By Frank Rizzo
LIBERTY If there is any truth to the overused word “closure” for the Carroll-D’Agata families, it comes from this: 9-11 World Trade Center victim Peter Carroll’s remains were identified and his heroic actions on that day of horror were witnessed.
Pete Jr. lived full time for a few short years in our county, where family has owned a home in Neversink for decades. He moved back to New York City (Staten Island) and became a firefighter. When he died, he was only one year from retirement.
The firefighters’ wife, ToniAnn, noted the New York Times in its “Portraits of Grief” series, “is one of the lucky survivors. She has his ashes and his wedding band.”
“At least we had something…” recalled his sister, Pat D’Agata, RN, of Monticello. She was taking a break in the lounge at the county’s Adult Care Center and made note of the high percentage of WTC dead whose remains have yet to be identified.
D’Agata at first did not connect her brother, part of Squad Company 1 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with the firefighting efforts at the site. But she soon realized that, like most firefighters that day on duty or not Peter had answered the call.
She was at Sullivan County CC that Tuesday morning, a student in the nursing program.
“Every chance I got I went outside and tried his cell phone, but all the circuits were busy,” she said.
The next day, his remains were found, identified by dental records. The news came from her sister-in-law.
A little over a year later, a letter arrived at Peter Sr.’s home in Neversink, where the Carrolls had settled in 1978 after Pete’s retirement from the NYPD. It was from Ruth Rossi of Manhattan and described how a firefighter she later identified as Peter Jr. helped her to safety in the South Tower.
See letter on page 3A.
“We learned that he had saved at least one person, if not more,” said D’Agata, who said that her father was comforted by the letter. He died the next year.
In fact, the early 2000s were a rough period for Pat; husband Steve died in 2004.
If one good thing came out of the tragedy for the family, is that it inspired her son Steve Jr. to go into law enforcement. He is a detective in the Liberty Police Department.
Pat was to attend a Liberty 9-11 ceremony on Sunday and read the letter from Ruth Rossi. Her daughter Danielle, a student at C.W. Post College, represented the family with aunt ToniAnn at that morning’s ceremonies at Ground Zero. Pat charged her with getting a rubbing from the memorial roll listing the names of the dead.
(Her other son, Anthony, is in the food service business in Albany.)
In preparation for his retirement, said D’Agata, her brother was starting to take nursing classes.
Pat allowed herself a moment of levity and smiled at the thought of her brother following in her professional footsteps.
“He used to call me ‘Nurse Ratched,’” she said, after the infamous character in the book and movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Peter and ToniAnn planned to move to California after he put in his 20 years. Like countless other plans, it died on the morning of September 11.
A hero is recalled
The following letter was written by Ruth Rossi of New York City to Peter Carroll Sr. of Neversink on Oct. 25, 2002 and details son Pete Carroll Jr.’s actions on September 11, 2001 before he died in the South Tower collapse.
You don’t know me. My name is Ruth Rossi. I’m writing because for over a year I was searching for, and secretly hoping not to find, information about the firefighter that I credit in saving my life on September 11, 2001. I wanted to believe that somehow he got out of 2 World Trade [Center the South Tower]. But this past weekend when I saw the picture of the firefighter in the window of the small gas/grocery store on Route 55 in Neversink, I knew in my heart that my search was over.
I used to read the “Portraits of Grief” columns in the New York Times every day and then I would continually check the Now York Times website. The picture of your son that appears in the Times is of a happy, smiling man. I felt some recognition when I first saw it. I thought that I must have met him at some time but I think I could not make the connection because I could not get past his smiling face.
The man that I knew only briefly that day was a little older than the firefighter in photo at the store and he was not smiling but I believe that that firefighter was your son, Peter.
I remember the sadness in his eyes and the shape of his face and I will never forget the sound of his voice and his hand on my left shoulder as he turned me around and away from one of the front windows that faced the Plaza at thee Trade Center. I knew him for only a few minutes but those minutes had a profound impact on my life.
I wanted you to know that on that morning he was very confident and very calm. He knew I was frozen in that spot and could not move, stopped by the sights that were happening outside that window. I don’t know far how long his hand was on my left shoulder. I felt it and then heard the sound of his voice. When I could finally focus on what he was saying, I heard him tell me I did not have to look out there. He told me not to be afraid that I would find my way out. And, he kept repeating that to me. I don’t remember answering him. I only remember that as I started to walk away I heard him reassuring the other people that were coming out of the stairwells that they would get out. He was directing them to safety.
I am sorry for the loss of your son. I know that I do not have the words that can ease the pain in your heart. I thank God for him. I know that if the man that I believe was your son was not there I would not have gotten out, that I would not have been able to move away from that window facing the Plaza.
Two World Trade collapsed less than ten minutes after I got out of the Trade Center.
When people ask me about that day, I tell them of me countless acts of kindness and bravery that I witnessed, of people caring for total strangers and I tell them of your son. You and your family will always be in my prayers.