Raquel Priolo was in Lower Manhattan when the first plane struck the north tower.
“Just running from the smoke, well, not smoke, just the big puff of whatever was falling," Priolo said.
Priolo said it’s difficult to think about 9/11. She and her husband both worked in Manhattan.
“I was looking for my husband. He was in the Financial District. We were lost all day trying to find each other. We obviously couldn’t call each other,” Priolo said. “Finally, we found each other in downtown Brooklyn. I’m really glad we both survived it.”
Priolo attended the annual commemoration in Rockaway Park with one of her daughters. Dozens gathered to lay roses in honor of those who died during the terrorist attacks.
New EMT graduate Matthew Warnock presented the flag at Tribute Park, the same one flying at the Capitol shortly after 9/11. His uncle, firefighter Henry Miller Jr. of Ladder 105, died that day.
“It’s a true honor to do this. It’s just an honor. I thought about this all through the Academy. It was the driving force to get me through to get me through,” Warnock said.
Tribute Park was an empty lot before 9/11, but on that day, neighbors gathered there to watch the tragedy unfold across Jamaica Bay.
Kevin O'Mealy, the president of Friends of Tribute Park, said each year is extremely challenging.
“It was a very emotional experience Rockaway. It’s always been a community with civil servants. About 70 people died in this community,” O'Mealy said.
A piece of the north tower is part of the memorial.
At last year’s ceremony, organizers limited attendance because of the pandemic. This year was full capacity. About 300 people stood shoulder to shoulder for about an hour. Many said they’ll be back again next year to pay their respects to those lost.