The tagline for America following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 has been “Never Forget”.
It’s gotten to the point where you have to remind people what happened that day.
But if you were alive 18 years ago today in Schuylkill County, there’s no way you could have forgotten. And even if you weren’t old enough to know what was happening then, you’ve likely heard and you likely know, You must never forget.
Schuylkill County Remembers Michael Ferugio
On this day, millions remember the thousands of Americans who lost their lives so suddenly and tragically in front of all of us on September 11. And at home, in tiny Palo Alto, they remember one of their own, a real “Pally Boy” as they say, who lost his life that day.
Michael Ferugio worked for AON on September 11, 2001. If you didn’t know him, Ferugio’s story sounds like the classic “Local Boy Does Good” tale that any American can relate to. And that’s what makes 9/11 different than just about any other tragedy. At the time, and still today, it feels like it could have been anyone. And every victim’s story touched every American in some way.
Ferugio wasn’t at work the day in 1993, the first attempted terror attack on World Trade Center.
But he wasn’t as fortunate 18 years ago today.
He was in a meeting that Tuesday morning inside World Trade Center.
Even though, based on his location inside the building, he never really stood a chance of getting out alive, it took two months to confirm Ferugio as a victim of the attack. His driver’s license was the only thing ever found amid the rubble of the crumbled buildings.
Ferugio’s obituary was published in the New York Times in November 2001. Here it is in full:
“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Samuel Johnson, the 18th- century man of letters, wrote it, and Michael Ferugio lived it.
He came from Smalltown, U.S.A. Pottsville is an aging coal-mining town in the northeastern hills of Pennsylvania, and like many young people there, Mr. Ferugio, 37, left to make his fortune.
Still, he took something with him. His father was a steam-pipe fitter, his mother a homemaker. They imparted some regular folk wisdom to him that he did not abandon: “You’re no better than anyone else.”
“We used to fight because he said hello to strangers,” said his wife, Susan, 34, who grew up in Queens and lived with her husband in Brooklyn. “I’m a New Yorker, and I told him you can’t do that here.”
But he did, top to bottom. As an insurance broker at Aon, he ate breakfast with chief executives at the World Trade Center, and when he was done, he made small talk with the secretaries. After his death, Susan went through his phone book. Inside were the numbers of half a dozen janitors. His friends.
But Ferugio’s story hardly ends there. And it shows that a lot of people have never forgotten and likely won’t ever forget.
Friends, Family and Strangers Never Forgot
Today, there’s a memorial for Ferugio in his hometown of Palo Alto. But they’re not the only ones remembering Ferugio and other victims of the September 11 attacks on this day.
Take a look at some of the condolences still being left on Ferugio’s obituary page. They date back all the way to 2001 and through today, are still going strong. They include family and friends from here, at Penn State, and in New York. And there are complete strangers, too.
They all show that this attack, unlike other wars, hit home directly in so many ways. With war, there’s an expectation that something could go wrong. There’s a risk. That risk isn’t supposed to exist at work in an office.
On September 11, 2001, these people – just going to work – had no idea what lay ahead that day and then they were just taken away. And it feels like we lost whatever innocence we had left.
There are literally hundreds more remembrances on this site.
If you ever find yourself somehow forgetting what happened that day 18 years ago, go there and get a reminder that the wound created that day is still very fresh for some.
Locals Remember 9/11 and Michael Ferugio
Today, like every year since 2001, small groups of people gather for solemn remembrances of 9/11.
They don’t have the same emotions as they did in the days, months, and initial years after the attack. But we’re still there and we still remember the lives taken from us, like Ferugio’s and the thousands of others that day and the thousands since who helped in any way they could to rescue those trapped in the buildings, like Ferugio.
Today at Penn State-Schuylkill, the campus came together for a service to honor Ferugio and other victims of 9/11.
On 9/11/01, Michael Ferugio, a former Schuylkill student and Penn State alumnus, perished in the World Trade Center terror attack. Today, we hosted a memorial honoring Michael and the countless others who lost their lives that day. Thank you to all who joined us. pic.twitter.com/1Q617cLzeb
— Penn State Schuylkill (@PennStateSL) September 11, 2019
Schuylkill County Commissioners also held a brief moment of silence to honor first responders who lost their lives responding to the attack.