September 11th Archives - StoryCorps

“The Rug Was Swept Out From Under Me”: A 9/11 Survivor From The Pentagon Shares Her Story

Tesia Williams was one of the first in her family to go to college.

Shortly after graduating, she got a job at the Pentagon, and was working as a public affairs specialist when on September 11, 2001, one of four hijacked planes crashed into the building, claiming the lives of 184 victims.

At StoryCorps, her teenage daughter, Mikayla Stephens, learned some new things about what Tesia went through and how the events of that day would eventually shape both of their lives.

Left image: Tesia Williams with daughters Mikayla, Harper and Arissa Stephens, and husband Jamel Stephens, in Washington D.C., in 2018. Right image: The family in 2008, shortly after Mikayla and Arissa arrived in Tesia’s care.

 

 

Top Photo: Mikayla Stephens and Tesia Williams at their StoryCorps interview in Washington, D.C. on August 27, 2021. By Clean Cuts Studios for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired Sept. 9, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Every Day Is Yesterday: Remembering 9/11

September 11, 2021 marks 20 years since al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes in an attack on the United States. Nearly 3,000 people were killed, and another 6,000 were injured — making it the single largest terrorist act in history. 

With numbers like that, it’s possible to lose sight of the individual lives that were lost that day.

So in 2005, StoryCorps partnered with the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum to try to record a remembrance for each life that was lost.

In this episode, we’re going to hear from the friends and family members of one of those people  — Richard Palazzolo.

Richard Palazzolo outside their family’s home in upstate New York, in 2000. Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.

Born just minutes apart, Richie and Ronnie Palazzolo were twin brothers who shared everything. They both ran marathons, cheered for their favorite football team— the Minnesota Vikings — and even followed the same career path. 

They worked as brokers in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Ronnie on the 26th floor at Garban-Intercapital, and Richie on the 105th floor for Cantor Fitzgerald. They were both there on the day of the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. 

Ronnie survived, but Richie did not. 

Ronald Palazzolo holding his cousin Christina Della Pelle with his brother Richard, New Years Eve, 1994. Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.

In 2021, Ronnie came to StoryCorps to honor the memory of his brother; so did his sister Maria Alfano, cousin Christina Della Pelle, and close friend Jack Griffo, who worked with Ronnie on the 26th floor, and also survived the attack that day.

Ronnie, Jack, and Richie on the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire circa 1998. Courtesy of Jack Griffo.

The Palazzolo family circa 1965 in Queens, NY. Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.
Top photo: Artwork by Rosalyn Yoon.

These recordings were made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as part of StoryCorps’ effort to collect one recording for each life lost that day.

Released on September 11th, 2021.

“You Are Your Brother’s Keeper”: A Marine Opens Up To His Son About 9/11

In August 2000, former Marine Sgt. Jason Thomas was discharged from active duty. One year later, on September 11, 2001, he was compelled to step forward as two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, just miles from where he lived. 

Jason grabbed his Marine uniform and sped to Ground Zero, where he spent almost three weeks working as a first responder looking for survivors buried under the debris. 

Jason Thomas at Ground Zero on 9/11. This is one of the images developed by the firefighter who found Jason’s camera at Ground Zero. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.

For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Jason — now a Master Sgt. with the Air Force Reserve — came to StoryCorps with his youngest son, Jason Christian Thomas, to talk about the lasting impact that experience had on him. 

This was the first time they spoke about the details of that day.

Jason Thomas and Jason Christian Thomas in Florida, July of 2020. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.
Top Photo: Jason Thomas at Ground Zero after 9/11. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.

Originally aired Sept. 11, 2021, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

From StoryCorps and Consider This: The Lasting Toll Of 9/11

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. A day that — for so many people — changed every day that followed.

StoryCorps teamed up with NPR’s daily afternoon podcast, Consider This, to bring you stories from some of the people who are forever tied to that day, and its aftermath.

First, we hear from Vaughn Allex, who was working at the American Airlines ticket counter at Dulles International Airport on the morning of September 11th, checking in passengers on Flight 77.

Vaughn Allex and his wife Denise Allex at their StoryCorps interview. Photo by Mia Warren for StoryCorps.

