(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Today, a family is touched by two national tragedies. Retired New York City Fire Chief Albert Petrocelli died from COVID-19 in April. Nineteen years ago, Petrocelli lost his youngest son in the attacks on the World Trade Center. This morning, we'll hear a StoryCorps recording Petrocelli and his wife, Ginger, made to remember their son, Mark. And a note - parts of this story may be difficult to hear.
ALBERT PETROCELLI: Sunday morning, September 9 started out with a phone call from Mark. What's cooking? What do I smell on the other end of that line, you know, the meatballs and - all right. Yeah. What time you want us over? You know, it was 7:30, 8 o'clock at night when we said good night to him, and actually, it was goodbye.
GINGER PETROCELLI: He hated fire. He didn't like planes. And he hated height. And it all ended that way for him.
A PETROCELLI: Mark worked about four blocks away from the World Trade Center. When he left that morning, he told his wife, Nicole, he had a meeting upstairs. But as it turned out, his corporate headquarters was on the 92nd floor of World Trade Center No. 1. And that was the upstairs that he was talking about. I'm a retired chief, and his brother is a lieutenant in the fire department. Once we got there and I was able to walk around the whole scene, I still said, well, we'll find him. But then on the third day, his birthday, September 13, I felt that that was it. Mark wasn't going to be found. But we were the luckiest of the unlucky in one sense because they kept finding pieces of Mark. When we were having his first memorial mass, the cops came to the house and said they identified him. And it was his jaw. It was his smile. So I thank God that he gave us back his smile.
G PETROCELLI: The smile on his face was the best thing in the world. Things like that, you just - you'll never forget.
A PETROCELLI: Every day, we miss Mark. Thankfully, Ginger and I, we have each other. And at night when we lay down, put our heads on the pillow, it's the two of us. And together we get through it.
MARTIN: Retired New York City Fire Chief Albert Petrocelli died from COVID-19 in April. His son, Mark, was killed on this day 19 years ago at the World Trade Center. This recording was made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. It's part of StoryCorps' effort to collect one recording for each life lost that day. And it's archived at the Library of Congress.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.