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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
"9/11: A Nation Changed"
Aired September 11, 2004 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Honoring the victims of September 11th. Good morning, I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington. Today, emotional tributes across the country to the nearly 3,000 people killed when terrorists struck three years ago today. We begin this special hour of special coverage in New York, at the place that has become known as Ground Zero where parents and grandparents read the names of all those killed in the attack on the twin towers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joseph Angelini, Senior (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David Lawrence Angel (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laura Angeletta (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rosa Maria Feliciano (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my son, Peter Paul Apollo (ph). We love you, we miss you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my dearest and lovely son, Kenneth P. Lira Arivilo (ph). We deeply miss you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anglo Amaranto (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jane Ellen Bassler (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jerald A. Barbara (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul Vincent Barbara (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: James William Barbella (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And our two sons, Keith Eugene Coleman (ph) and Scott Thomas Coleman (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daryl Armonico Pantileo (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lindsay A. Donay (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thomas Joseph Selig (ph). UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my son, John Edward Blogget, Jr. (ph). I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my son, Kevin Nathaniel Colbert (ph). Kevin, your brothers and I love you and miss you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shwana Chansani (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: William Chalcoff (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my beloved son, Frankie Esposito (ph) and my nephew, Captain Michael Esposito (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harry Blanding, Jr. (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lots of love, Bill-Bill and everyone for -- never forget 9/11 and all those lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The names of victims read aloud, four moments of silence. A painful anniversary marked at the site of the September 11 attacks. Alina Cho has been watching it all. She joins us from Ground Zero.
Alina, it is heartbreaking to watch the families who lost loved ones.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You took the words out of my mouth, Kelly. New York is your adoptive home. It is my adoptive home. I've been here for seven years. Every year that I have watched this anniversary, the ceremony, it has been heartbreaking and equally so this year. What is so memorable about today, Kelly, is the reading of the names, as you mentioned. Parents and grandparents reading the names of the 2,749 victims, all of them, each and every name many of the parents and grandparents getting quite emotional during the reading, as you just saw there.
Earlier, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a child who loses a parent is an orphan, a man or a woman who loses a spouse is called a widow or a widower, but there is no name for parent who loses a child. And it is for that reason that they are honoring and remembering the parents and the grandparents and allowing them this year to read the names. Kelly, you will remember, that last year it was the children. This year, it is the parents and the grandparents.
Of course, this is about the families today and all New Yorkers, but mostly, the families and hundreds of them are here today. Parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, many of them are here clutching photos of their loved ones. Equally as many carrying flowers and as the names are being read, these family members are able to descend to the lowest point of the World Trade Center site, where there is a small reflecting pool that was put there for today. They are able to lay flowers and leave messages for their loved ones. Some of them have found comfort in each other. You see them get very emotional down there, a lot of hugs, a lot of tears. Some of them have found solace in being alone, going off to a corner and, through sitting, crying alone.
As you mentioned, quite an emotional time here, also interesting to note that it is a sunny, beautiful day here in New York City, strikingly similar to the 9/11 of three years ago. And I can tell you, Kelly, three years later the emotions in many cases seem just as raw, just as fresh as they did in the days and weeks following 9/11 -- Kelly.
WALLACE: Alina, every time you have that kind of day, the blue sky, the crispness in the air, you think it could be another September 11th kind of day. Alina, I want to ask you, you've been talking to families who lost loved ones. As the country remembers their loved ones and reflect back, what do they hope Americans think about and do in the months ahead as we remember the third anniversary of the September 11 anniversary attacks?
CHO: Well, I think, as New York's Governor George Pataki said earlier, never forget. And this is something that you're seeing on signs on the buildings and you're hearing family members say. They don't want people to ever forget. What I thought was so poignant about some of the family members, Kelly, that you saw some of them as the names were being read holding the photos, clutching the photos and holding them high as if they were really just sort of proud and so proud to be here and so proud to be a part of this. There was one woman who had never been a part of the Ground Zero ceremony before. She came here. She read a poem. She got tearful. And it was in remembrance of her son Nicky, a financial analyst who died in the south tower. He would have been 25 years old this month -- Kelly.
WALLACE: Alina, thank you for that very, very moving report. Alina Cho reporting from Ground Zero, the site of the former World Trade Center.
