On this anniversary edition of 9/11 Free Fall, Drew DePalma and Michele Caviasco — the son and sister, respectively, of Jean DePalma, who died in the World Trade Center — share their memories of Jean with host Andy Steele and reflect on the impact that 9/11 has had on their family and on the lives of so many others around the world. We invite you to listen or to read the interview below.
Welcome to 9/11 Free Fall, I'm the host Andy Steele. Today we're joined by Drew DePalma and Michele Caviasco. Drew is the son of Jean DePalma, who died at the World Trade Center on September 11th. Jean was Michele's sister, and they're joining us here today for this 9/11 anniversary edition of the show, and in my mind their presence today reminds us of why we do what we do here at AE911Truth. So Drew and Michele, welcome to 9/11 Free Fall.
Thank you, Andy.
Thanks for having us.
So, we're going to begin with Drew. It's been a while since you were last on the show to speak out for a new investigation. Please tell our audience about that experience for you when you did speak out, and what has been the impact on your life since.
I met Ted Walter from AE911Truth a couple of years ago, and before that I didn't really have too much interest or involvement in kind of seeking the truth. I honestly didn't think about it too much, and when he presented me with some additional information, it kind of blew my mind, and a fair amount of time had gone by, where I felt now I could handle taking something like that on.
So I did a really deep dive and did all research for myself and asked Ted what I could do to help. I did a number of things: I made a number of calls to congressmen and political figures, I did Free Fall a couple years ago, signed petitions, spoke to friends and family how they thought about it. Again, did even more research just for myself to see what is what.
I think it's had a positive impact overall, just because I've had better understanding of the how and the why, and even though all the answers aren't there, at least I myself have a better understanding of what happened. And, it kind of made... a little frustrating as well because you know, there's things that are above and beyond my control. I believe it took me more peace to kind of dive in deeper and really know what happened or what could have happened.
I know what it's like as somebody like myself who just watched 9/11 on television as it happened to begin questioning it. I can't imagine what it's like to have such a personal connection to the event and then start raising these questions in your own mind.
Now Michele, I want to turn to you because, as I said at the beginning of the show, episodes like this, where we have 9/11 family members on, I think really do serve the purpose of reminding our supporters and activists as to why we do what we do here. And I want to know more about the people whom we keep in mind as we go into this 9/11 anniversary. So please tell us about Jean and what she was like growing up and even beyond that as an adult.
Okay. So Jean is the oldest of five siblings, and we're all about a year-and-a-half apart, because my parents got married a little later in life. So the trend was you need… better start having kids right away. So we're only about a year-and-a-half apart. So we're all pretty kind of close. And you know Jean was the first born, and she was the leader. My parents always put her in charge because she was the first born. She had great sensibilities even as a child, and as a grownup she went off to college and she ended up doing very, very well in her career. And I think my parents were really astounded, because my parents came from very humble beginnings, of how successful my sister became in a very short amount of time.
She became an accountant, and she worked in this specialized field as a forensic accountant, and she was in charge. She became like a partner in her firm at some point. And she really excelled, and she was extremely organized, and she did very well in her career. And my parents were very proud of her, as well as holding it all down at home while having two kids, Drew and Jamie in probably parts of the top of her career. And she was still traveling a lot and holding it down at home and all of that. So I think my parents were very proud; we were all proud of her accomplishments, and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the family, if you will.
That is great when that happens to come from humble beginnings and then have each generation do better and better. And I think that's the essence of what this country was supposed to be about, and that's a great success story that you're telling. I like to also consider the show other than being just a forum for activists but an oral history of things related to September 11th.
So last time Drew was on the show, we heard his 9/11 story of that morning. I'd like to hear it from your perspective Michele, what was your experience that day? How did you learn the news of what was happening and what proceeded for you afterwards?
Well, I worked at that time in a law firm, which was literally across the river from the World Trade Center. So as the events were unfolding we could see everything happening from these large picture windows in our law firm. And so, naturally, somebody obviously got a phone call or somebody turned on the TVs or whatever, people's computers were on and things were coming through about the World Trade Center. And obviously everybody ran to these picture windows and we watched. We could see the smoke and the fire and all of what was unfolding.
And then, of course, like all of us, we all picked up the phone to try to call my sister, but naturally because we didn't have any idea of what was really happening at that time — it was a fairly new job she was working. She was on, I believe, the 99th or 100th floor, something like that. And that is exactly the wheelhouse of where the planes came in. So my sister, instantaneously, was gone, unbeknown to us. Because some of us weren't even aware of what floor she was actually on in the World Trade Center, because it was kind of a new job for her.
So that was also kind of a scramble to figure that out as well. And so naturally when we were making these phone calls to her cell phone, to the office, obviously towers were knocked down. We were getting no response at all. So we were literally in the dark for most of the day, not knowing or hearing any contact from her. And then after we had found out, I was working in a law firm in Newark and all transportation was halted. You could not get a train. You could not get a bus. You could not get a ferry into New York City, which is where I was living at the time, uptown.
