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Memories of 9/11: Mayor, MPP and chamber president recall where they were

One was asleep, one was at Home Depot, another was anxiously trying to find colleagues who were headed to the World Trade Center in New York.

At a wreath-laying ceremony in NOTL on Sept. 11, New Democrat MPP Wayne Gates, Lord Mayor Betty Disero and Chamber of Commerce president Eduardo Lafforgue all recalled where they were when they first heard the news about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Lafforgue, who was working for Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in Montreal at the time, said that day the company was having an exhibition at the World Trade Center, where the firm also had offices.

“I was having my usual espresso in the lobby when I heard,” he told The Lake Report after a solemn ceremony at the NOTL cenotaph.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was low-key, with Niagara EMS superintendent Terry Flynn, Regional Coun. Gary Zalepa and a few members of the public the only others in attendance.

But the events of that Tuesday in 2001 are etched in Lafforgue's memory.

“I rushed upstairs and put the television on. And first I tried to find where our people were, because we had people actually already in New York, and I knew that they would be at the World Trade Center,” Lafforgue said.

“And we were very, very lucky because they were on their way to the lobby of the World Trade Center where this happened so they could actually run out and we didn't lose anybody.”

“And then we were in shock in front of the television,” he said.

At midday on 9/11, he was out for a sandwich with the president of the company. “We were sitting on the terrace and, suddenly, an airplane flew over. And we all, on the terrace, we just threw ourselves under the table. It was like an instinct,” he said, adding there was a strong feeling of “uncertainty” and “how can this happen here?”

After Sept. 11, his office was evacuated a number of times.

“We were evacuated many times because anything looks suspicious after that. It changed the world. It changed the way we travel. It changed many things.”

Disero was a Toronto city councillor on 9/11.

“When I heard the news I was at a Home Depot store, launching a new program for the City of Toronto, for batteries and green bins,” Disero recalled.

“I remember driving back with somebody and just the silence in the car driving back to my office was awesome. It was truly an emotional time when we were driving back. Everybody in the car was silent. And then I went into my office and watched it, couldn't take my eyes off the TV for the rest of the day.”

Gates wasn't a politician yet and was working “steady midnights” at General Motors.

“I was in bed sleeping and my phone was ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing,” he said. 

“It was my daughter Chantel, who was stuck over in Buffalo, N.Y., because she was taking teacher's college over there at that time, and she told me what happened.”

And like the mayor, he “went right to the TV and couldn't take my eyes off it.”