At A Brooklyn Cemetery, A Place Of Work — And An Enduring Memorial | KERA News

At A Brooklyn Cemetery, A Place Of Work — And An Enduring Memorial

Sep 11, 2015
Originally published on September 11, 2015 10:50 am

On Sept. 11, 2001, Isaac Feliciano dropped his wife off at the subway so she could get to her job at Marsh & McLennan, in the south tower of the World Trade Center. Then, he headed to work himself — at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where he's worked for the past 21 years.

When the plane struck the tower, even as far away as he was, Feliciano was still able to see the damage firsthand.

"They say it's the highest point of Brooklyn, so you could see the fire, the flames and all the smoke," Feliciano recalls, on a visit with StoryCorps. "I said, 'Oh, my God my wife is there.' She worked on the 96th floor, but I was just hoping for the best."

His wife died 14 years ago Friday, at the age of 30. At the time, though, Feliciano's daughter was just 2 years old; he says the tragedy didn't truly sink in for him until he heard her screaming and crying, calling for her mother.

"That's when it hit me," he says.

"We talked about everything and she always made me see the better side of things, always. That was one of the things that I cherished about her the most."

Now, his wife is buried in the same cemetery where he works. And he finds he often heads to her gravesite to talk to her about his girls, to feel close to her again after so many years.

"Sometimes I realize I'm driving by where she's buried at, but I'm supposed to be somewhere else," Feliciano says. "Like, 'What the hell am I doing down here? I'm supposed to be on the other side of the cemetery.' "

He adds: "When I get like that, then I say, 'You know what? I need to go see her.' So, the next day, when I come in, I go straight there and I stop."

It's been 14 years since that dreadful day, but he says New York remains forever changed for him.

"When I cross the bridge every morning, I see the city and it just doesn't look the same anymore. I just see that new tower there, but I can't see myself going there for no reason at all."

Whatever the name given to the site of the Sept. 11 attacks, there is just one name that matters to him — and just one site he wants to keep visiting.

"Her name is Rosa Maria Feliciano," he says. "She's buried here, so Green-Wood Cemetery is ground zero for me."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And it's time for StoryCorps on this September 11. StoryCorps and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum are recording one story for every life lost on that day in 2001, and this is the story of Isaac Feliciano. On 9/11/2001, he dropped his wife off at the subway so she could go to her job in the south tower of the World Trade Center, and then he went to his job at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.

ISAAC FELICIANO: They say that it's the highest point of Brooklyn, so you could see the fire, the flames and all the smoke. And I said, oh, my God, my wife is there. She worked on the 96th floor, but I was hoping for the best. My daughter was 2 years old. Few days later, she just started screaming and crying, calling her mother. That's when it hit me. And then, the first week of January, right shortly after New Year's, two police detectives rang my doorbell, and they told me that they had found part of her, just the upper torso. And I guess I was so numb, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to say.

We were married 10 years. We talked about everything, and she always, you know, made me see the better side of things, always. That was one of the things that I cherished about her the most. Whenever I feel down, I just go over there to the gravesite, and I talk to her about the girls. And it makes me feel like she's still with me and that I can go see her anytime and go talk to her anytime. The cemetery's big, so sometimes, I realize I'm driving by where she's buried at, but I'm supposed to be somewhere else. Like, what the hell am I doing down here? I'm supposed to be on the other side of the cemetery. When I get like that, then I say, you know what? I need to go see her. So the next day, when I come in, I come straight there, and I stop.

This is going to be already - what? - 14 years. And when I cross the bridge every morning, I see the city, and it just doesn't look the same anymore. I just see that new tower there, but I can't see myself going there for no reason at all. Her name is Rosa Maria Feliciano. She's buried here. So Green-Wood Cemetery is ground zero for me.

INSKEEP: Isaac Feliciano works at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His interview will be archived at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. And you can find more 9/11 stories on the StoryCorps podcast and at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.