Monday, September 11, 2006

No Sal, you're the best!

it's been 5 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center. 5 years. September 11th has affected me in too many ways to count. too many ways to truly even begin expressing in writing, words, or otherwise. i'll try to sum it up by saying it's something that is never very far from my mind. i will never forget how i felt that morning. my drive to work.. blinding myself with tears that wouldn't stop falling. i specifically remember looking to my right at the car passing me and him just looking at me, with total concern in his eyes. and then sitting at work glued to the television, wondering what the fuck i was doing there. the pain. the horror. the emotions. everything about that day comes screaming back to me in an instant if i let it.

i know people are tired of reliving this day. they want to move on. but what about those who lives were forever changed, more than yours or mine was? how do you balance moving on, with remembering? and when do you get to the point that watching a special about 9/11, or seeing pictures, or hearing voices of the now dead- doesn't bring you to tears? when does it become something you can talk about without having an emotional breakdown? does it ever? they say that time heals, and in my life i've always found that to be true... until now. because to me, 9/11/2001 is just as real today, as it was then. i'm having trouble putting it into the past. it's like there's this hole inside of me that just stays raw and full of so much intense emotion. and that's where everything about this day resides and lives. just as alive now, as it was then. i have no idea when or if that will ever change.

when i chose to participate in dc's 2996 project- i had no idea what i was truly getting into. sure, i would be given a name of a "victim" from that day to write about. but i had no idea how much i'd come to learn about one person i'd never heard of before. and now, i just wish i'd gotten the chance to know him in life, instead of the opposite. i am leaving this up for a few days because i really want it to sink in. sal was a person you could have known. he could have been your neighbor, your friend, your coach, your local fireman, etc. he was all of those things to many people. and now he's gone. the least i can do is allow everyone the time to actually read about him and get to know him while you deal with your own emotions about 9/11.

so this is for sal- and everyone who knew him.. and those of us who didn't get the chance.

Sal was 38 years old and just finishing his shift when the attack began on the WTC in new york city. he cancelled plans he had just made with a friend to work out, turned his car around and headed back to the firehouse. Once there, he jumped on his firetruck heading towards the destruction. That's just the kind of man he was. He didn't run from chaos.. he ran to it... to help ease it. Sal had been part of Ladder 101 for 14 years, since he first started working as a fireman. That firehouse was a second home to him. All of his co-workers, brothers. The entire Ladder Company was lost that day. 7 guys just vanished into the rubble; to never be heard from or seen again. The group of guys from that ladder company are now referred to as the "Seven in Heaven." Sal was one of them.

A proud American, you could often find Sal watching specials about World War II and the Vietnam War on the History Channel. Growing up with his older brother, they would often fight about who would get to go to war (if there was one) and who would stay home with their single mother. It seemed that the only time Sal questioned defending the nation, was when his mom was involved. When she passed away, he got his only tattoo on his left shoulder, in her memory.

Like most firefighters, Sal loved his job. But he loved his family more. His greatest joy in life was watching his 2 young sons grow up. He coached the T-Ball team, and when he couldn't be there, he would call his wife multiple times daily to see how they were doing and what they were up to.
"He was an unbelievable dad," Mrs. Calabro said. "I can't explain it. My kids would always look for him before they would look for me. When they got hurt, they wanted their daddy."
Sal and his wife met as teenagers in a grocery store where they both worked. They'd been together ever since and were married on September 16, 1989.

Sal was a beloved firefighter. His catch phrase was "You're the best!" Whenever he would say it, people would respond back with, "No Sal, you're the best!"
"The guys on the job loved him," Mrs. Calabro said. "Since he was there for 14 years, they called the firehouse 'Sal's House.' They said he was the heart and soul of Ladder 101."

Now the "heart and soul" of Ladder 101 only exists in memories, on memorial walls, in framed photographs, and in the hearts and soul of those he touched and loved. The man who once described heroes as "people who knowingly and willingly enter a peril situation and lay down their lives for other people" has become just that. A hero by his own definition. And mine as well.

Rest In Peace Salvatore Calabro. And thank you for letting me get to know a true hero.

this website has a lot of information about the Seven in Heaven and is where i found the majority of my information and pictures about Sal.

i am adding in this poem that salvatore's wife wrote to him.. i just found it, so forgive me for adding it so late.

i found this poem here... please click the link, because maybe the person you're blogging about has a love letter as well.

Salvatore CalabroTuesday, 1/7/2003
A Conversation With Sal
Often I dream of a conversation with you.
I tell you I love you, and wish 9/11 wasn't true.
What the hell did happen?
Do you believe it yourself?
I'm still in shock, and don't know what to do with myself.
You needed to know about history and war,
Did you know you'd be part of such violence and gore?
What would you say? Are you OK where you are?
You remain in my heart, and are never too far.
I hope you have everything you didn't have in this life.
I hope you forgive me for my shortcomings as a wife?
The world has gone crazy. Nothing is the same.
I want to keep you alive -- let everyone know your name!
Sal Calabro -- my husband, a father, a hero he is.
The flag now in vogue was a fashion statement of his.
In my sleep we do visit. No words do I hear.
I understand you are with me -- your smile says don't fear.
People think I am crazy, your signs I do see.
Moths, numbers and birds are messages for me.
Help me and guide me in raising our boys.
They need to remember you and all of the joys.
Their lives are filled with sadness. You were their best friend.
Please protect and guide them 'til the very end.
We have all changed. Life isn't the same any more.
I hope you will meet me when I come through that door.
Until then I'll always love you!
Keep letting me know that you are here.
And I will let you be remembered --my love and my dear.

