There is not a day that goes by that Charlie Amoroso, formerly of North Bergen, doesn’t think about his late son, Christopher.
There are constant reminders. There’s the final photo taken of Christopher, shot on Sept. 11, 2001, showing the Port Authority police officer doing his job, leading injured people out of the World Trade Center. It sits prominently on Charlie Amoroso’s desk. A Daily News photographer took the photo soon after the second plane hit the south tower.
There is another photo on Charlie Amoroso’s desk that serves as a reminder – one of Christopher’s fellow PA police officers carrying his casket during his funeral.
“I always look at those pictures,” said Charlie Amoroso, who raised his son in North Bergen. “I think I’ve gotten past at being mad at Christopher for what he did that day. I was, at first. I guess that’s a normal emotion. I wondered why he did what he did, going back into those buildings to help people. He didn’t have to.”
Added Amoroso, “But then I realize that he was a mirror image of me. Being a Vietnam veteran and an Army medic, I had already done the same thing. You can just change the face, from me to Christopher. I would have done the same thing if I were in Christopher’s shoes. So I can’t be mad at him anymore.”
Charlie Amoroso said that it’s hard to describe the emotions he experienced as the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center approached.
“It’s a national remembrance,” Amoroso said. “It’s not just a day that Christopher died. It’s a day where 3,000 other people died. It’s a big media thing. We share that day with so many other families. It’s so hard to even diminish the feelings. There’s always going to be that reminder.”
On the transcripts
Two weeks ago, the Port Authority released transcripts of the police calls from that fateful day. There are more than 2,000 pages of dialogue that have been made available to the families of the victims, especially the 37 Port Authority police officers who perished like Christopher Amoroso.
In fact, there is mention in the transcripts of two North Bergen natives and one Guttenberg native who were PA cops who died that day, namely Amoroso, David LeMagne and Lt. Robert Cirri from Guttenberg.
But Charlie Amoroso hasn’t taken the time to read the transcripts or hear the dialogue just yet. “I have mixed emotions about the transcripts,” Amoroso said. “I know Chris is on there. I was told by other PA officers that he’s on there. Seeing his words or hearing his voice, I know there’s a part of me that wants to see that. One part of me would love to hear his voice again, but I don’t want to hear the pain and anguish in his voice. Possibly some of the transmissions can be segregated, so I don’t have to go through all 2,000 pages. I don’t think I could do that, because there are so many other people that I knew, police officers and firefighters, who also died there.”
Amoroso said that he wasn’t planning to attend the memorial service at Ground Zero to remember the anniversary, but he did have a ceremony that he was compelled to attend Thursday morning.
At a pier in lower Manhattan, a special quilt was being unveiled with a special patch made for each one of the 3,016 victims who died that day. A group called United in Memory, based in California, began the quilt project soon after the terrorist attacks and has expanded all over the world, with people making patchworks as a memorial for the fallen victims.
A woman from England made the patch honoring Christopher Amoroso. Charlie was going to the ceremony to finally meet the woman.
“We’ve sent notes to each other,” Charlie Amoroso said. “Now, I’m going to meet her. I’m skipping the services at Ground Zero, because there are just too many people and it’s hard to grieve with that many people. So many people there never recovered their loved ones. We were fortunate in a way to have Chris, but I can’t imagine the pain that those people who found nothing are going through. The quilt is amazing and I can’t wait to see it in person.”
Charlie Amoroso said that he was going to visit Ground Zero long after the memorial service was over.
Two years is not enough time to fully heal the pain and anger, he said.
“I can’t think of those things on this anniversary,” Amoroso said. “I’m thinking of this mental picture I have, at this family barbecue, with Chris kneeling near the fish pond at my house [in Howell], with my granddaughter [Sophia Rose, now 3] at his knee and him smiling at me, saying, ‘Hey, Pop, she wants to swim in your fish pond.’ I’ll smell the food we made that day, remember the laughs of the day, and that will help me get through the day.”
Added Amoroso, “I think we’ll run the full gamut of emotions. But I want to celebrate his life. I really do. It’s too easy to cry. Certainly, there’s an emotion that can be triggered easily.”
Amoroso said that the entire family is moving forward. They all have special memories of Christopher. They wear miniature replicas of his Port Authority shield, with Badge No. 2002, on a gold chain around their necks, as well as a St. Christopher medal.
“I had a sterling silver St. Christopher medal that I wore all through Vietnam, and I gave it to Christopher when he became a police officer,” Amoroso said. “Now, we all wear one. I think a lot of us are doing better now. A lot of things don’t get discussed, but everyone in our family still feels it. We all do our own thing. I don’t think that will ever go away.”
Charlie’s youngest daughter, Jessica, now 14, has created a memory box, filled with memorabilia, like photos and newspaper clippings, to forever remember her brother.
A few weeks ago, Charlie Amoroso made a journey to Washington, to the national police officers’ memorial that was erected to remember those 37 officers who died that day.
“I looked up at the memorial, saw Christopher’s name, shook my head and looked up to the sky,” Amoroso said. “And a tear rolled down my eye. I felt a hand on my shoulder and it was a woman who went to the police academy with Christopher. We talked for a while and she told me that Chris always made her laugh. Those are the stories that make it a lot easier.”
Added Amoroso, “That was something he always had the ability to do. He made people smile. That’s what I’ll remember. I’ll remember that smile.”