Huntington Remembers Alumni Lost on 9/11

The Sept. 11 World Trade Center South Tower flag.

September 12, 2016

Fifteen years have passed since the shocking events of September 11, 2001 unfolded. Those who lived through that surreal day and its aftermath will always remember the horrific loss of life and destruction of property as well as the remarkable courage and heroism displayed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and on United Airlines Flight 93, which tumbled from the sky and crashed in an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers charged the cockpit and overwhelmed the hijackers.

Top-Bottom: Dennis Edwards, Joseph Anchundia,
Susan Clyne-Dietrich, Judd Cavalier,
Michael McCarthy, and Michelle Titolo.
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The sheer magnitude of death and devastation and the chaos caused by the 19 terrorists that hijacked four airplanes that morning is still hard to put into perspective.

More than 3,000 innocent Americans lost their lives that awful day, including 400 uniformed firefighters and police officers. Many hearts were split asunder, never to be pieced back together again.

People have often wondered how soldiers could charge a machine gun nest during wartime, knowing they would most likely be killed. The response has always been it was their job to do what they did. The same question was asked in the aftermath of 9/11 when an awestruck public came to understand the incredible courage and sacrifice of emergency personnel and even civilians who charged into burning buildings in an effort to save those trapped or injured, never to be seen again. The actual answer is much more complex and certainly more heart wrenching.

All these years later, the Huntington school community continues to mourn the loss of six alumni who perished at the World Trade Center, along with former Huntington students who attended elementary school in the district before enrolling at other Long Island high schools to complete their scholastic education.

Many district employees also suffered the loss of loved ones that dark September morning, including a husband, brother and the daughter of a retired teacher. Several dozen community residents were killed in the attacks. Many worked for financial service firms that had a large presence in WTC Towers I and II while others were members of New York City’s uniformed services.

“It’s hard to believe it has been 15 years since the event that marks one of the most tragic days in American history,” Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Most adults can recall vividly exactly where they were that morning. It remains important for us to remember those lost on 9/11/2001, as well as honor the heroes; the police, firefighters, EMTs and everyday citizens, many of whom risked their own lives to help those in need. It is also important for us to continually recognize the strength and resilience that characterizes our nation. In Huntington, we will never forget.”

Among Huntington High School’s lost alumni were Susan Clyne-Dietrich (1977), Dennis Edwards (1984), Michelle Titolo (1985), Michael Desmond McCarthy (1986), Judson Cavalier (1993) and Joe Anchundia (1993). The grads left behind devastated families and friends who have never completely recovered from their loss.

Ms. Clyne-Dietrich, a graduate of C.W. Post College and Touro Law School never entered a courtroom because she fell in love with computers. She worked on the 96th floor of the Tower One as senior vice-president of Marsh & McLennan, the largest insurance company in the world. The Huntington grad oversaw global software design for the firm. A married mother of three, she lived in Lindenhurst.

Mr. Edwards, 35, was a partner with bond giant Cantor Fitzgerald, working at the top of the World Trade Center. He resided in Huntington after marrying his high school sweetheart, Patti, and was the father of a 2½ year old daughter. During the 1993 bombing of the WTC he carried a pregnant woman down 80 flights of stairs, saving her life.

Following graduation from Huntington High School, Ms. Titolo went on to earn a degree in finance from St. John’s University and later obtained an MBA. She was working as an equity controller for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 101st floor of One World Trade Center when she was killed in the terrorist attack. The 34 year old and had just settled into a new home in Copiague.

Mr. McCarthy, who turned 33 years old on September 8, 2001, was an assistant vice-president at Carr Futures, specializing in the London Stock Exchange. On September 19-11, he worked the overnight shift, 2 a.m. – 10 a.m., and was slated to leave the World Trade Center shortly after the terrorists struck. The firm was located on the 92nd floor of Tower One, two floors below the impact zone of the plane. All 68 people on the floor, including Mr. McCarthy survived the initial explosion, but an inferno that spread to the west side of the floor prevented anyone from escaping alive.

Following Mr. McCarthy’s death, his family created a scholarship at Huntington High School, presenting several awards in his memory. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Huntington.

Mr. Anchundia, a Longwood College alum and Mr. Cavalier, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, worked at Sandler O’Neill & Partners not far from the highest reaches of the WTC. Best friends since attending Flower Hill Elementary School together, the pair were both 26 years old and just starting to climb the corporate ladder with the investment banking firm. On September 11, they were together once again, working on the 104th floor of Tower Two when terrorists deliberately flew a plane into the building.

Over the years, individual school buildings in the Huntington School District have commemorated the events of 9/11 in their own unique way, ranging from school-wide moments of silence, touching poetry readings and poignant written testimonials to group meditations, musical tributes and gatherings of students, faculty and staff.