The father of two is remembered in this letter written by his wife, Francine.


-tnchick- said...

I think it's wonderful some of us were able to complete our tributes with photos. They seem to help a great deal in completed a tribute post. Well done. May Sal always be rememberd.

My tribute to Petey is HERE.

Kristin said...

I am participating as well... it is such a worthy project and I just love this beautiful tribute you have written... well done Jen, very well done.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure he'd have enjoyed you too. That was such a heartfelt tribute.

Today I'm spending the day with 2 guys who were on the phone all day everyday with Steve and Anthony (his will be up tomorrow).

Now I just need a scanner to put up my pictures of my dear old friends.

From now on, I'm just going to revel in the fact that I got to know them and call them friends, not all of the horror on the day they died.

By the way, I thought of you when I was writing about Strobie. You two would have been tremendous partners in crime. You'd have loved him.

E. Rivera said...

Thank you for that. It's gonna be a weird, reflective day on Monday, especially here in NYC.

Melzie said...

Oh gosh-- I've got tears-- especially with that photo. My tribute is up as well... and like you- I wish I could have known Keiichiro- I'm also sorry I had to meet him this way, instead of the other way around.

Melissa said...

Ster, that was wonderful. I am a bit in shock though. The man who I was honered in learning about worked with Sal. His name was Tommy Kennedy and he worked at Ladder 101. How crazy. Of all the 2,996 people, we got friends.

I will never forget it either. It hurts me to think anout it, just like it did then. I went to work and then had to go home that day. I was pregnant with Maya and my boss thought I'd mis-carry or something.

This was a beautiful tribute. I don't think I'll ever forget Sal.

the stefanie formerly known as stefanierj said...

That creaking sound? It's my heart splitting right down the middle and puddling on my desk. That was beautiful and precious of you to write it. Thanks.

Waya said...

That was beautifully written! I'm in tears looking at the picture of Sal and his two kids. I can't fathom the hole that was left in their hearts five years ago Monday.

That picture could be any of us and our children.

Anonymous said...

You have done a truly wonderful tribute. I have been reading quite a few today and tears have been in my eyes. I was not able to find several photos of my assigned victim but I like to think I have done him justice. Reading these stories means getting to know the victims just a little. Thank you for that heartfelt posting.

Becky at lifeoutoffocus said...

thank you for blogging about this and about sal. touched my heart.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Tribute!

It is amazing how much it changed me, too, by participating. I am trying to read as many of them as I can. we certainly lost some beautiful souls that day.

I invite you to read about Major Dwayne Williams who died at the Pentagon.

carrie said...


Thank you.


brian said...

Wow! Thank you for opening your heart to this man and for letting see your personal pain. This is not about letting go, moving on, this is about honoring those people who have moved on from us. There is no shame in shedding tears over his loss. He is someone that anybody would have wanted to know. He is a person not a number.

Thank you for stopping by my tribute for Gilbert and leaving your comment.

Anonymous said...

Above and beyond the heartbreak and devastation, each tribute makes me realize what a tremendous loss we actually experienced on that day .... I'm confident that if Sal's children see this post, they will know that many many more share their loss and the memories of a true hero.

Wonderful, touching tribute, Jen.

Thanks --

Kami said...

Wonderful tribute. What a great young man. Thank you.

Kate said...

Dammit, I wasn't going to cry anymore today. ::sigh::

This is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for helping Sal live on in our collective memories.

My contribution is up as well, and I invite your comments.

Katherine said...

That was a wonderful tribute - you really described Sal well - I could picture him saying, "You're the best!" Thanks for stopping by my tribute to Marjorie C. Salamone.

Miss Chris said...

Wow. A very moving and powerful tribute. I hope his family reads your it. Thanks for stopping by and reading mine.

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful. That picture of him with those little boys, the tears just ran down my cheeks.

Thanks for sharing...

Anonymous said...

Great tribute. The world sure did lose a lot of wonderful people on that horrible day.

Mel said...

Jennster, you did an amazing job. What a beautiful tribute.

Mocha said...

Awwwwww. I meant to sign up way back when, but when I went to the site this afternoon (when I remembered!) it was too late. Thanks for this beautiful glimpse.

Kristin said...

I am back to tell you that the photo of Sal walking with his kids breaks my heart. So so lovely.

Sharon T. said...

This is a beautiful tribute - it's amazing how this project has changed our lives huh? We're fortunate to have been a part of it - blessed would be a better word.