Also, this morning in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, remembering the 40 passengers and crew on United Airlines Flight 93. That plane crashed in a Somerset County field short of its target. In a small and solemn service, bells tolled for those lost.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alan Bevin (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: One hundred eighty-four people lost their lives in the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. They were remembered a short time ago at Arlington National Cemetery with a wreath laying ceremony and a moment of silence. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was among those attending the ceremony.
Well, President Bush was up early this morning to attend a prayer and remembrance service at a Washington church. We turn now to CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.
Suzanne, a somber day there at the White House, just like in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kelly. And the observances very much the same way they were last year. Essentially, that they started off at church where the president as well as the first lady going to St. John's Episcopal Church just across from the White House. That is where they lit candles to begin the ceremony. The rector there saying to President Bush that part of his role is to be chaplain to this nation, a very touching and quiet ceremony. The president then, afterwards, as well with the vice president and Mrs. Lynne Cheney, both of them on the South Lawn, that is where at exactly 8:46, the minute that the first plane hit the World Trade Center, that when they led in this moment of silence, silent prayer. We saw the Marine band playing "America The Beautiful." The Color Guard as well as Marine bugler who played "Taps" at the end of that very poignant moment.
Following that, the president had his weekly radio address, but very differently, rare. He actually addressed the nation live. That was at 10:06. He had around him those who are family members of victims of 9/11, firefighters as well as first responders all there in the Oval Office when he delivered that message to the American people, essentially recognizing those who had died, also acknowledging the troops in the war on terror. President Bush now at Camp David. That is where we are told he's going to spend a quiet day. Both the president and Senator Kerry not campaigning today out of respect for this very important anniversary -- Kelly.
WALLACE: Suzanne, very much keeping politics, campaign '04 out of the remembrance of September 11. Susan Malveaux reporting from the White House, thanks so much.
Well, three years later, some family members still struggle to cope with their losses and make sense of their own lives. CNN's Brian Todd introduces us to two men whose wives were killed in the attack on the Pentagon.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Abe Scott and Tom Heidenberger, the need to stay busy is just one thing they share.
ABE SCOTT, WIFE DIED AT PENTAGON: I'll be going a mile a minute.
TODD HEIDENBERGER, WIFE DIED ON AA FLIGHT 77: Go do your homework.
TODD: These two men didn't have much in common three years ago. But when a plane slammed into the Pentagon, their lives became eerily similar. Each man, in an instant, turned widower after long, loving marriages.
SCOTT: I was walking around like a zombie. I was also thinking about what, you know, what I was going to do without her.
TODD: Each man, thrust into single parenthood in midlife, each with children in their teens and 20s, each with a sudden crisis they couldn't comprehend, let alone explain to their children. HEIDENBERGER: I had about an hour to get myself together.
TODD: Tom Heidenberger is a pilot for U.S. Airways. His wife, Michelle, was a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 77. He received the news relatively early that morning. Then, he had to tell his son.
HEIDENBERGER: You know he then fell on the floor with the dog and just cried his heart out. And you know I was there with him. And then my daughter came home. Her first words were, you know, "Mom's not going to be at my wedding." You know, for any parent to have to tell that they lost either a mother, a spouse or a fellow sibling and to have to tell that and to see your children's pain and agony, I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.
TODD: For Abe Scott, no quick certainty. His wife, Janice a civilian budget analyst at the Pentagon, was designated as missing for weeks. How to explain this to 15 and 23-year-old daughters?
SCOTT: It was very hard for me to talk to them about it, about the situation. But they knew. They knew.
TODD: For both men, the female buffer to their daughters was gone. They tried to cope, sought psychological help, went through awkward, sometimes excruciating periods. But also found a certain place with their children.
HEINDENBERGER: She will ask me questions she would normally ask her mother about dating or, you know what to wear or should I go to this event or shouldn't I go to this event.
TODD: All four of their children have either graduated, are in college, or will be soon. But with that success, you sense in each man a certain happiness framed only in the past.
SCOTT: I try not to think about the present, try to think about the past when she was alive, good things that we had -- that we did together.
HEINDENBERGER: I never really got to tell my wife what a wonderful person she was. I mean, she knew it, but it would make me feel better, you know if I could have told her again and again and again. And I don't have that chance.
TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Edward J. Perosa (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Imelda H. Perry (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Glen C. Perry (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John William Perry (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Franklin Allan Pership (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Danny Pesky (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael John Pesherren (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Damon Peterson (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: William Russell Peterson (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mal Petricelli (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phillip Scott Petty (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Glenn Karen Pettitt (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dominic Petsulo (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colleen Elizabeth Pezutti (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kevin Pfeiffer (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tuan Pham (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dominic Peizzullo (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suzette Eugena Pianterri (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kevin Pfeiffer (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kenneth John Fhelan (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suzette (ph) -- I'm sorry Suzette Eugena Pianterri (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ludwig John Picaro (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Matthew M. Pisaro (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joseph Oswald Pick (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christopher Pickford (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dennis J. Pierce (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Renaldo Pitrenico (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nicholas P. Piatrenzi (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I left out, I'm sorry, Colleen Elizabeth Pizzutti. I apologize. And our son and brother, Michael Edward Roberts, it was heaven here with him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my firstborn, Gregory David Richards, beloved father, husband, brother, nephew, son-in-law, friend. We will never forget you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: From the 9/11 Commission Report, "the lessons of 9/11 for civilians and first responders can be stated simply: in the new age of terror, they -- we -- are the primary targets. The losses America suffered that day demonstrated both the gravity of the terrorist threat and the commensurate need to prepare ourselves to meet it. A rededication to preparedness is perhaps the best way to honor the memories of those we lost that day."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...dear to all of us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Harry A. Rains and our beloved son and father of Ruby, Peter Anthony, Pedro Antonio Vega Murphy.
WALLACE: The ceremony continues at the site where the former World Trade Center once stood. Parents and grandparents reading the names of the 2,749 people killed in the attacks there exactly three years ago this day, a very, very emotional and moving time there.
In the meantime, thousands of miles away from the crash sites of September 11, the nation's heartland is also remembering. In the Texas town of Grapevine, the annual September festival has a new significance now. CNN's Ed Lavandera takes us there.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The second weekend in September means it's time to shut down Main Street and let Grapefest begin in Grapevine, Texas, just outside of Dallas. This annual festival is now forever intertwined with the September 11th anniversary.
CYNDI GOLDEN, GRAPVINE, TEXAS RESIDENT: You want people to regain their life and still travel and still do things, because otherwise, the terrorists win. But you hope that they're doing so with the reverence where they still can acknowledge and, you know have a place in their heart for the victims.
LAVANDERA: Dean Thompson, whose wife works as a flight attendant, is making sure people don't forget the horror of that day. He's raising money to create five flight crew memorials around the country.
DEAN THOMPSON, WWW.FLIGHTCREWMEMORIAL.ORG.: We were there just as much as the New Yorkers. We just didn't have the dust and the noise and the heat that was transmitting out of this thing.
LAVANDERA: As Thompson spoke, an airplane flew overhead. He didn't flinch and neither did anyone else here just a few miles from Dallas' main airport. In New York, many residents will tell you they still stare at airplanes.
SUMMER ALBERS, FORMER NEW YORK CITY RESIDENT: It's definitely the most frightening thing I've ever lived through.
LAVANDERA: Summer Albers watched the attacks from her home in Brooklyn and because of that moved back home to Texas.
ALBERS: I don't think it's the same as for the people who lived there and suffered with the firemen and their families and -- to see all the -- you know the postings on the windows of missing loved ones everywhere, throughout the boroughs. It's very different.
LAVANDERA: In Grapevine, most say they don't live in fear.
RAUL RODRIGUEZ, OKLAHOMA CITY RESIDENT: Oh, I definitely think we feel safer now, I mean, because of that. And I think a lot of precautions have been taken. We're always on alert, and like I said, and I just feel like the country is safer.
LAVANDERA: When you talk about 9/11 around Grapefest, you'll find that people want to remember, but they also want to forget just how helpless they felt that day. And these families find the best cure for that feeling is by making a point of enjoying life on September 11th.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, Grapevine, Texas.
WALLACE: A snapshot of how one small town in the United States is remembering.
