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Many Lower Manhattan Residents Who Lived Through 9/11 Say They Will Never Leave

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The Lacoffs of Battery Park City (credit: CBS 2)

The Lacoffs of Battery Park City (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The financial district surrounds Ground Zero, but there are also thousands of people who live there and many residents who were there on 9/11 still live near the World Trade Center.

The Lacoffs of Battery Park City have something from 9/11 that helps them remember the worst day of their lives.

“All I could grab was a pill bottle and I put it in our dog’s pill bottle,” Mary Francis Lacoff told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis. “I don’t know why I saved it. I just did.”

The tiny pill bottle is filled with dust that came through the window of their 17th floor apartment, which is now just steps away from the shimmering new reflecting pool at the 9/11 memorial.

“I think that first night, you know it just seemed like what was going to happen, what were we going to do,” said
Stephen Lacoff.

The Lacoffs were lucky. They left their apartment that morning to take their daughter to school. Normally, their daughter would take the train at the World Trade Center right about the time the first plane hit, but instead they drove.

But the family did lose something. Their schnauzer Gabby was home alone for 36 hours during and after the attack. They say she was never the same and died three years later. Veterinarians said it was due to the dust.

“But when you think of all the devastation around, our issues were nothing compared to all the other people who lost their loved ones,” said Mary Francis.

Many of the Lacoffs neighbors moved away after 9/11, but those who stayed said the neighborhood became a unified community after the attacks.

Battery Park City resident Ray Burge worked in the World Trade Center and entered just as the first plane hit. He evacuated and witnessed the horror of the second plane hitting and was evacuated again because of the dust and debris that enveloped lower Manhattan.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan reports

“The first South Tower came down, we had complete white-out outside of my window, and I got very frightened because we had no TV no radio at that time,” he said. “So I actually put on my running shorts to go jump in the Hudson and a cop told me not to do that.”

At first, he thought his family would be leaving the neighborhood. The smell and conditions made living difficult. He remembers the day he came home to his apartment.

“I remember a reporter saying to me ‘why are you going back ‘and I turned and said ‘this is my house, I’m going home,'” he told 1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan.

But after a few weeks, Burge says they saw the neighborhood coming together and realized they had to stay.

“We originally thought we would not stay here, but after a couple more weeks it was clear that we weren’t going to leave,” he said. “It was a compelling thing that happened. The city came together and we felt that we just couldn’t leave.”

For Catherine McVeigh-Hughes, her husband and two children, there was never any question of them not returning to their apartment overlooking the World Trade Center site.

“We made it through Sept. 11, we’re a little dinged up but we’re here and we want to be part of the rebuilding process,” she says.

But it was not easy. They were out of their home for three months and had to throw out most of their furniture which was covered in dust.

From their window, they saw much of the recovery, the good and the bad. But for them, it was home.

“It’s been definitely worth it,” she says.

And like the Lacoffs, the Burges and many other lower Manhattan residents, there have been hardships, but no regrets.

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