Remembering Sal Calabro - New York Times Bestselling Author, J. Sterling

Remembering Sal Calabro

Before I started writing fiction, I blogged for fun. I participated in this huge celebration of life in memory of all the victims of 9/11.  I still can't believe that day happened. It's still hard to watch anything about that morning.
My heart still aches, my stomach still clenches, my eyes still water. It doesn't get easier. At least not for me. 

I wanted to take the time to repost what I wrote all those years ago. Because it's important to me that these people be remembered. And that we don't forget how it felt to live through that day. And so we don't forget the people who didn't get to come home.


**Originally posted in 2006**

It's been 5 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center. 5 years. September 11th has affected me in too many ways to count. Too many ways to truly even begin expressing in writing, words, or otherwise. I'll try to sum it up by saying it's something that is never very far from my mind. I will never forget how I felt that morning. My drive to work... blinding myself with tears that wouldn't stop falling. I specifically remember looking to my right at the car passing me and him just looking at me, with total concern in his eyes. And then sitting at work glued to the television, wondering what the fuck I was doing there.
The pain.
The horror.
The emotions.
Everything about that day comes screaming back to me in an instant if I let it.

I know people are tired of reliving this day. They want to move on. But what about those who lives were forever changed, more than yours or mine were? How do you balance moving on, with remembering? And when do you get to the point that watching a special about 9/11, or seeing pictures, or hearing voices of the now dead- doesn't bring you to tears? When does it become something you can talk about without having an emotional breakdown? Does it ever?

They say that time heals, and in my life I've always found that to be true... until now. Because to me, 9/11/2001 is just as real today, as it was then. I'm having trouble putting it into the past. It's like there's this hole inside of me that just stays raw and full of so much intense emotion. And that's where everything about this day resides and lives. Just as alive now, as it was then. I have no idea when or if that will ever change.

When i chose to participate in dc's 2996 project- I had no idea what I was truly getting into. Sure, I would be given a name of a "victim" from that day to write about. but I had no idea how much I'd come to learn about one person I'd never heard of before. And now, I just wish I'd gotten the chance to know him in life, instead of the opposite. I am leaving this up for a few days because I really want it to sink in. Sal was a person you could have known. he could have been your neighbor, your friend, your coach, your local fireman, etc. He was all of those things to many people. And now he's gone. The least I can do is allow everyone the time to actually read about him and get to know him while you deal with your own emotions about 9/11.

So this is for Sal- and everyone who knew him.. and those of us who didn't get the chance.

Sal was 38 years old and just finishing his shift when the attack began on the WTC in new york city. he cancelled plans he had just made with a friend to work out, turned his car around and headed back to the firehouse. Once there, he jumped on his firetruck heading towards the destruction. That's just the kind of man he was. He didn't run from chaos.. he ran to it... to help ease it. Sal had been part of Ladder 101 for 14 years, since he first started working as a fireman. That firehouse was a second home to him. All of his co-workers, brothers. The entire Ladder Company was lost that day. 7 guys just vanished into the rubble; to never be heard from or seen again. The group of guys from that ladder company are now referred to as the "Seven in Heaven." Sal was one of them.

A proud American, you could often find Sal watching specials about World War II and the Vietnam War on the History Channel. Growing up with his older brother, they would often fight about who would get to go to war (if there was one) and who would stay home with their single mother. It seemed that the only time Sal questioned defending the nation, was when his mom was involved. When she passed away, he got his only tattoo on his left shoulder, in her memory.

Like most firefighters, Sal loved his job. But he loved his family more. His greatest joy in life was watching his 2 young sons grow up. He coached the T-Ball team, and when he couldn't be there, he would call his wife multiple times daily to see how they were doing and what they were up to.
"He was an unbelievable dad," Mrs. Calabro said. "I can't explain it. My kids would always look for him before they would look for me. When they got hurt, they wanted their daddy."Sal and his wife met as teenagers in a grocery store where they both worked. They'd been together ever since and were married on September 16, 1989.

Sal was a beloved firefighter. His catch phrase was "You're the best!" Whenever he would say it, people would respond back with, "No Sal, you're the best!"
"The guys on the job loved him," Mrs. Calabro said. "Since he was there for 14 years, they called the firehouse 'Sal's House.' They said he was the heart and soul of Ladder 101."

Now the "heart and soul" of Ladder 101 only exists in memories, on memorial walls, in framed photographs, and in the hearts and soul of those he touched and loved. The man who once described heroes as "people who knowingly and willingly enter a peril situation and lay down their lives for other people" has become just that. A hero by his own definition. And mine as well.
Rest In Peace Salvatore Calabro. And thank you for letting me get to know a true hero.
this website has a lot of information about the Seven in Heaven and is where i found the majority of my information and pictures about Sal.

i am adding in this poem that Salvatore's wife wrote to him.. i just found it, so forgive me for adding it so late.
i found this poem here... please click the link, because maybe the person you're blogging about has a love letter as well.
Salvatore CalabroTuesday, 1/7/2003
A Conversation With Sal
Often I dream of a conversation with you.
I tell you I love you, and wish 9/11 wasn't true.
What the hell did happen?
Do you believe it yourself?
I'm still in shock, and don't know what to do with myself.
You needed to know about history and war,
Did you know you'd be part of such violence and gore?
What would you say? Are you OK where you are?
You remain in my heart, and are never too far.
I hope you have everything you didn't have in this life.
I hope you forgive me for my shortcomings as a wife?
The world has gone crazy. Nothing is the same.
I want to keep you alive -- let everyone know your name!
Sal Calabro -- my husband, a father, a hero he is.
The flag now in vogue was a fashion statement of his.
In my sleep we do visit. No words do I hear.
I understand you are with me -- your smile says don't fear.
People think I am crazy, your signs I do see.
Moths, numbers and birds are messages for me.
Help me and guide me in raising our boys.
They need to remember you and all of the joys.
Their lives are filled with sadness. You were their best friend.
Please protect and guide them 'til the very end.
We have all changed. Life isn't the same any more.
I hope you will meet me when I come through that door.
Until then I'll always love you!
Keep letting me know that you are here.
And I will let you be remembered --my love and my dear.

The father of two is remembered in this letter written by his wife, Francine.


  1. That was very beautiful and moving. Made me cry. <3 I have a hard time watching anything on 9/11 without crying as well. <3

  2. Anonymous6:22 PM

    That was beautiful! Being originally from NY and having a family of firefighters, I too have a very difficult time with all things relating to 9/11. I thank God my family was safe that day but my heart bleeds for those who weren't.

  3. Anonymous7:23 PM

    This article is so touching ~ thank you Jenn for giving us a glimpse of one of the people we would have only known by name! Your article (and the poem) made me cry. While many may push ahead and put the events of 9/11 behind them, we will never forget the day people perished and others came to aid the victims of this crime. I commend you for letting us see a glimpse of one man's life that would only be a name on a wall if you hadn't written your article. I touched me deeply.

  4. This is absolutely beautiful Jenn. Thank you for sharing and for caring. It is a heart felt story on such a horrible piece of our history. 9/11- Never Forget..
    Thank you for being such a beautiful person inside and out!