Up next, a mother on her first day back from maternity leave survives a September 11th attack at the Pentagon. Her incredible story as our special coverage continues. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: "When the 9/11 Commission was formed on the morning of September 11, Secretary Rumsfeld was having breakfast at the Pentagon with a group of members of Congress. He then returned to his office for his daily intelligence briefing. The secretary was informed that the second strike in New York during the briefing. He resumed the briefing while awaiting more information. After the Pentagon was struck, Secretary Rumsfeld went to the parking lot to assist with the rescue efforts."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: It has been three years since the attacks of September 11th. And on this day, we think mostly about the families of the victims. They grieve for their loved ones but they continue on, knowing their lives have been changed forever as we now see in this collection called "Remembering."
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My father is Michael F. Stabile. He's 50 years old. He's from Staten Island, New York. I couldn't ask for a better father. He's just -- I can't even describe it, how good he is to us.
When I went away to college my first year, he wrote a letter to me saying how much he was going to miss me and that it took my parents such a long time to have me, so when I came along and then my brother and my sister, it was just the greatest thing in the world for him. My mother always says, you know, he's just so proud of you, so proud of all of you. Sometimes I forget that it really happened, that it was like a dream almost. But now, it's -- and other times I think, you know, wow. Three years ago, it happened. Can't believe this happened to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It made us close, definitely, because we have to rely on each other now. There's only four of is. And sometimes I think God forbid something happens to one of the three of them, what am I going to do. So I cling to my family more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We moved out of the old house because there were too many memories there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're trying to move on, but I mean there's constant reminders, every September 11 is going to be a constant reminder.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eventually, I hope to think about it and not cry as often as I do sometimes. I mean there's always weddings to consider and my father will never walk me down the aisle. He'll never hold his grandchildren. So it's hard when you think about things like that. So until those obstacles are met it's hard to heal completely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: she's a great mom. She really devoted a lot of attention to Sebastian. Sebastian really started, you know, becoming her world. I'm going to miss, you know, having her there as we grow up, as he grows up, and I miss my friend. I used to come home and talk about everything, and even sometimes not talking, just having her there, just -- that's when I miss her a lot.
It's hard not to think about Felicia, because of the fact I see Sebastian every day and he's a mirror image of Felicia. The fact that I had a son and myself being a young person, there was too many things crying out to me that, you know, if I stop living if I just stay in this one point, that's not only a disgrace to Felicia's memory, but most importantly, I no longer allow my own child to live. And that I just couldn't do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you want one?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was fortunate enough to get remarried. Karen and Sebastian have just bonded. I really feel that Felicia has sort of given her blessing on Karen and I's relationship. For Sebastian, I think it's extremely important that he sees daddy continue living and understand that things may happen but you should not cave in to your fears or your grief, that life continues on. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going to be missed, just for his presence. He was absolutely thrilled when he found out he was going to be a father for the first time. It was his little girl, Sara, and then they had their new baby, Allison. I want them to know what a wonderful person he was, how loyal he was, how much he loved them, and how much he looked forward to their being a part of his life.
Nothing in this lifetime can prepare you for the loss of a child. It still surprises me how intense it feels, how much it hurts, you know, even three years later.
There's been a number of things that have sustained my husband and I. We do have a very strong faith and our church was there for us. We spend a lot of time with Tommy's daughters, and they both have so much of him in them. It's a constant reminder of who he was. I find it incredible that that much time has passed since that eventful day. You know we're approaching another milestone. It's another time to pause and reflect. And I'm sure so many, many people are going through the same experience, you know the remembering and the reflecting and sometimes getting past the thoughts of what life might have been and realizing what life is now and cherishing every moment of it. You know, it goes too quickly.
WALLACE: Family members remembering their loved ones. On this day, we also remember the heroic efforts by countless number of ordinary people on September 11th. Our guest this morning is one of those heroes. April Gallop is a survivor of the attack on the Pentagon, although badly injured; she managed to save the life of her newborn son who was also there that day.
April, thanks for being with us.
APRIL GALLOP, 9/11 PENTAGON SURVIVOR: Glad to be here.
WALLACE: It's tough listening to those stories.
GALLOP: It is. It really is.
WALLACE: What goes through your mind as you listen?
GALLOP: I just think about how we know that, you know, death is inevitable. We know that it's going to happen. But when there's an incident such as 9/11 and it happens, you think, wow, those people died like lambs to a slaughter. Many, I believe, before their time and it's just really hard. I don't think that was a way for anybody to die.
