STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - Under a sky similar to the one that fateful morning, Mark Unrein toils away at Angels' Circle, a memorial garden on Staten Island dedicated to victims of September 11th.
"This is just about the faces and the families that are here, you know? Just keeping this up for them and never forgetting," Unrein said.
The Staten Island native was a firefighter at the time. He was off the clock that day until he heard the call.
"That day is still surreal for me," he recalled.
Following the attacks, Unrein spent the next several months in Lower Manhattan, working the pile on his days off. Almost two decades and countless memorial services later Unrein is now a volunteer caretaker at Angel's Circle.
"This isn't just coming to a park for people, you know? It's almost sacred ground," Unrein said.
Angels' Circle was an empty traffic island the morning of September 11th. That night, Staten Islander Wendy Pellegrino brought a sign. It read "God Bless Our Heroes." Others brought pictures of their missing loved ones. It transformed into a place to gather and reflect. Earlier this year, the landscaping company maintaining the space stepped back. Again, Unrein heeded the call for help.
"To have Mark just step in and be so eager to help, he's a blessing, truly a blessing," said Wendy Pellegrino, Founder of Angels' Circle.
"What I've gotten out of this can't be defined, you know. There's nothing like being able to have in your heart that you're doing something good," Unrein said.
Now Unrein stops by every day to prepare the garden as the 19th anniversary of the attacks approaches. He levels pictures and removes debris.
"Just to keep it nice for when people come to see their loved ones. They know someone cares," Unrein said.
It's a mission with added significance this year. Pellegrino and her team decided to cancel their annual memorial service because of the pandemic.
"It's crazy times right now, you know? So let's give people a sense of normalcy with this 9/11," Unrein said.
So, for continuing to hear the call and giving Staten Island's angels a place to rest, Mark Unrein is our New Yorker of the Week.