The September 11 attacks: Two years later

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York two years ago transformed the lives of both John DiCarlantonio, left, a policeman who responded to the crisis, and Michael Tobey, who as a Marine was wounded during the U.S. assault on Baghdad.

NYC cop,
Iraq war vet
urge vigilance

They will appear today as guests
of the Marines at a 9/11 rite

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the lives of New York patrol officer John DiCarlantonio and Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Tobey in profound but different ways.

DiCarlantonio was beginning his early morning shift at a Lower Manhattan precinct headquarters, while in Massachusetts, Tobey, then a Cape Cod high school senior, had just begun an English class.

DiCarlantonio was dispatched to the World Trade Center and was helping to evacuate the buildings when the towers collapsed.

"I have been shot at numerous times," said DiCarlantonio, a 17-year veteran of the New York police force, "but I have never been involved in anything like that."

For Tobey, the attack motivated him to try and graduate early so he could start serving in the Marines, which he had joined the summer before his senior year.

"In the end," he said, "my recruiter and my principal said there would be plenty of fighting left, and I graduated in June. Three days after graduation, I went to boot camp."

Nine months later, Tobey, as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, from Twentynine Palms, Calif., sustained broken legs from a blast while part of the lead elements that stormed into Baghdad.

Tobey, 18, and DiCarlantonio, 42, will be the special guests at a Marine Corps 9/11 remembrance ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. today at the Pacific War Memorial, at the entrance to Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The event is open to the public.

Both men said the country needs to remain vigilant.

"The American people need to understand what the military stands for and what it does for this country," DiCarlantonio said. "We live in a country where there are a lot of freedoms afforded to its people.

"Right after that tragedy, there was a great fear, an honest fear. People were truly afraid that there would be another tragedy. The fear has gone away and people have become complacent."

Tobey added: "We've come a long way. We need to remember and not forget. We need to keep our vigilance up."

On Sept. 11, 2001, DiCarlantonio was ordered to the World Trade Center -- 20 blocks away from his 10th Precinct headquarters -- with eight other officers to help with what he initially thought was only a "routine" rescue operation.

"When we made the turn onto 20th Street, I could see a hole, a flat hole. You could look right through the building. There were pieces of the plane in the roadways. Then as I looked up the Hudson River, I saw the second plane."

After the passenger jet hit the South Tower, "everything turned ugly," DiCarlantonio said.

"There was glass everywhere, and jet fuel just rained down on the people."

When the first tower collapsed, DiCarlantonio was in a hallway near the ground-floor entrance to the Word Trade Center.

"We were lucky. The hall protected us from the falling debris," he said. "After that, I was literally grabbing people, telling them to run for their lives."

He would spend the next month working 12 to 18 hours a day helping in the rescue and salvage operations.

On Jan. 25, Tobey's unit was deployed to Kuwait and spent two months preparing for the assault on Iraq.

On March 21, he was among the first Marines to cross the border and was part of the drive to Baghdad. His unit's first assignment was to secure the oil fields at Basra.

"Then we made a beeline for Baghdad," he said.

After nearly 18 days of combat, Tobey was injured on April 7 when a 155-mm round hit an amphibious assault vehicle near a bridge over the Diyalah River on the southeastern outskirts of Baghdad.

"I was sitting just five feet away from the vehicle ... when an enemy shell made a direct hit, killing the two Marines in the vehicle. It wasn't like the movies where there is that whistling sound just before it hits. It was like a line drive directly at your face. You couldn't get out of the way."

He said he was hit "by a wall of fire" and the blast broke both of his legs.

Tobey was released from Bethesda Hospital in Maryland on April 27.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --