Remembering 9/11: 'That Was The Day I Realized We Weren't Invincible' :Sussex County Resident Remembers Uncle After Tragic 9/11 Loss
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 • 6:00am
BYRAM TOWNSHIP, NJ --- The aftermath of September 11, 2001 still has an impact on many Americans today.
That night after the attacks occurred, President George W. Bush had written in his journal, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.”
This heartbreaking catastrophe did not discriminate against any race, gender or age. A total of 2,606 persons had lost their lives in the World Trade Center tragedy in New York City, while 674 were residents from New Jersey alone.
Stephen Anderson of Byram Township was 10-years-old at the time.
“I was in the church basement of St. Michael’s in fifth grade when the pay phone started ringing. The two teachers in the room started making odd comments to the class saying things such as ‘If a stranger were to enter through that door, and leave through that door over there’ and things of that nature that were out of character,” says Anderson.
While children made comments of people attacking the United States, Anderson ultimately felt sick and nervous, he had asked to go to the nurse believing he was having a panic attack.
“I asked the nurse if she knew why kids were crying in the hallways and what happened but she told me not to worry about it," he said. "She called my mom to pick me up but was having a hard time understanding what my mom had said. When I asked her she had stated that my mom was feeling under the weather and mentioned something about Anthony. I was confused and not putting anything together so I sat there waiting for my mom to pick me up from school.”
Anderson’s panic attack had lessened the moment he had saw his mother's car arrive to the school. However, his mother was hysterical and could barely speak, but did her best to explain to her young child that her brother, his uncle, was in the World Trade Center at the time it had been attacked by terrorists.
“I didn’t understand remotely,” stated Anderson. “I never knew where my uncle worked or about his life, I just knew what a pleasure he was to be around. He was funny, charming, talented, and was a beautiful man and soul. When we arrived home, everything was in a state of confusion. I sat by the television with my mother hysterically crying as we watched footage over and over again. You couldn’t avoid it, it was on every channel. My mother was frantically calling hospitals to see if they had my uncle, in between vomiting and the bathroom. My father was at work in the city and my siblings were at their respective schools.”
Anthony Peluso was a construction supervisor for Structure Tone, and was working in the second tower on that fateful day.
“When the first tower was hit, my mother had attempted to call him but was given a secretary who told her everything was fine, and everyone was fine,” stated Anderson.
Peluso was 46-years-old at the time of his death. He grew up in Brooklyn and was one of four children. He was extremely protective of everyone in his family and also went out of his way to take care of them. He was also a very talented jazz musician, specializing in the saxophone.
“I could not say enough positive words about the man he was,” Anderson goes on to reflect. “He loved his mother and loved all of his siblings, especially my mother, they were incredibly close. Physically, he had the physique of a Greek god, he was incredibly handsome and could always put a smile on your face. As a person though is where he was really special. He took care of my grandmother and she could not get enough of him. There was little he couldn’t do. There is a photo of him in a superman costume in my grandmother’s apartment and that is the uniform he should have always had on.”
The tragedy still has a strong effect on Anderson and his family to this very day.
“As far as me, that was the day I realized we weren’t invincible. I had a great childhood. I didn’t think it was possible for anything to happen to my family or anyone I cared about for that matter and when it did, I was in shock. My initial reaction was to draw pictures of myself blowing up terrorists, which had concerned my mother and teachers, but it was just a way for me to reveal my anger at the time,” said Anderson.
There are numerous pictures, and a few old possessions of Peluso in the Anderson household to always remind them of the wonderful man he was.
Anderson’s mother sadly suffered from brain damage roughly two years after the tragedy, but still frequently asks about Anthony, and becomes very upset once the family tells her what had happened to her brother.
As for Anderson’s grandmother, she still has not fully recovered after the loss of her baby boy. She still wears a necklace with a picture of his face around her neck and has lost joy towards certain events. She cannot listen to music without thinking of Peluso, especially music like Frank Sinatra or “I’ve Got The World On A String”, which was Peluso’s favorite song to play on the saxophone.
His grandmother often says that Anderson reminds her of Peluso and will start dancing with him almost as for a few brief moments she feels like she is dancing with her son again.
“I don’t think any of us will ever truly find peace since he’s not with us anymore,” Anderson goes on to explain. “I never really got to know him as an adult because I was too young. I hate that I wasn’t able to experience him more than I had. He had accomplished so much in his life but I’ll never hear those stories. He always called myself, my siblings, and nephews, ‘kiddo’. I wish I could hear him say ‘kiddo’ again.”
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth and final story in our series, “Each Person Has A Story – The Alternative Press of Sussex County Remembers September 11”.