One aspect Richard Similio said he will always remember is the kindness and selflessness of the first responders.
Richard Similio, 79, is a New Yorker by birth and a West Volusia resident by choice. In 2001, he was living in Queens, where he owned a Pepperidge Farm franchise. His wife, Maria, worked at a bakery.
Similio was delivering bread the morning of Sept. 11 when he heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in the World Trade Center.
At first, Similio was sure it was an accident.
“I thought it was what happened to the Empire State Building,” Similio said, comparing the crash to a 1945 incident when a plane accidentally struck the Empire State Building. “Shortly after that, a second plane hit, we knew it wasn’t an accident.”
Similio had to continue his deliveries, even while the rest of the nation was coming to a halt.
“It was strange, it was really strange,” Similio said.
The next day, he and his wife wanted to help in any way they could. Maria Similio brought homemade sandwiches to first responders. When his wife returned, Similio said, she recalled the smell and the poor air quality, which would linger for weeks.
After the dust had settled, 17 firefighters from the Similios’ fire station had died.
Richard and Maria Similio are not alone — anyone who lived in New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack on the World Trade Center has a story.
Nearly everyone in the U.S. who was alive at the time knows where they were, and what they felt when they heard there had been an attack on American soil.
For Richard Similio, having grown up in New York City, seeing the buildings gone was strange and eerie.
In the early 1970s, he had watched as the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were built.
“Every morning when I went to work, they weren’t there anymore, and I take notice when you watch older movies,” Richard Similio said. “You’ll see them in a background shot, standing there, majestic-like. They aren’t there anymore, due to hatred.”
None of the Similios’ immediate family or friends were killed in the attack, but Richard did know people who had been supposed to go into work at the Twin Towers that day, and for one reason or another — fatefully — didn’t make it.
Of course, he remembers the fear and the anger, but one aspect Richard Similio said he will always remember is the kindness and selflessness of the first responders.
When his wife dropped off sandwiches, she had to show ID to get anywhere near ground zero. In doing so, somehow, her wallet ended up in one of the sandwich bags.
“We got it back in the mail some weeks later. Everything there, nothing missing,” Richard Similio recalled. “Those are the kind of people who went down there to help.”
As horrific as the events of Sept. 11, 2001, were, Richard Similio remarked, the nation is lucky things weren’t worse.
The Similios moved to Deltona in 2006. Nowadays, Richard Similio is partially retired, but helps deliver The Beacon and The Beacon EXTRA! to West Volusia stores, and to the post office, so the newspaper arrives in your mailbox on time.