Each year, family members of Staten Island 9/11 victims gather together to make a bus trip to the ceremony at the World Trade Center site. NY1’s Bree Driscoll filed the following report on the group’s annual departure.
Gerard Chipura lost his brother John on September 11, 2001. The two Staten Islanders were not only brothers by blood, but they were brothers serving in the fire department.
Thursday morning, Gerard Chipura was one of 70 family members of Staten Island World Trade Center victims who made the bus trip to the ceremony at Ground Zero.
"It is part of my tradition to get up early and go down to the World Trade Center site, where I spent so much time after the tragedy helping dig and recover bodies of people,” said Chipura. “It is just part of who I am. And to have the opportunity to be their early and kind of reflect on the quiet, more subtle morning."
The group Where To Turn provided the buses that transported the family member.
"We told the family members that we would be around as long as they need us to be around to help them with any issues,” said Dennis McKeon, who runs Where to Turn. “We started this the first year and it just makes it more convenient for the families. So we will continue to do it as long as they need us to do it.”
McKeon says Where to Turn provided nine buses in 2002, but Thursday morning there was only need for two. But people who take the buses to the ceremony say going as a group provides a real sense of community.
"We have developed a very close bond with these people. We have a lot on common,” said Michael Patti who lost daughter on 9/11. “And when a person says, ‘I know what you are going through,’ you can accept it because these people are going through the same thing that we are going through.”
"We have just formed an unbelievable bond. Even if we don't see each other all the time, when you do see each other, you are hugging and kissing. You are catching up on what is going on with families,” said Linda Litto, who lost her husband on 9/11. “During the year we may not see each other. If you need somebody, all you need to do is call and they are just there for you."
Family members say they are grateful to Where to Turn for the comfort the organization has provided them over the years.