N.J. family of 9/11 victim turns tragedy into a mission to help others


NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — Commemorating the September 11th terror attacks felt considerably different Friday in New York City this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Crowds were discouraged, many families kept away, and the names of the fallen played through recordings instead of being read live from a stage.

Despite the difference from years past, it’s still an important time to look back and reflect—and people across the country have been doing just that.

Like Francisco Cruz, of West Orange, New Jersey, who got a new lease on life that day, escaping the north tower minutes before the south tower fell.

“The police,” he recalls, as he looks out over the Manhattan skyline, “they were telling us, ‘go go go go go!’”

Mary Lou Dawson lost no one on 9/11. But she remembers getting the news and making sure friends and family were accounted for, then rushing to help gather needed supplies before heading for ground zero.

“Going over there and being part of that chain that was getting these supplies. We were just haunted by it,” she said.

Survivors, family members and volunteers all have compelling and deeply moving stories, but listening to Helman Correa will almost break your heart.

“He was the light of the house,” he said of his late son, Danny, whose picture Helman wears around his neck.

“He was the best. The best of the best. And I’m telling you this, we’re missing him so, so much.”

He’s standing by his son’s name on the memorial wall at the Eagle Rock 9/11 Memorial in Essex County, New Jersey. He’ll talk about Danny all you like.

He was 25-years-old, bright, talented, handsome. A good son just two months into a new job on the 98th floor of One World Trade on the day he simply disappeared. For Helman, 9/11 was 19 years ago and yesterday.

“We act. We wear masks,” he says of himself and his wife. “In truth, we only see emptiness, sadness. There’s always something that reminds us of him. Every second. Every second.”

A New Jersey-based organization is committed to keeping the kindness witnessed in the country in the months and years following 9/11 alive through giving.

“Heartworks is a local grassroots movement of women committed to replicating and sustaining the palpable kindness witnessed in the wake after September 11, 2001,” their website says.

To learn more about Heartworks and their mission, or to make a donation, visit their website.

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