Five days before Sept. 11, Anthony P. Bottan Sr.'s best friend left him a voicemail.
There was nothing special about it, one buddy asking another if he had time for lunch. Bottan didn't have time to call back, never mind sit down and eat.
The next week, his friend, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee, was dead, one of about 3,000 victims of the terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers.
"I don’t put things off anymore. Life is too short, and full of unexpected surprises."
The vignette, written by our Rockville Centre editor's father, is one of nearly a thousand Patch.com ran throughout the country leading up to today, the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
On Long Island, where so many lost relatives and loved ones in nearby New York City, stories like Bottan's are common.
The tales are easy to find, but so difficult to tell.
There's the Blue Point widow, who fights for her FDNY husband's dying wish.
About 40 miles to the west on Long Island's South Shore, Keith Grant was a newspaper editor, responsible for packaging the right balance of breaking news and analysis for the weekly Long Beach Herald. Two years later, he was in the U.S. Army. Today, he is an infantry captain with the 101st Airborne Division in Kentucky. Another life changed, another story to tell.
Rosalie Rau's husband was on the 33rd floor in the north tower that sunny September morning. Sixty floors in a downtown New York skyscraper was the difference between life and death. Bottan's friend, gone forever.
Firefighter Dennis Carey was supposed to be off. But duty called, the dentist would wait and, within an hour, his life would end.
In Levittown, Kathleen Vaughan Ware waited desperately for her husband, a NYPD detective, to call. She wrote, "As the day went on, I waited to hear from my husband. Each time the phone would ring my heart would race, as I hoped to hear his voice on the other."
He called. Devastated. But he called.
Meanwhile, on the rare day she is in New York, Abbie Kearse still won't ride a subway.
We all have a story. And they all matter. East Meadow Editor Michael Ganci was a high school freshman suffering through a math class. Malverne-West Hempstead Editor Tara Conry, 15 at the time, was driven to write a poem.
As for me, I had arrived at my downtown desk in a building overlooking the Hudson River. As the second plane flew at the towers, I looked down to check voice mails. A moment later, our building swayed, and there were screams.
We were evacuated, and I walked towards the burning buildings, getting to within three blocks before turning to jump on a city bus bound for Forest Hills. Fifteen minutes later, the first building collapsed, and the streets turned gray. The bus drove through the fog, taking us to safety.