Random Musings said...

The picture with him and the 2 kids...
Such a beautiful tribute.
I also paticipated in 2996 project
Please come pay tribute

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. This project is just amazing to me. And so wonderful.

Mine, about Firefighter Frank Bonomo is up, too.

yorksdevil said...

The poem got me.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Jen. You really captured the spirit of Sal. That photo of him with his boys grabbed me right by the heart.

I agree that it's a hard day. I was up until 2 a.m. watching the documentary on CBS. I can't imagine what today is like for New Yorkers, for the families of the victims. My heart goes out to each of them.

Thank you for stopping by my tribute to Billy Johnston. He was a firefighter too, and a great guy.

Kelly Wolfe said...

That is beautifully done, Ster. Very moving.


Michelle said...

Thank for sharing this touching tribute. It is so sad for those children who were left behind. You've written a beautiful tribute.

Anonymous said...

Yours made me cry even more than others have. I think because of the poem from his wife and also the fact that he was leaving and turned around and came back to help. Only to pass away himself. I'm still crying. Thanks for helping people remember those who lost thier lives.

Anonymous said...

I love your tribute. It was so heartfelt and the poem you added was the perfect touch. And the photo of Sal with his kids is a tearjerker for sure. He must have been a really neat person. I had the honor of remembering Pedro Francisco Checo.

Anonymous said...

Oh Jenn. What an incredible tribute. How fortunate that you were able to find so much information - you painted a vivid picture of Sal, who was certainly a hero.

Mayberry said...

That picture of him with his two boys has me sobbing. Thanks for a beautiful tribute. As I wrote in my post today, living in NYC at the time I would often pass firehouses which posted pictures of the guys they had lost. It never failed to move me.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Jennster! What an amazing guy. It's been great to participate in this project.

Virginia Belle said...

ster, that was very touching. i am afraid to read the poem because i know i will start crying. the picture of him with the kids was bad enough.

i participated too, but i haven't posted it yet. i will try to have it up by the end of the day.

great job.

Heather said...

Beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing Sal with us.

Unknown said...

Good job!! Hugs

Anonymous said...

Love your tribute. he sounds like a wonderful family. May God bless him and his family.

Mom101 said...

the FDNY are my city's angels. Every day, not just that one.

Mieke said...

This was soooo touching! Wow, I felt as though I knew Sal. I think you paid an awesome tribute to him. I, too, participated in the 2996 project, so please view my tribute to Kevin Dennis, also. This project was so great. I was unable to find nearly as much info as you did, but it is still a great way to honor these wonderful people. Many tears are being shed today. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I've been nursing a box of kleenex ALL day long, but this one, your tribute, has really done me over. Thank you for introducing such a wonderful man to me and the rest of the world with your tribute. You're right, he truly could have been a friend, a coach, the local fireman around here. And how ironic that he defined a hero by the acts he so selflessly took upon himself to do.

I will remember him and his family forever.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for making Sal more than a name on a memorial wall to me. I honored Susan Clyne and Jon Schlissel.

Kevin Charnas said...

Well done, Ster...well done. Hug boyfriend extra tight tonight, okay?

gordaboo said...

Thank you for your own personal story and the beautiful tribute to Sal. So much information and personal stories that I'm glad I came across your blog. You have put a face and heart to a name.

We will never forget.

I remember Lisa Egan

Anonymous said...

This is a great tribute, Jen. I too wrote about a fireman, Lt.Charles William Garbarini. This morning, after posting, my husband and I passed a school where children were holding hands around the flagpole and twenty of so firefighters stood behind them with bowed heads. It's amazing how moving this project has been, I felt a hundred times more connected to those firemen in learning the stories of their fallen brothers and sisters.

Thank you for writing such a beautiful piece.

Anonymous said...

This brought tears to my eyes. I can't even begin to tell you how your post touched me. Thank you for sharing about Sal. I wish I had the chance to meet him and call him my friend.

Anonymous said...

Oh that poem. And the photo...

So very, very sad.

But a beautiful tribute that you obviously put your whole heart into :)

David Edward said...

wow! i love the love letter thanks for the link! Bless you for your words here and for your caring. I am proud to join you in honoring the 2996!
Life is more precious when we realize it could be snatched away. I think i will go hug my daughter!

ditzymoi said...

Lovely Jenn .....*hugs*
That was a beautiful tribute to a great guy :)

I honored NYFD Batallion Commander Dennis Devlin ...yet another special person.

~Never Forget~

Christina_the_wench said...

So fitting. Thank you, Jenn.

Unknown said...

I have soooo enjoyed crusing around to everyone's blogs and reading their 9/11 tributes. You really hit home with this one....

Sassenach said...

A permalink has been created for the 2996 database (I am helping out as a list captain).

You may have noticed that the main site for 2996 has gone down repeatedly, due to the extremely high volume of traffic this project generated. Mirror sites have been put up that show the list of names and links. Some of them are:


Thank you for taking the time to write this tribute.