Jacqueline DiCicco remembers the trip like it was yesterday.
“It was like an out-of-body experience just standing there in the midst of that,” DiCicco said. “It was as if this can”t be real.”
DiCicco, a Columbus resident and owner of Jacqueline DiCicco Skin Care Center, is one of the few from the area to visit New York City so soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She visited the city in November 2001, a mere two months after the planes hit the two World Trade Center towers, and again one month later.
DeCicco lived and worked in the city in the 1980s and used to visit the city often because her husband had family located there. She said she visited nine times in 2001.
Barely able to fight back the tears, DiCicco can tell the story of her trips in vivid detail, almost bringing herself back to the scene from 10 years ago.
Where were you when the attacks happened? What were you doing and what was your initial reaction?
That morning I was scheduled to teach a class at the Columbus Air Force Base. My mother called and she said, ”Turn on the television. Is that where you go?” I saw that one of the towers was smoky, and I said, ”I had just seen the towers a week ago. I was right across the street. What happened?” She said, ”I think a plane hit it.” Within a matter of minutes, the second plane hit.
Did you have friends or family in the city on Sept. 11?
Yes. My husband”s family was there. My second reaction was to call my husband”s family in New York because his cousin”s husband is a New York City cop. He was on the scene before the second plane hit.
When you visited in November, did you get the chance to see Ground Zero?
We went in November because I couldn”t believe the devastation. After checking into the hotel, I went downtown and tried to get as close to the area as I could. So many streets were blocked off with big plywood construction walls and they were covered with pictures of missing people. People were still looking for loved ones. I remember walking down an alley with tears streaming down my face. The dust from the collapse could still be seen on buildings. People were wearing face masks because the dust was still in the air. There was still a cloud of ash in the area just hanging over.
Why were you visiting New York City in December 2001?
I was part of the Chamber of Commerce and we were invited to come to the Emergency Service Unit station.
When you first saw Ground Zero, what was the first emotion you felt?
When I think of that night, I was so overwhelmed at the mass destruction, I just remember trembling with emotion and cold. The building that I had worked in was completely gone and there instead was this huge pit of fragments of concrete, steel and things. I remember seeing layers of compacted stuff. I think there was still smoldering. Every time I”ve been back to Ground Zero, I have that same overwhelming grief and soul piercing sadness that engulfed me that night. It seems impossible that 10 years have past.
Did you expect to see what you saw and feel those emotions?
I didn”t know what to expect because I have such a love for the city that I don”t know if it”s natural or not. My heart was broken when I saw the towers on television, but to be there was soul-wrenching. I can”t explain it. I wasn”t prepared for the intense emotion that I felt.
Were there still recovery efforts taking place at the scene?
Yes. There were huge cranes operating and lifting stuff up and trying to be aware because there were bodies they were looking for.
What was the atmosphere like when you visited the city? Did the citizens seem shaken?
When you go to New York and step off that plane, the energy of the city is so intense that you”re revived and ready to go. There was still grief, though. The people were more aware of each other. There was more of a unity.
Was that energy missing when you visited?
It was still there, but there was a difference, especially downtown. Troops surrounded the Stock Exchange. Barricades had been erected to protect the exchange and other buildings.
Have you visited again since the December 2001 trip?
Yes. For a long time, they had a viewing platform that went along St. Paul”s Church. It was a gradual process of moving from a platform to a fence and people would come each day and place flowers, flags or patriotic things on the fence.
When was the last time you visited, and did you have the same emotions?
I was there in March with a friend. As I took her into St. Paul”s Church and began to explain how the fences used to have the flags and such, the emotion wells up and I can”t help from crying.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.