“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.
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.
Memories of Escaping the South Tower of the WTC on September 11, 2001
On September 11th, 2001, Joe Dittmar was visiting New York City from the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Illinois. He worked in the insurance industry and had an early morning meeting at the World Trade Center.
Joe was on the 105th floor of the south tower when the north tower was attacked. Then, 17 minutes later, his tower was hit. He followed the crowds as they evacuated.
And at StoryCorps, he remembered making his way back home.
Top photo: Joe Dittmar at his StoryCorps interview in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on August 28, 2017. Photo by Jud Esty-Kendall.
Middle photo: Joe Dittmar’s World Trade Center visitor’s pass that he received for his 9/11/01 meeting — set to expire the following day. Photo by Jud Esty-Kendall.
Bottom photo: Joe Dittmar (right), pictured with his wife, Betty Dittmar. Photo courtesy of Joe Dittmar.
Originally aired September 7, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Armeen Hamdani and Talat Hamdani
On September 11, 2001, 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.
In April 2002, a month after his remains were found, Salman was finally given a hero’s burial — with his casket draped in an American flag. Hundreds of people attended his funeral, including then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s police commissioner.
Today, there are scholarships in Salman’s name at his alma mater, Queens College, and at Rockefeller University. The street on which he lived in Bayside, Queens, was renamed in his honor.
Originally aired September 8, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photos of Salman courtesy of Talat Hamdani.
Vaughn Allex and Denise Allex
This weekend marks 15 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Each year since, StoryCorps has commemorated the day by featuring stories from the parents, wives, husbands, coworkers, and friends of those who died on 9/11. This year we hear from Vaughn Allex, a man whose life was affected in another way.
Vaughn was working at the American Airlines ticket counter at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., on the morning of September 11 checking in passengers on Flight 77. As he was wrapping up, two men who were running late for the flight came to his counter.
Before the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airport security was more lax, and Vaughn did exactly what he was supposed to do — he checked both men’s IDs, asked them a few standard security questions, and then flagged their bags for extra scrutiny.
Vaughn then checked the two men in and they boarded the flight to Los Angeles.
Those two men were among the five hijackers onboard who crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 189 people including themselves.
Vaughn, who retired from the airline industry in 2008 and now works for the Department of Homeland Security, came to StoryCorps with his wife, Denise, to discuss how he has felt since learning the next day that he checked in two of the 9/11 hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77.
Originally aired September 9, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Illustration by Matt Huynh for StoryCorps.
Isaac Feliciano has been working at Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood cemetery for 21 years. He has done many jobs there and is currently a field foreman, supervising landscape and maintenance workers on the grounds.
On September 11, 2001 he dropped his wife off at the subway so she could get to her job at Marsh & McLennan in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
He then headed to work at Green-Wood.
Rosa Maria Feliciano, pictured at left with her daughters, Amanda and Alexis, was 30 years old when she was killed on September 11, 2001. Today, Isaac is a single father raising their two daughters.
Originally aired September 11, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo courtesy of the Feliciano family.
A few years after immigrating from the Ivory Coast, Sekou Siby began working in the kitchen at Windows on the World—a restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
Sekou, 49, lost more than 70 colleagues on September 11, 2001, many of them immigrants as well.
He was originally scheduled to work on the morning of the attacks but switched shifts at the request of another employee—fellow kitchen worker Moises Rivas.
Sekou came to StoryCorps’ booth in Lower Manhattan to remember Moises as well as the many other coworkers he lost on that day.
Originally aired September 5, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Connie Labetti was working for Aon Corporation in 2001. Her office was on the 99th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower—the second to be hit on September 11, 2001.
As the attacks began, she fled the South Tower and made it out alive—with help from her boss, Ron Fazio. The only trace of Ron recovered at Ground Zero was a mangled credit card.
Originally aired September 6, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Graham Haggett and Shelli Wright
The last picture 11-year-old Graham Haggett’s grandmother Sandra Lee Wright ever saw was of him.
When Sandra, 57, arrived at her job on the morning of September 11, 2001, waiting for her in her email was a photo (at left) of 10-week-old Graham sent by her daughter, Shelli Wright (pictured above). Her response, “So cute! I’m going to steal that baby.”
Sandra, the facilities manager for Aon Corporation, had an office located in the World Trade Center’s South Tower. She, along with 175 of her colleagues, were killed on the morning of the attacks.
Graham, (pictured above and at left with Lammy, a gift from Sandra), came to StoryCorps with his mother Shelli, 41, to remember the grandmother he never got to know.
Originally aired September 7, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photos courtesy of Shelli Wright.
Nancy Cardona and Umberto Joseph DeJesus
For nearly twenty years, Umberto Joseph DeJesus has worked as an EMT and physician assistant in emergency rooms around New York City. September 11, 2001 was his day off.
At StoryCorps, Umberto talks to his wife, Nancy Cardona, about going to Ground Zero as a volunteer.
Recorded September 10, 2011.