WALLACE: September 11th, 2001, it is your first day back from maternity leave. You're getting ready to take your newborn son, Elijah, to child care. Then what happens?
GALLOP: Again, it wasn't anything expected. I was just going to turn on the computer to do a letter. And I never got to do that. As soon as I touched the computer, boom, and I actually thought it was a bomb. And to leave out graphic details, you know, all of a sudden, due to the impact of the plane, we were blown away from the location we were at and covered under four floors of debris, walls, office equipment, et cetera.
WALLACE: You describe, as you talked to officers, you know, normally you'd be sort of panicking, but some adrenaline rush to find your son.
GALLOP: Exactly. Again, what caused me to really come back to reality and say, hey, we are alive, is that I heard my son crying. But what caused me to try to move was the fact that he stopped. And I thought, oh, my God, I've got to do something. And adrenaline just came up as -- I learned later that's what he described it as -- I felt this strength come up in me and it caused me to just get the will and the power to crawl out from under the debris. I low crawled out from under the debris and I was looking frantically for my son. And there were others who were trapped in between the floors and trapped under debris and you could just hear "Help me, save me, help me, save me." And you could hear "Aah," all types of noises in there.
And I -- the people who were closest to me that I could do something, I helped them with the thought that, OK, I helped you, help me find my son. And of course, they were in shock. I don't hold anything against them. They were thinking about getting out. And so, they ran to try and find a way. And I was thinking about my son. And there was no science to it on our way out of the hole. I just reached down and I just thought it was a body. I had no sense that it was actually my son until I pulled it, and it was my son. And I checked to see if he was breathing. He wasn't and then I just put him on my shoulder and that's when we began to try to climb over the debris to get out to the big gaping hole.
WALLACE: You described you and your son as being part of the -- quote -- "invisible wounded."
WALLACE: What do you mean by that?
GALLOP: Well, soon after 9/11, of course, the American public responded so well thinking, you know, we've got to help out, because, of course, that was a major thing that happened in America's history. And a lot of people thought that, you know, the families were so well supported. But many times, the injured didn't meet many of the criteria, the qualifications for much of the standards. So we had ongoing healthcare issues and many of us lost our jobs.
But what people looked at as the wounded were the burn victims and they didn't look at, you know, those who may have invisible injuries, which can only be seen by x-ray, whether it's spinal and, you know, head trauma, traumatic brain injury. Well, you can't see that, you know, or you know mild hearing loss. Exactly, you can't see those things. So that's why I say we became the -- you know the walking wounded or the invisible wounded, because most people only wanted to support what they could see and that was the burn victims. WALLACE: We, of course, saw you attending many of the September 11 Commission hearings in Washington. You helped push for the creation of this commission.
GALLOP: Yes, I did. Yes, I did.
WALLACE: Are you satisfied, after the Commission's report, that the Commission and the U.S. government are doing everything they can to make the U.S. safer and to prevent another September 11th?
GALLOP: I wouldn't say totally satisfied and it wouldn't be fair to give an answer on that, simply because the commission was kind of limited when they started. They didn't have enough funds. They really didn't have the time that they really needed to do a real thorough report. So you have to look at the facts and then say OK, they did the best they could with the time that they had. And, I mean, they get an "e" for effort. And then you look at I haven't finished the complete report so we're still going through it. And then you look at, at least we see, you know, the president did all that he could by executive order to put as much in place, based off the Commission report. And we see Congress moving to try to implement much of their findings. So to me, that's a great "e" for effort.
However, there is still more work to be done. You look at the 28 missed pages. You look at, OK, now can we declassify that so we can review that information. I don't think you can fix a problem with partial truth. I think you're only going to fix part of the problem. And until we know the whole truth, I don't think we're really going to fix the problem.
WALLACE: April Gallop, we very much appreciate you coming in...
GALLOP: Thank you for having me.
WALLACE: ...on this obviously very difficult day for you and your family.
GALLOP: Thank you for having me.
WALLACE: Thanks for sharing your story today.
GALLOP: Thank you.
WALLACE: Still to come, another inspiring story, this one from Ground Zero. Meet the first responder who went from tragedy to Olympic triumph. Our special coverage continues.
WALLACE: Beyond the horror of September 11th, something else we remember about that day three years ago, how many Americans found a depth of courage, inspiration and passion that transcended the tragedy. More now from CNN's Paula Zahn.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: It was a victory for the United States, a gold medal for a team denied for 40 years, a triumph for a man who, three years ago, came face-to-face with overwhelming loss.
JASON READ, 9/11 RESCUE WORKER: When we arrived at a very dark lower Manhattan on the evening of the 11th, it was very difficult to discern where you were, because there was so much destruction. You know, this 45-acre site or 44-acre site had been annihilated.
ZAHN: Jason Read trained to save lives since he was 14, so committed that he became one of the youngest volunteer rescue chiefs in New Jersey history. But no training could prepare him or his squad for what they encountered at Ground Zero.
READ: Trying to capture the historical context of 3,000 people being murdered in 90 minutes, I don't think any class or drill or scenario or case study, I don't think anything can prepare you for that. Are there more planes coming in? Are we being targeted by al Qaeda? Are they going to try to take out the emergency services that are here to help people? Are we going to be targeted as we've seen happen in other cities that have been victims of terror?
In the early morning hours of the 12th, one of my partners said, "Jason, the sun's rising and it's rising on a new world. Everything has changed now. The face of history's been changed." And Jamie was right.
ZAHN: It wasn't until Jason finished his rescue work at Ground Zero five days later that he realized how profound the change would be.
READ: Once you extract yourself from that environment, you no longer have these protection mechanisms that our bodies are able to -- these barriers, these emotional barriers that our bodies are able to manage while you're doing pretty gruesome work. I was totally disoriented. I arrived back at Jersey City's exchange place and I had little girls coming up to me and hanging off my gear and people were swinging "God Bless America", the national anthem, holding candlelight vigils and that was a life-changing experience. And so, I just sat down next to one of the buildings and I just cried my eyes out.
ZAHN: For months after, Jason was sleepless, haunted, like so many people, by a feeling of helplessness for not being able to rescue everyone.
READ: I had a difficult time. I was finishing up school. I had no attention span. I think what got me out of it was a loving family and a great network of friends that had lots of fun, and just committed to supporting our country and kind of keeping an eye on me, trying to help keep my train on the tracks without totally imploding. And for that, I'm very grateful.
ZAHN: Rowing helped bring him back to life. He was just 11 when he fell in love with the sport, the water and the teamwork. A camaraderie and commitment that he says parallels rescue work. READ: In order to be successful, you have to put aside your independence. You don't lose your autonomy, but you certainly work in a collaborative effort. I've seen the glorious results of what that team effort yields and the tenacity and the dedication that my teammates and I -- my teammates are my best friends. They're like brothers to me.
ZAHN: With this dedicated band of brothers, Read brought home the historic rowing gold medal, motivated by his experience three years before, memories that made his victory about more than just medals.
READ: The parallel for me is representing your country during such tumultuous times. It was the greatest honor that I could ever ask for. And to be able to win and to wear the flag over my heart on my uniform, a flag that I used to orient myself down at Ground Zero. In life, there are very few opportunities that you can define yourself and you can define how you want to be remembered. And those defining moments, you have to take advantage of because they don't come every day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Claudia Suzette Sutton (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Francis Swaine (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kristine M. Swearson (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brian David Sweeney (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul Talti (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marrietta Tom (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rachel Tomarez (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hector Tomiyo (ph).
WALLACE: And you are looking at live pictures of the ceremony that has been underway since about 9:00 a.m. this morning. Parents and grandparents of the 2,749 people killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center reading their names. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Allan Tarasiewicz (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael C. Taru (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ronald Tartaro (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Larisa Salan Taylor (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donnie Brooks Taylor (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my son and brother, Glen Thompson. Glen, we love you and we miss you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And to my son, probationary firefighter, John Patrick Tierney. We love you, Johnny.
WALLACE: And that ceremony expected to go on at least another 15 minutes or so. Next up, the children of September 11th, the victims growing up and moving forward. Stay with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dorothy Merle Temple (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stanley L. Temple (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David Tangulan (ph).
WALLACE: September 11th shattered thousands of American families and left so many children to grow up without a mother or a father. There are estimates that as many as 3,000 children lost a parent on September 11. That loss will impact who they are for the rest of their lives. CNN's Paula Zahn now shows us how some of them have found help in moving forward.
