Exclusive Interview with the 9/11 Surfer: Pasquale Buzzelli
By: Hillary Ossip
This evening at 8PM E/P, Discovery Channel will share the story of Pasquale Buzzelli: the 9/11 Surfer. Mr. Buzzelli’s story might be the last untold survival story from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. For the first time on national television, Mr. Buzzelli, his wife, the firemen who came to his rescue, and scientists will all step forward to piece together his miraculous survival from the 22nd floor stairwell of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
Below, Mr. Buzzelli offers personal insight into his story in this Discovery exclusive interview. Check it out, and tune to the premiere of The 9/11 Surfer TONIGHT, Tuesday, September 11 at 8 PM E/P.
How did you come up with your book title, “We All Fall Down”? Is there a special meaning to it?
Pasquale Buzzelli: Yes, "We All Fall Down" was chosen because we all have experienced situations in our lives which may knock us down from time to time. We may feel there is no way out and no way of standing back up whether emotionally or physically. Sometimes it takes the help and support of others, sometimes we need to just find a way to do it for ourselves. As my wife Louise watched children playing "Ring Around the Rosie" with our daughter Hope at the Song for Hope Foundation luncheon (a foundation that was set up to generate funds for the 9/11 widows who lost their husbands while pregnant, and the babies born after 9/11), she watched them all fall down, laughing and playing and getting right back up, whether on their own or together with a friend. She realized there is hope.
Your daughter Hope, who illustrated your book’s cover, explained that, “It’s a picture of peace and freedom, almost…There are kids in red and white and blue holding hands, kind of like a symbol of peace in a way.” What does the book’s cover mean to you, both as a father and a survivor?
Pasquale Buzzelli: It symbolizes hope. I have shared my story with my daughters, Hope and Mia. Seeing the picture that Hope drew was inspiring to me because it showed the Towers standing tall again, a symbol that we would rebuild. Seeing children playing and happy holding hands meant that it was ok to be happy again while never forgetting what happened. As a father, I am so so proud of both of them. They saved me.
- Pasquale Buzzelli's daughters, Hope and Mia, with their dogs.
What do you think are the most important things for your daughters to know about your story of survival and the aftermath? What have you made sure to share with them?
Pasquale Buzzelli: They have always been curious as to what happened on 9/11. I shared my story with them from the very first day they were able to ask the question and wanted to know. I feel it is important that they know that life is a precious gift and that we must make the most of it while we are here. That there are people who do bad things, but there are good people in this world, many good people who seek peace, but when pushed or attacked, will stand up for what is right.
Why are personal stories like yours so essential to the memory of 9/11, those it affected, and history as a whole? What do they tell us that the history books don't?
Pasquale Buzzelli: History books will tell the facts of what happened. Minute by minute accounts. But 9/11 affected us all so deeply and in so many ways. Sometimes it helps to share your story and hope that others will find some value from it in their own lives.
For part of the day on 9/11, your wife, Louise, didn't know you survived. She later struggled with her own pain for those who lost their husbands. Can you tell us about the song she wrote, "A Song for Hope"?
Pasquale Buzzelli: Yes, she was so moved – heartbroken – when she read an article on the widows who were pregnant on 9/11. Having a musical background, she decided to write a song expressing how she felt. She could have been one of those women. She needed to deal with her feelings in her own way. It was a beautiful song and eventually she was able to raise money for those women through the "Song for Hope Foundation" by selling the song.
What does it mean to you to be able to share your story and to have so many people who want to hear it?
Pasquale Buzzelli: I am honored and touched that people want to hear my story of survival and the aftermath of 9/11. I am truly grateful. I want them to remember all those we have lost. It is important to "Always Remember, Never Forget".
How did you and your wife feel when your story of survival became a sort of myth applied to many survivors in order to uplift the American people?
Pasquale Buzzelli: I thought it was important that the American people have a story that was uplifting, any story. It did not matter who it was applied to, the important part is that it was uplifting.
What do you hope people take away from your story?
Pasquale Buzzelli: I hope that people who read our story can find peace in knowing that it is ok to live life again. To be able to remember and keep those that we lost in our hearts and be able to honor them by living our lives and be happy again. That if we feel that we cannot deal with whatever life throws our way, that it is ok to let others help us, especially those who are closest to us and that love us.
For more on Pasquale Buzzelli’s We All Fall Down, head over to the book’s website: http://www.911survivor.com/. And don’t forget to tune in TONIGHT at 8 PM E/P for The 9/11 Surfer on the Discovery Channel!