On the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, Joseph Zuccala, 52, was at work at Fuji Bank, on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower, when American Flight 11 slammed into the north tower. It was Zuccala’s third day on the job as a banking consultant, and, like many people, he thought it was a terrible accident.
He called his wife, Madeline, to tell her that he and some of his colleagues were headed downstairs to find out what had happened. On their way down, however, Zuccala realized he’d forgotten something, and had to return to his office.
When he arrived back upstairs, United Flight 175 struck the south tower, leaving a gaping, fire-and-smoke-filled hole from the 78th to 84th floors. Zuccala was killed instantly.
For days, not knowing where he was, his family in Glen Cove, including his younger sister, Tina Zuccala Cammarata, and her husband, Robert Cammarata, prayed that he was still alive.
“We had hope in the beginning, but by Thursday we knew he was gone,” Robert recalled. The family wanted to bury him, but none of his remains or personal effects were ever recovered. “They told my sister-in-law he pretty much vaporized,” Robert said.
The Cammarata family, including daughter Christina, 22, attended this year’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony in Glen Cove. Tina said the memorials never get any easier, and she misses her brother every day. But the family appreciated the ceremony.
Zuccala was born and raised in Glen Cove. An Army veteran who served in Vietnam, he was a large man — 6 feet 5 — and was known for his humor and kindness.
His Delta Gamma Omega fraternity brothers at the University of Dayton nicknamed him Zuke. In 2004, they created a scholarship in his memory — the Delta Gamma Omega Endowed Scholarship. It is given to a student who emulates what Zuke valued: strong leadership skills, a sense of community, and patriotism.
Although Zuccala lived most of his life in Glen Cove, he eventually moved to Croton-on-Hudson with Madeline and their daughters, Jolaine and Kaylene. But the families remained close.
“He was the greatest person,” Tina said. “Warm, caring and funny. He was my rock growing up.”
A memorial at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan in October 2001 honored Zuccala. Over a thousand people attended. “They all came just for him,” Robert said. “He was a source of wisdom for many, and touched so many people.”
“Yes, so many people coming to St. Patrick’s showed what a beautiful person he was,” Tina added. “He was always a Glen Covian in his heart.”
For days after the terrorist attacks, the family gathered at Zuccala’s Westchester County home. “Every day, going there, we had to pass the plumes of smoke where the buildings had been . . .,” Robert said. “It was hard.”
And there was no escaping what had happened once they were back home in Glen Cove, either. “We live near St. Rocco’s,” Robert said. “We could smell it for weeks.”
People have been reaching out to the Cammarata family for years. “I always receive flowers on my porch on Sept. 11, and get calls and letters,” Tina said, adding that she appreciated the acts of kindness. “It’s very difficult to deal with this each year.”
Christina has never stopped missing her uncle. “I was only 6 when he died, but we were very close,” she said, her voice wavering. “He was really funny, and I always knew he loved me a lot.”
She began to sob, and covered her face with her hands. When she stopped crying, she pushed up the sleeve of her sweatshirt, revealing a tattoo: Roman numerals on one wrist. “I got it to honor his birth,” she explained, wiping away her tears.
Tina has been to the annual 9/11 ceremony in Lower Manhattan a few times, even reading her brother’s name at the podium one year. She found out from a friend that her voice is included with others at the National Sept. 11 Museum, on a recording of survivors describing how the attacks changed their lives. It’s the audio portion of the permanent exhibit, and runs on a loop all day.
This year, Tina helped lay a wreath at Glen Cove’s 9/11 ceremony, as did Robert, along with Mayor Reggie Spinello. The ceremony included prayers, music, the reading of a poem and a presentation by Spinello, and it honored three other Glen Covians who died that day — Edward Lehman, Matthew McDermott and John Puckett.
The city will never forget its own.