FRANCO STEWART, FATHER DIED ON 9/11: I'm Franco Stewart.
ELLA THOMPSON, FATHER DIED ON 9/11: I'm Ella Thompson.
STEWART: I'm 16 years old and I lost my dad on the 92nd floor of the second tower in the World Trade Center.
THOMPSON: I'm 16 years old and my dad died on September 11th.
STEWART: He was probably the top one or two people I could talk to about -- just about anything.
THOMPSON: He's funny. He's big. Like, you know, and, you know, he's a very -- as we English like to say, a very jolly person. And so he was a great guy. And I really miss him.
ZAHN (voice-over): It's estimated that thousands of children suffered unthinkable loss on September 11th, 2001. Franco and Ella lost their fathers. To help them deal with the loss, their mothers sent them to Comfort Zone Camp, a bereavement camp which held special sessions for the children of 9/11.
STEWART: I was kind of uneasy about going. My father had only died a couple of months earlier. So it was kind of a weird situation, but it was nice to know that other people had experienced the same thing.
THOMPSON: I didn't want to go. My mom actually made me go.
LYNNE HUGHES, FOUNDER OF COMFORT ZONE CAMP: When I first met Ella, I could see somebody who was in a lot of pain and had a lot of emotions and was searching for outlets.
ZAHN: Lynn Hughes founded the camp because she knew how hard is for kids to deal with death. Her mother died when she was 9, her father, when she was 12.
HUGHES: There's something magical about camp. And when you take kids away from their day-to-day life and it's kind of an artificial bubble where time stands still and in that artificial bubble you create this safe atmosphere.
ZAHN: Comfort Zone looks like a regular camp, color war, swimming, arts and crafts. But these activities help the campers, all of whom have lost a loved one, to talk to grieve, and perhaps most importantly, to remember.
THOMPSON: I remember that day vividly in my mind, because I woke up and it was such a gorgeous day and I remember what I was wearing and all sorts of stuff. But you never know what's going to happen, and the worst did. And -- so it does make me sad that I don't have a future with him in it. But you know I think memories are good even if they do make you a bit sad, because that's what keeps you -- connects you to that person. My memories of my dad used to upset me a lot. And I think what's great with this camp is you kind of learn to embrace them.
And I'm trying -- I'm going to get Mary (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to smile. I'm going. She's going to, like, genuinely smile.
ZAHN: Ella has returned to Comfort Zone Camp six times over the past three years. Franco, eight times. This summer, they came back not as campers, this time as counselors.
STEWART: And I think I can help them to see the positive light in their situation and kind of keep them upbeat because I tended to get down in the dumps sometimes when I lost my dad, which is understandable. But I think they should understand that there's a good side to things and it's good to talk to people about their feelings.
THOMPSON: And you know, it's fun to sort of be counselor and sort of -- you're not, like, in charge, but you are more than you were. And you know I talk to the kids and my girls are great. The way they've come through, you know, I think little kids have a lot of resilience and these kids really do. I mean, they're amazing. I love them. Oh, man, I love them. They're so great.
ZAHN: That love and admiration made a difference for Ella.
THOMPSON: I definitely think there are stages that you have to go through, and, you know, the first definitely is, you know, shock. And then the second, I was probably angry. I was very upset and I think you learn to deal with it. And this place is great to learn how to sort of let it go and, also, embrace it.
ZAHN: Now, three years after 9/11, these two campers-turned- counselors look forward. Franco, who excels in sports, wears his father's football jersey around camp.
THOMPSON: I know a place where love will grow...
ZAHN: Ella sings her dad's favorite song in tribute.
THOMPSON: He would have been great in this atmosphere. You know he -- I mean, I'm sure he would have loved to do this sort of thing too.
ZAHN: For kids, every day should bring a new experience, a new beginning. But that day, three years ago, was an ending for so many children. For these two, a journey started in tragedy has taken a new direction toward a future filled with new promise and renewed hope.
WALLACE: Two young people moving forward and helping other children along the way. That report again from CNN's Paula Zahn. We will have much more on today's September 11 ceremonies throughout the day here on CNN, including the ceremony that is still underway at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan.
Also ahead, a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington. Thank you for joining us for this special coverage.
Up next, at the top of the hour, "CNN LIVE SATURDAY."
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