Salman Hamdani was a 23-year-old emergency medical technician, NYPD cadet, and aspiring medical student who rushed to the World Trade Center that morning to help.

Like thousands of others, Salman never came home that night. And as his family searched for him in the weeks that followed, he was wrongfully linked as an accomplice in the attacks.

His mother, Talat Hamdani, came to StoryCorps with her niece, Armeen Hamdani, to remember the days after Salman went missing.

Photo of Salman Hamdani. Courtesy of Talat Hamdani.

Salman was one of nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11th. Another 7,000 service members would die in the decades-long War on Terror that followed the attacks; one of them was Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson, who was killed by a suicide bomber during her 2012 deployment in Afghanistan. A year later, Donna’s wife Tracy and her mother, Sandra, sat down to remember her.

Donna Johnson was killed on Oct. 1, 2012, while on patrol in Khost, Afghanistan. She was 29.

Army Sergeant Ryan Sharp served two tours in Iraq. But when he returned to the States in 2008, things would never be the same. At StoryCorps, he and his dad spoke about that difficult transition.

Lastly, we hear from Said Noor, a former U.S. Army soldier and interpreter who grew up in Afghanistan and spoke to NPR about what it was like to be deployed to his home country.

Top photo: Artwork by Rosalyn Yoon.

Released on September 10th, 2021.

Many of these recordings were made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as part of StoryCorps’ effort to collect one recording for each life lost that day.

Twenty Years Later, 9/11 Survivor Remembers His Identical Twin Brother Killed In The Attack

Born just minutes apart, Richie and Ronnie Palazzolo were twin brothers who shared everything. They both ran marathons, cheered for their favorite football team— the Minnesota Vikings— and even followed the same career path.

Ronald Palazzolo holding cousin Christina Della Pelle with his brother Richard, New Years Eve, 1994 Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.

They worked as brokers in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Ronnie on the 26th floor at Garban-Intercapital, and Richie on the 105th floor for Cantor Fitzgerald. They were both there on the day of the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001.

Ronnie survived, but Richie did not.

Ronnie, his older brother Michael, and Richie on Easter, 1967 in Queens, NY. Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.

In 2021, Ronnie came to StoryCorps to remember that day and reflect on the pain of losing his brother and best friend.

Top Photo: Richard Palazzolo outside their family’s home in upstate New York, in 2000. Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.

Originally aired September 10, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

This recording was made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as part of StoryCorps’ effort to collect one recording for each life lost that day.

For Those Left Behind: An Afghan American Marine Reflects On His Homeland

In 1980, Ajmal Achekzai fled Afghanistan during the onset of the Soviet–Afghan War, leaving his birth city of Kabul behind. He was only five years old.

The next time he would return would be in November of 2001. U.S. Marines were the first major ground forces sent to Afghanistan after 9/11. Ajmal was among them. 

Cpl. Ajmal Achekzai talks with two Afghan locals on December 10, 2001 at the perimeter of a patrol base in Southern Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Joseph R. Chenelly/USMC/Getty Images.

Twenty years later, Ajmal is witnessing the return of Taliban control. He sat down with StoryCorps to remember where he came from, the dire uncertainty of Afghanistan’s future and the love he has for its people.

Ajmal Achekzai with his mother, in July of 2001, at the Salt Lake International Airport. Courtesy of the Achekzai family.
Top Photo: Ajmal Achekzai at his StoryCorps interview in Costa Mesa, CA, on August 19th, 2016. By Liyna Anwar for StoryCorps.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices and Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired September 03, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Father Mychal’s Blessing

Remembering the September 11 victim who died praying for others.

Father Michael Duffy

On September 11, 2001, Father Mychal Judge, beloved chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, was killed during the attack on the World Trade Center while offering spiritual support.

His friend and homilist, Father Michael Duffy, came to StoryCorps to remember Father Mychal — his endearing mannerisms, his constant positivity, and, above all, his profound impact on everyone he knew.

Listen to Father Duffy’s original StoryCorps interview.

This story is a part of the September 11 Initiative, which was launched in partnership with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in 2005. The goal of the project is to record at least one story commemorating each life lost during the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. Watch and listen to more stories from this Initiative here.

