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Sunday, 1 January 2012

9/11 anniversary reveals impact of stories, 10 years later

This year, I had the opportunity to cover the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York.


Many moments left an impression on me, from witnessing the raw emotion of family members as they took turns recalling loved ones at the commemoration-ceremony podium to soaking up the view from atop the newly constructed One World Trade Center tower - a symbol of the city's resilience.


But perhaps most memorable was reconnecting with John Signorello.


I first met Signorello on the night of American Thanksgiving in 2001. He was a veteran city sanitation worker assigned to haul debris out of Ground Zero. I was a young reporter looking for a story.


Signorello let me ride with him in his dump truck as he transferred tons of mangled steel and pulverized concrete to waiting barges. During the ride he told me how the long hours and the sight of bodies being pulled from the rubble were taking their toll. The smell from the site was creeping into his dreams.


Ten years later I set out to track him down. I didn't think he would remember me.


But when I reached him on the phone, I learned that he not only remembered me, but just days earlier he had dug up my original story and read it to his grown daughter for the first time.


"I actually just fell apart," he recalled. "She went silent. I don't think she knew the way I felt until then."


Signorello said he then went to make extra copies of the story because the original had started to fade.


I was blown away.


Journalists often wonder, "Do our stories make a difference?"


It was nice to hear a bit of validation that they do.

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