Palm Bay council members
witnessed horror of 9/11 in NYC
Ms. Paccione, Mr. Capote were in New York suburbs when Twin Towers were attacked
By Dan Garcia
PALM BAY - Palm Bay city councilwoman Michele Paccione recalls flying into New York City on a beautiful day on Sept. 9, 2001, and seeing the World Trade Center shimmering grandly as her plane approached Newark, N.J., International Airport.
Eight days later, as she rode on an Amtrak train leaving New York, tears flooded her eyes as she saw smoke shrouding the Twin Towers.
Ms. Paccione's fellow councilman, William Capote, was working for a stock brokerage firm in Jersey City, N.J., on Sept. 11, 2001, and watched from his 11th-floor office as the second plane hit the tower.
Mr. Capote could have been near the Twin Towers himself, except that the business he worked for, UBS-Paine Webber, had relocated, like other brokerage firms, to the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, across from Manhattan.
Both council members have indelibly vivid recollections - and emotionally wrenching memories -- of the day America was attacked.
They were witnessed to America's greatest tragedy.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Paccione had planned to take the subway to the World Trade Center from her brother's home in suburban Westchester County, N.Y. She had frequently shopped and dined at the Twin Towers when she worked as a saleswoman on Broadway in Lower Manhattan.
Instead, Ms. Paccione watched from her suburban enclave as the towers became pillars of smoke.
Ms. Paccione had arrived in New York for her godson's christening, and first visited her sister in New Jersey.
"It was a beautiful Sunday, and we took the New Jersey Turnpike to New York," Ms. Paccione said. "As we passed by Manhattan, you could see the Twin Towers, so beautiful.
"I used to sit outside the towers for lunch. They had a mall and a subway stop," Ms. Paccione recalled.
"My husband and I got our marriage license in New York, so we went to the top of the observation deck of one of the towers. I have a picture of that. It's a very special memory."
On Sept. 11, her husband, who had remained in Florida, woke her up to tell her: "Don't go into New York today." In Florida, her husband was listening to the popular New York-based Howard Stern radio show - thanks to Sirius Radio - and learned of the first plane attack.
"Like the rest of America, we saw the second plane hit. Of course, we were devastated," she said.
Ms. Paccione, a native of Queens, N.Y., remembers being filled with sadness as her train pulled out of New York.
"The train goes through a tunnel and comes out on the New Jersey side, and when it did, all I could see was the smoke," Ms. Paccione recalled.
"It put tears in my eyes, and I cried leaving New York. It was sad, knowing I had gone there on Sunday, seeing the beautiful towers, and leaving a week later and seeing the smoke and knowing the towers were gone.
"The people that worked there died. That part really brought me to tears," Ms. Paccione said.
She hasn't been back to New York since.
Mr. Capote was at work for UBS-Paine Webber in Jersey City, N.J., during the attack.
Jersey City is as close to Lower Manhattan as the width of the Hudson River. The nearby Statue of Liberty draws its electricity from New Jersey, so Mr. Capote was actually closer to the Twin Towers than residents of Upper Manhattan.
Mr. Capote, the council's deputy mayor, recalled the confusion caused by the first tower catching fire, and hearing reports of a possible gas explosion.
"I wondered, 'Oh my God, how are they going to turn that fire out?' " Mr. Capote recalled.
"It was like watching the movie 'Towering Inferno,' " he said.
Mr. Capote worried about some business acquaintances who were working in the first tower.
Then the second plane approached.
"It was surreal," Mr. Capote recalled. "The plane leveled out, and it seemed like the person driving the plane put it into full gear."
Mr. Capote instantly wondered when fighter jets would scramble from McGuire Air Force Base or Fort Dix, both in New Jersey.
"It was like time was standing still. I said 'No!' when the plane hit. I thought we were at war."
Mr. Capote called his wife, Anita, in her office in Elizabeth, N.J., to get their children out of school.
The fighter jets never arrived.
But America had not been prepared for such an attack.