PHOENIX – Patricia DiMaio spent months trying to picture where all of her coworkers stood in their final moments.
Hundreds of them died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
She remembered the man who played Santa Claus at the office Christmas party. She thought about the 26-year-old who started with the company just six months prior. She especially grieved her workplace mentor who wore a “brilliant” diamond necklace.
“Gone,” said DiMaio, 56. “I don’t know if everything was pulverised, but I remember wishing her daughters would find that necklace.”
Because of her habit of voting early in the morning to avoid long lines, DiMaio wasn’t on the 95th floor in the North Tower with those coworkers. She worked as an information technology consultant at Marsh & McLennan Cos., which occupied eight floors.
She went to vote in the mayoral primary election scheduled for that morning. Then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani couldn’t run for office again because of term limits.
DiMaio, who wanted to participate in what she thought would be an exciting election, said her day started uneventfully. She voted at the poll inside Public School 8 in Brooklyn and boarded a subway to get back to work.
But when the vehicle reemerged from underground, she saw billowing smoke and a herd of people looking up.
“It was like a morbid fascination,” DiMaio said.
In all, 295 employees and 63 consultants at Marsh & McLennan died, including all of the employees on the 95th floor.
DiMaio, who also said she spent 10 years with the New York Fire Department, attended countless funerals and sent even more sympathy cards.
She often listened to stories that she now puts in two categories – people who shouldn’t have been in the tower but were and people who should have been in the tower but weren’t.
Her story fits in the latter category.
“I don’t totally feel survivor’s guilt,” DiMaio said. “It’s not so much as it should have been me as it is it shouldn’t have been anybody.”
A few of her coworkers also avoided death by circumstance. The man who usually sat in front of her was nicknamed “Mr. Early,” but he didn’t make it to work on time that morning because he paid a speeding ticket. Her boss got in the elevator but never went up, and rescue workers later pried him from the elevator, she said.
DiMaio wasn’t “insanely close” with her coworkers, but the deaths still sting. Her company relocated to Hoboken, New Jersey, and she stayed with the organization until 2007.
New York postponed its primary and held it Sept. 25. Republican Michael Bloomberg won the election in November.
Years later, DiMaio still goes early to the polls. Voting is essential to her.
“Voting means participating in democracy,” DiMaio said. “Even if one doesn’t like the choices, vote anyway. Take the time to let politicians know we’re watching.”
This story was informed by a source in the Public Insight Network.