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Cover Story

Life After Death

Can An Explosion Echo Forever?

October 21, 2001|Geraldine Baum and Edward J. Boyer and Maggie Farley and Ralph Frammolino and Megan Garvey and Josh Getlin and John M. Glionna and John J. Goldman and P.J. Huffstutter and Patrick J. Kiger and Maria L. La Ganga and Paul Lieberman and Joseph Menn and Charles Ornstein and Vince Rause and Janet Reitman and Janine Robinson and Nancy Shepherdson and Martin J. Smith

Scozzari's Italian restaurant, Cucina Bene, is a block from the New York Stock Exchange. On Sept. 11, his restaurant's shelves held 35 raw pizzas, ready for the conveyor belt oven in time for the lunchtime rush. There was no lunchtime rush. He was forced to throw away 200 pounds of cheese and 180 pounds of meat products, together valued at more than $6,000.

A native of Italy, Scozzari moved to New York not knowing a word of English. He learned to speak it from customers, with whom he built relationships through voices, first names and addresses. But while friends and relatives know the fate of their loved ones, Scozzari doesn't know which of his customers survived. He hasn't heard from any of his World Trade Center clients--not from Ricky, who worked on the 86th floor of the north tower, or Lisa, on the 37th floor of the same tower, or Megan, on the 87th floor of the south tower.

"You go to the phone and you think maybe it's Ricky, but it's not Ricky," says Scozzari, a heavyset man with slicked-back hair. "You're always thinking maybe the people in the World Trade Center are in another office, but nobody calls you. I don't hear one voice.

"We never will know what's happened with these people."

Customers who come in for calzones, pizza slices and garlic rolls are in a different mood now. "All the faces from the people are very, very down. You can see in the faces that the people are suffering. You never see the people happy anymore."

In between these moments of grief, Scozzari worries about his financial future. Cucina Bene used to make 70 deliveries daily during the week, many to the twin towers and neighboring One Liberty Plaza, which was severely damaged. Now deliveries number a mere 12, and business overall is down 45%.

Scozzari, who is in the U.S. on a business visa, turned to a bank for help, but his request for a $40,000 loan was rejected because he hasn't lived in this country long enough. He has asked his landlord for more time to pay the restaurant's rent. So far, he continues to keep all eight employees working full time, but if business doesn't pick up soon, he says he'll have to tell two of them to stay home.

That frightens him because most of his employees have children and depend on their income.

"We are a small family," says Scozzari. "I have to do whatever I can do. I want to survive, and I think we can survive. I don't want to be a loser."

--Charles Ornstein



Back in Touch With Family

Many Americans have experienced feelings of fear and isolation. But for Oakland resident Sandre Swanson, there was something else: The attacks brought his extended family together.

Swanson's cousin, flight attendant Wanda Green, died when United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. Days later, as chief of staff for Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, he helped field thousands of often-angry telephone calls and e-mails from across the nation after his boss cast the lone vote against a congressional resolution giving President Bush the authority to wage war. Now Swanson, 52, is reevaluating everything--his longtime career as a political worker, his thoughts about American foreign policy and his approach to the people he loves most. His aunts, uncles and cousins were major players in his childhood, looking out for his best interests and assisting his parents with discipline. Green, 49, one of the nation's first African American flight attendants, was one of his favorites. But Swanson, who is married with five children and one grandchild, had fallen out of touch with Green and others in his extended family.

He was watching the devastation on television when he received a phone call from Green's identical twin, Sandra Jamerson. First he cried. Then he kicked into family mode, rushing to his uncle and aunt's house in nearby West Oakland. Being with relatives, he says, helped him process both his and the nation's loss. And somehow that tempered any thoughts of reacting in anger. He spent hours on the telephone with Lee, counseling her on the alternatives to war. "All my life I've said there are alternatives . . . . Even with my own loss, I did not want to strike out blindly." Swanson is preparing for the emotional aftershock that he knows will come. For the rest of the year, he has canceled all business trips, choosing instead to work in Oakland. He is starting a foundation to honor Wanda Green. Rather than retire, as he had contemplated, the attacks have fueled a newfound resolve to keep working for change within the political system. He plans to stay with Lee as long as she remains in Congress. And family will come first.

--John M. Glionna


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