2,996. 2,996. How often have we peered into that number and tried to catch a glimpse of each individual “one” just as five years ago we peered so intently at those flyers hung by family members with photos of loved ones “missing” when they were shown in newspapers and on television news? We want to know who they were before…and grieve for what they could have been today.
It’s so hard to get past the total, 2996. But just because we talk in terms of a whole number does not in any way diminish the individual “one”. Each “one” of the 2,996 was “someone” to somebody: husband, wife, mother, father, aunt, uncle, neighbor, friend. This is why today, 2,996 blogs are giving faces to each “one” of the 2,996 who died on
September 11, 2001.
Walter Matuza was 39 on September 11, 2001 and worked on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center's north tower as a telecommunications analyst for Carr Futures.
His wife, Denise, received a cell phone call from him shortly after American Airlines flight 11 hit his building. "He said he was running down the stairs, he said the firemen were on the way and that the floors were exploding."
Walter grew up in West Babylon, New York, where he was an altar boy at Our Lady of Grace Catholic church, a graduate of West Babylon High School. He was always interested in computers and technology, but majored in photography while a student at New York University. He married Denise and together they had three sons, Walter, Jesse and Nico. He loved to fish and coached YMCA basketball. His family was his life, all of his free time was spent with the boys, often spending time teacing them golf, fishing, basketball, baseball.
Somehow Walter's father managed to get to the World Trade Center frantically hoping to find...or communicate with his son. He begged a policeman, "If you hear a cell phone ringing, that is me calling my son."
After the towers fell Walter's family, his wife, brother and brother in law went from hospital to hospital in Manhattan and New Jersey carrying pictures and asking everyone they saw if they had seen him. Without doubt those who were handed the photos, mirrored the intensity of the family, hoping to give some hope.
After he married Denise they moved to Staten Island, the smallest of New York City's five borroughs. "It is a community forever changed by the terrorist attacks of two years ago today. The smallest of the five boroughs that make up New York City, Staten Island took an oversize hit: Of the 2,996 people killed in the World Trade Center attacks, almost 200 lived on Staten Island."
Because this small area lost so many of its residents, almost no one was unaffected. Everyone knew or was related to, someone who was lost on September 11. An eternal flame burns at St. Clare's and on the second anniversary of the attacks, when family members were asked file outside to light a candle in remembrance, almost the entire church emptied, such was the enormity of the loss to that congregation.
What has happened to Denise and her three boys? What little is publically known is that one son developed a rare eye disease which left him blind in one eye and periferal vision impaired in the other. Denise spent much time and energy looking for ways to get help for her family, often finding it at St. Clare's through member, Dennis McKeon, a man who did not lose anyone in the WCT attacks, but who believed, "They should be remembered, and on Staten Island they will be".
Denise Matuza said of McKeon and his co-workers at the church, "He helped us with all our paperwork. When we wanted to cry, we went to Dennis. "These guys, they even painted my house. They're just awesome."
If we can learn anything from the death of Walter Matuza, it is that family and church and community is where consolation can be found. The smallest community took one of the biggest hits that day, but the smallest community knew how to embrace the grief, to allow grief to takes its measure, and to direct families to the "right place" for practical help on all levels.
Would that we all live in a community like Staten Island.
Walter Matuza was memorialized the United in Memory-The 9-11 Memorial Quilt project. He is represented by four quilts, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Spend a moment and see his quilts and see if you can better peer into one man's life...and see him more clearly than the vagueness of 2,996.
This will be my only post today to honor the memory of Walter Matuza as well as to take time to remember and pray for his wife and three sons.