, or firemen, cops, EMT ... Staten Island had the most people lost, that and Long Island. So, it's like, you're going to know somebody.

"Me? I don't know. I'd put up two more trade centers. Why not? ... The way they knocked them down, we gotta show, we put them right back up.

"Actually, I was there [Union Square] by coincidence. The train went from 34th Street to 14th Street, so when I got out I saw [the crowd] and I went over there ... just drawn over there. I stayed there for a while ... couple hours, sort of a vigil, that's why I stayed. I lost family and friends.

"I used to drive by and yell at the people taking pictures in front of it. ... I hated it, they're making like it's a tourist attraction. It's not a tourist attraction, it's a site where thousands of people died. It's not a joyous place."

Barbara Richardson

"THINGS ARE A LOT BETTER, I think. People are not as scared anymore, like that first week or two. It was really iffy ... if you go down in the subway, are you going to meet a bomb? I think after the first month ... people settled into the everyday thing.

"I finally got myself to go down there to the site to see how big it was ... and when I got there I couldn't believe it. It's like, it was so big, but yet it was so small. It was just two blocks, but all that destruction was in two blocks. I couldn't believe it. That was my first time down there. Of course I cried, of course I cried. I think I've cried off and on in the past 10 months, maybe a dozen times when I get to thinking about it.

"I don't think they should build the twin towers back again. Nah, that's too much, I think. Too many people, you know, didn't come home from that place, so I really don't think they should."

Her 19-year-old daughter "has had a lot of 'Whys?' that I can't answer for her. I'm still wondering why. Why did they have to do it in New York? Why the World Trade Center? Why, period. Really, that's the main question she was asking, you know, 'Mommy, why?'

"There's so much stuff I thought about that first week. Mostly, I thought about my granddaughter. You know, would she wake up one day in a war-torn New York City, or would it be the same as I've been seeing all my life?"

"There's so much stuff I thought about that first week. Mostly, I thought about my granddaughter. You know, would she wake up one day in a war-torn New York City, or would it be the same as I've been seeing all my life?"

John Gates

"WE JUST STAYED IN AS LONG as we could and slowly came back out and slowly opened up the business and tried to make things normal, but it has been far from normal. Business is disastrous. Downtown Manhattan definitely is suffering drastically, from SoHo and Tribeca, it's just been horrendous. I don't know how many people have folded since then, but it's been tough making the rent.

"Personally, I'd love to see the towers put back up the way they were. It's just like family to me. ... I used to love when there was a lightning storm, just watching the lightning hit the tower, because they had that fabulous antenna up there, it was just spectacular.

"I don't know if I would ever be comfortable with anything else that they build ... because it's just part of my life. ... They were lovely. Everyone thought they were the ugliest things when they first built them, so much criticism, but then they just grew on you. It was a beautiful site.

"I don't think that justice will ever happen, it's gone too far almost, too much time has elapsed. ... If it had happened immediately, if all the head people had been tracked down and assassinated, then I think it would have been a better situation for everybody."

Ignacio Villarreal

"I WAS THINKING ABOUT ALL MY friends that could still be buried in the rubble at the time of that picture. It took a few days before you started to realize that you're probably not going to find anybody alive you know, and that was kind of overwhelming, that there were so many guys just from my firehouse alone, not to mention my cousin, Neil Leavy, from Engine 217, who died in the collapse, too.

"I was still kind of hoping that they would find pockets of guys still alive. We were hoping, praying, hoping that they were OK. I was just married, four months before Sept. 11, and most of these guys, 90 percent, were at my wedding.

"I'm very angry, extremely angry. I don't think that we've done enough to get the people that have done this to us. I don't think we've done anything close to what we should do.

"I think about the 11th every day, every other minute I think about it. There are so many reminders -- just driving into work, the towers are gone. You come to the firehouse, you know all the guys you're never going to see again. ... It's like a nightmare."

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