When I started Project 2,996 I had no direct connection to 9/11. No one I knew was killed, and I knew no one who had lost anyone. Like most people my experience with 9/11 was from many miles away.
When I moved with my family to Raleigh we became involved with our community and we gradually got to know another family who was heavily involved. Over the course of a couple of years we became closer. Eventually I gained a whole other family…and as I later found out an indirect connection to 9/11. My new family had lost a Brother-in-Law/Uncle in the World Trade Center.
Every morning, Mark Zangrilli would get ready for work and kiss his wife and two sons good-bye, being careful not to wake them as he left for work in New York City.
Every evening, he would call his wife, Jill, around 7 p.m. from the Lincoln Park train station to let her know he was on his way home.
“We would always wait for him by the door,” Jill said. “Every day was a celebration.”
But on Sept. 11, everything fell out of routine.
Mark had an early meeting scheduled and was rushing around the house getting ready. His sons, Alexander, 3, and Nicholas, 11/2, were awake and upset that he was leaving, so he sneaked out of the house without saying good-bye.
“It was the first time in 14 years he didn’t get to say good-bye,” Jill said.
Mark, 36, of Pompton Plains, died in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. He was attending a meeting at Aon Corp. at Two World Trade Center when a hijacked plane hit the tower.
Mark, who worked for AXA Corporate on Water Street, left a message on the answering machine after the first plane hit.
“He said they were going to start evacuating the 105th floor and he would call me soon as he got down,” Jill said.
More than 80 family members and friends scoured hospitals and lists of survivors on the Internet looking for Mark with no success, Jill said.
Mark was born in Passaic and raised in Pequannock before moving to Lincoln Park 14 years ago. The family moved to Pompton Plains in January.
Mark graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a chemical engineering degree in 1987. He worked as an insurance underwriter for Kemper National Insurance Co. at the World Trade Center for 12 years. He helped evacuate several employees out of their office after the 1993 bombing in the Trade Center basement.
“His former co-workers have sent e-mails talking about how well he handled it,” Jill said. “He was the last one off the floor.”
Mark’s weekends were dedicated to his family, taking his sons everywhere with him to run errands.