Thursday, April 24, 2014

Family’s faith helps cope in fear

Liberty alumna recalls impact of nation’s tragedy on personal worries, concerns

Kirsten Wilson sits down on the sectional in the living room of her townhome, located at the top of Liberty Mountain.

Father and daughter — Kirsten Wilson and her father Craig Filiberto, native New Yorkers, spend time together in New York City. Kirsten and her family have seen the developments at Ground Zero over the past 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001. Photo provided

She picks up her small dog, places him on her lap and begins to tell her story — a story filled with fragmented images of fear and faith.

“We were proud New Yorkers. Sept. 11 happened when I was in the ninth grade,” she said.

Wilson’s now home of Lynchburg, Va., is a far cry from her Long Island roots of East Northport, N.Y. As Wilson’s family made their home just minutes away from the city, her father, Craig Filiberto, would commute into the city each day for his work as vice president for the controller’s department at Prudential. His office sat just a few blocks away from New York City’s World Trade Centers.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Filiberto sat at his desk, his back to his window.

The first plane hit.

As he and his co-workers got up to assess the situation, he watched as the second plane entered into the side of the second building and exploded in front of him.

There were screams from his co-workers.

Filiberto reached down for his phone.

Wilson was in the first few weeks of her first year of high school. She remembers sitting in second period when she heard about the attacks. Her teacher turned on the news and students whose parents worked in New York City were requested to go to the school’s office.

“Growing up on Long Island, the majority of people work in the city so there was a flood of students who went to the office. A lot of the faculty had to leave and I ended up leaving school early,” Wilson said.

“This was before my dad had a cell phone, so even though I was home watching everything on the news, we didn’t know where he was, if he was going to get home that night or what was going on,” Wilson said.

In a time when cell phones were not as easily accessible as they are today, Wilson could not get in touch with her father. She later learned her father phoned her mother after the second plane hit, but cut off the conversation when the first tower began to fall.

That night, the Wilson’s church had a prayer service. Filiberto returned home late that evening after taking the trek across the Brooklyn Bridge by foot, covered in soot and remnants of debris.

“He was so dirty from what had happened, he just came home, sat on the couch and said nothing,” Wilson said. “He was just processing everything that he saw, his building was so close. He could see the people who were jumping out of the towers. I could never imagine seeing what he saw and having to deal with that.”

In 2005, Wilson graduated from high school. Her school dedicated their history wing to the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and posted the names of the victims on the wall with their occupation and age.

“Before Sept. 11, 2001, you always assumed the city was so safe, who would ever want to do that to someone,” Wilson said. “Before that, terrorism was rarely on anybody’s mind, but afterwards, it was on everybody’s mind.”

Wilson said today her family still goes into the city all the time and sees a change in the security and presence of law enforcement.

“Nobody knew this was going to happen,” Wilson said. “When the buildings fell, who would have thought that would happen. It’s crazy.”

Wilson and her family have watched through the past 10 years as Ground Zero has changed and developed.

“I went right after it happened when it was debris and garbage, when it was just holes in the ground and then, now, as it’s being built up again,” she said.

Wilson hopes to return after the new Freedom Tower is built.

“No New Yorker will ever forget where they were and how they felt. It touched everyone in some way. For me, it was my dad and not knowing what was going to happen,” she said. “So many people were affected and that area will always be respected.”

Today, Wilson lives and works as a teacher’s assistant in the city of Lynchburg. Her husband, Daniel, works for Liberty, where her brother Kevin Filiberto is currently a student. Wilson’s father still lives and works in New York.

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