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Anthony Luparello, 62, of Corona, Queens arose early at 3:00 a.m. every day, got on a bus, and arrived before 6:00 am at his job as a maintenance worker at Aon Insurance on the 101st floor of World Trade Center’s South Tower. He had come to America from Italy as a teenager, and as a victim of 9-11, he left behind a wife Geraldine, son Anthony Jr., his daughters, Maria, and Geraldine Canilas, son-in-law Eddie Canillas, and 6 grandchildren, including his eldest granddaughter, Kristen Canillas.
In the days that followed the fall of the twin towers, Anthony Jr. and son-in-law, Eddie Canillas were both interviewed as they searched with hope of finding the patriarch of the Luparello family. Anthony, Jr and his father had survived the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and that, he said at the time, gave him hope.
“If he could make it out then, he could make it out this time,” says Anthony. “There’s six levels down in that basement. There will be a lot of survivors. There will be.”
“He loves his job, he loves to work, he is old-school Italian,” said Eddie Canillas said of his father-in-law, Anthony. On Tuesday morning, Anthony was at work in tower two when the first plane hit. Soon after, he called his family to reassure them that he was all right, and said he was going to try to help out. “He called, and we put the news on, and we were just waiting. Time went on, and on and on, and we were waiting for a long time,” Canillas said, outside the entrance to Bellevue Hospital with other members of his family, holding flyers and framed photographs. At home, Luparelli’s six grandchildren were waiting to hear, and his wife was at the home in Corona, Queens, where Canillas grew up. “We’re out here just trying to get his picture out there,” Canillas said, “I see here that I’m not the only one. But obviously, I already knew that.”
Ten Days in New York - Wednesday, 19 September, 2001 – BBC report
Geraldine Luparello is a working class Italian-American grandmother, living in Queens, grieving and hoping for her husband, Tony. The cruelty is simple: to grieve is to give up hope. She has no body to mourn, and may never have. And so she is trapped, with no way out, only endlessly rerunning that terrible morning.
Tony ‘was no big shot, no president, he recycled the trash’ for a company on the 101st floor of the south tower. But he had a smile and a joke for everyone he met, and loved his job. He would get up at 3am every morning, so that he could be in on time at 6am.
He phoned her the first time, to say the other building had been hit by a bomb, then a second time to say that that it wasn’t a bomb but a plane, then a third time to say that people on the other building were jumping. Then, live on TV, she saw the second plane hit his tower. Since then, nothing.
It is unbearably moving. The narratives of loss in Manhattan are too many.
(The following is a partial transcript of a video interview done by BBC reporter John Sweeney.)
John Sweeney: Where were you when it happened?
At home. And I was getting ready to watch my grandchild. I watch her on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursday. And I came downstairs and was preparing, waiting for her to come in, and my husband called me.
And he says to me, Geraldine, he says, a bomb; a bomb went off in the World Trade Center. And I says, where? And he says, Tower one. And so where are you? And he says, Tower two, 101st floor. Please Tony get out, please. And he says, I’ll be okay, and he said it’s okay. But get out please. And he said, I’m alright, I’ll call you back.
And in the meantime I called my daughter in Long Island, Geraldine, and I told her, and she said, you hear from daddy? And I said, yeah, I just got off the phone from him.
And I have two lines, so he called me on my line and I had my daughter on the other line, and he calls me back again, and Geraldine says it was a plane. A plane went in the building. It wasn’t a bomb. Tony, please come down. Please get out. No, I’ll be alright, these buildings are safe. I say, Tony please leave. He says, I’ll call you back.
In the meantime, my daughter Maria came in with my grandchild, and I says Tony, Maria look, they bombed the Trade Center. I know Ma, but daddy’s alright, you talked to him. And he calls me back again. He says, Geraldine. He was hysterical, crying, I mean I never heard my husband cry so much.
He says, Geraldine, the bodies are jumping out the windows, literally jumping out the windows. Geraldine, he’s screaming. I’m going, Tony, calm down please calm down, come home get out.
I’ll call you back.
And he hung up, I imagine because everybody wanted to use the phone. And I had the TV on, and then I see the plane hit the building. It was like a nightmare.
Anthony Luparello: Lunch and a Phone Call
New York Times - Sunday, November 4, 2001
For the 14 years that he was a maintenance worker at Aon, Anthony Luparello called his wife, Geraldine, every day at 1:45 p.m., the end of his lunch break. “Just to let me know what’s going on,” Mrs. Luparello said. ” `What are we getting for dinner? What did you do? Who did you hear from?’ ”
And when the evening buses got him home to Corona, Queens, later than usual, he would be very upset. “He felt it was his time home to be with me, and he shouldn’t be sitting on a stupid bus,” she said. “I would tell him, `What’s the matter that you are home late? You came home safe.’ ”
Mr. Luparello, 62, was equally serious about his work. Every morning, he got up at 3:30 to start work at 6 a.m. “He’d rather be half an hour early than be stuck in traffic,” his wife said. “He would never take a day off. Headache, flu, cold, you name it. He went to work.
“I would ask him, `Tony, is the tower going to fall without you?’ It was just a joke. But you know, it came down with him.”
September 11, 2003 – 2 Year Anniversary
Soon, the ceremony began, and then the names. Eddie Canillas wiped away tears as his daughter, Kristen, 12, read aloud the name of her grandfather, Anthony Luparello, a maintenance worker on the 101st floor of the south tower. Mr. Canillas said that Kristen had practiced the names all week – in the kitchen, in her bedroom, in the bathroom. “I love you and I miss you,” Kristen said after reciting the name of her grandfather, Anthony Luparello.
It was the voices of children that sadly punctuated the second anniversary of the deadliest day in modern American history, September 11, 2003. “She’s still hurt, of course, but she wanted to be part of it,” Mr. Canillas said. “She’s old enough to know. You sort of need some kind of closure. We only had his funeral three months ago.”
And on the Anniversary of 911, we pray for the family of Anthony Luparello.
We must not, and will not, ever forget.
First published on September 9th, 2009.