Para subtítulos en español, haga click en el ícono de YouTube en la esquina derecha, y escoja “Spanish” bajo la opción de “settings” y “subtitles/CC.

The Things That Go Left Unsaid: Remembering A Son and Brother — The First U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman was born at Andrews Air Force Base, where his father was stationed at the time. Like many military families, they moved around a lot during his childhood. This instilled an adventurous spirit in Nathan, while it challenged his older brother, Keith, who preferred more order.

The brother’s would go on to lead very separate lives — while living under the same roof. 

Nathan Chapman, Lynn Chapman & Keith Chapman, March 1981 in Contra Costa County, CA. Courtesy of the Chapman family.

In 1988, at age 18, Nathan sat his parents, Lynn and Wilbur down to ask for their blessing to enlist. It would be the beginning of a significant and highly decorated 12-and-a-half year career in service, leading into the Special Forces, where his speciality was communications.

Two months after September 11th, Nathan would volunteer for a special mission. On January 4th, 2002, he became the first American soldier killed in combat, during the War in Afghanistan. 

Lynn and Keith Chapman came to StoryCorps to remember a complicated dynamic between brothers, and the things that sometimes go left unsaid.

Keith Chapman and Lynn Chapman at their StoryCorps interview in Frederick, MD, on August 20, 2021. For StoryCorps. 

Nathan Ross Chapman is survived by his wife, Renae, his daughter Amanda, his son Brandon, his parents Wilbur and Lynn Chapman, his brother Keith Chapman, and his half-brother Kevin Chapman. His other half-brother David Chapman has since passed away.

Top Photo: Nathan Chapman in Haiti, 1995. Courtesy of the Chapman family.

Originally aired August 28, 2021 on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Touched By Tragedy Twice: Father, Who Later Died from COVID, Remembers Losing Son on 9/11

Albert Petrocelli Sr. survived more than his share of hardships during his 73 years.

As a young man, he fought in Vietnam. Returning to his native New York City, he started a long career fighting fires, eventually rising to the rank of Battalion Chief. Then, a year after retiring, Chief Petrocelli lost his youngest son, Mark, a commodities broker, in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. 

But what war, fire, and unspeakable grief couldn’t do, a global pandemic did. On April 1, 2020, Chief Petrocelli died from COVID-19.

Before his death, Chief Petrocelli and his wife, Ginger, recorded a remembrance of their son Mark. They remember the last time they saw him, on September 9, 2001, at one of their family’s weekly Sunday meals. 

This recording was made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as part of StoryCorps’ effort to collect one recording for each life lost that day.

Top Photo: Ginger Petrocelli and Retired New York City Fire Chief Albert Petrocelli in 2017, at their 50th wedding anniversary. Courtesy of the Petrocelli family.
Middle Photo: Retired New York City Fire Chief Albert Petrocelli in 2002, with a photo of Mark that he carried inside his hat. Courtesy of the Petrocelli family.
Bottom Photo: Albert Petrocelli Jr., Mark Petrocelli, and Albert Petrocelli Sr. on Father’s Day 1989, at Mark’s home in New York. Courtesy of the Petrocelli family.

Originally aired September 11, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Remembering Balbir Singh Sodhi, Sikh Man Killed in Post-9/11 Hate Crime

In the wake of the September 11th attacks, Muslims, Arabs, and Sikhs became targets for hate across the country. Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first person to be murdered in a hate crime in this aftermath.

On the morning of September 15, 2001, Balbir donated the contents of his wallet to the victims of the attacks. He then went to the gas station he owned in Mesa, Arizona and began planting a garden out in front, when a man who was seeking retaliation for 9/11 drove by in his pickup truck and shot and killed Balbir, assuming he was a Muslim man. Balbir was a follower of the Sikh religion and wore a turban as part of his faith.

At StoryCorps, Balbir’s brothers, Rana and Harjit Sodhi, sat down to remember him.

Later that day, Balbir’s killer also shot at people who were of Middle Eastern descent. They all survived. The murderer is currently serving out a life sentence in Buckeye, Arizona.

Originally aired September 14, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top Photo: Rana Sodhi (L) and Harjit Sodhi holding a photograph of their late brother, Balbir Singh Sodhi, in Mesa, Arizona. Photo by Mia Warren for StoryCorps.