And so, I got a ride back to my parents' house in Wayne, New Jersey. And, naturally, like everyone, we were all riveted to the TV that night. And the next day, my brothers and I, we took the PATH Train into downtown New York City to see if my sister was on any of the hospital lists. And we were downtown, I think it was St. Vincent's Hospital, and we're standing on line waiting. And my brother Steven turned around and looked back, and he said, "I can't even believe that there's this huge gaping hole in the sky like that. I can't even believe that those towers are no longer there."
And as we proceeded on this line, we then checked the database at the hospital, and they said, no, that my sister had not been brought in that evening or the day before. And so they directed us to go to a police precinct to fill out a missing person’s report. And as we were on that line, I overheard two gentlemen whose brothers were working at Cantor Fitzgerald, which was the floor on top of Marsh & McLennan, talk about how they had received phone calls from their siblings stating how hot the fire was and that they were trying to get to the roof, but could not get to the roof because it was locked. And once we realized what floor my sister was on, it was really at that moment that I really realized she was gone, and we proceeded to fill out our missing person’s report.
I had just seen her a few couple of days before because she and I had spent a whole weekend in New York City. So I knew her nail polish color. I knew what kind of jewelry she had on her, if she was found. And like everybody's family, nothing was recovered of hers, body parts or otherwise, because she was literally in the wheelhouse of the explosion. And that was pretty much how my first day or two went during the events of 9/11.
New York City was unlike anything I'd ever seen. I felt like I was in a war-torn country. People were just stunned and holding up pictures of their loved ones. And just like in a daze. Have you seen this person? Have you seen this person? Have you seen this person? Have you seen this person? It was really very surreal. It was kind of like I was in some kind of fog that was sort of swirling all around me, and yeah, a sensation that I've never really quite felt before in my life.
Now, when Bob McIlvaine was on the show, I had asked him this question. I'm going to ask you this of Drew. Obviously there is shock, there's grief, and I can't imagine what it's like to, because usually when a tragedy happens in normal circumstances to a family, it's a very private thing, but this was a worldwide spectacle that everybody was watching and following. I don't know how that impacts the situation for all these grieving family members on the days that followed September 11th. But I'm curious, I know that I was angry just as a spectator from Florida and ready to seek revenge on whoever they put in front of us on TV said did this. Was their anger for you Drew following the loss of your mother?
Absolutely, it's not every day that your mother gets murdered by some international terrorist. Like Michele was saying, it's just such a surreal feeling that no one in the world has probably ever felt before. I am not really a military man myself, but there's always the thought, I'm going to go pick up a gun and join the military and go get revenge. But that's definitely not something she would have wanted.
I kind of took a different approach, kind of just living your best life. Life is short. Jean lived it to the fullest. I'm sure she would want me and my sister to do the same, not to spend the rest of my days in a foreign country seeking out something that... the war itself was... weren't even necessarily attacking the right people. So what am I getting revenge on?
I did have a bunch of friends that went into the military and told me how they did their part. So I'm super proud of them and all the other military forces that took part. Now I tried to... I said I really didn't... I wasn't much of an activist before I met Ted in AE911Truth. But once I met him and tried to seek out the truth a little more, I tried to do my part on the other side, just getting the truth out there instead of taking revenge on whoever it happened to, because to this day I'm really not... it's not super clear the who, what, where and why. So it's kind of hard to point the correct finger at the correct person, if you know what I mean.
Right. And I hear so many times from people on the other side of the 9/11 debate regarding controlled demolition of the towers — they try to psychoanalyze people on our side. And then to explain this off saying, "Oh, people need a logical explanation for things, and so they make up these fanciful plots and whatnot to justify it in their own heads."
But to me, it was simpler when we had a simpler explanation given to us in the days that followed September 11th. We had a clear picture, or at least we thought we did, of what had actually happened. And to me it seems like it’s simpler to attain closure when you have that picture. But then when you have new questions, very reasonable questions, raised that weren't addressed by the government and weren't addressed by members of our media, and you see people who bring up these issues being shut down, not being allowed to have a platform unless they go through extraordinary efforts to obtain their own platform, try to meet with members of Congress, and we do.
We managed to do it, but there's still resistance there. It really creates more strife within people, just the regular activists. Now, as somebody who lost their mother on that day, I want to get your thoughts on this resistance that we see, that continues on despite all new evidence that comes out all the time regarding the destruction of these towers. What's your take on that now? So many years later.
I can't say I'm surprised. If it is a cover up, whoever did it spent a lot of time and effort making sure that it stays that way. The media itself, obviously it can't be trusted, all the political stuff that's been going in the last four years. You don't know what information, the fake news, it's just really hard to decipher what's true and what's not, and it confuses the general public for sure. If they get fed a logical story, now that's mostly the one it's going to take, and it's very hard to break that cycle or that thought process. So I said when I met AE911Truth, I just... obviously I took in the information they're giving, but I also want to do my own research because that's really not... I believe people don't do that enough.
They kind of just take what's given to them, and then it's like, "Oh yeah, that makes sense. Let's go with that." But everyone should do their own due diligence to make up their own minds. So it's really hard to... it's almost like a losing battle, but I'm glad that there is organizations like AE911Truth to keep fighting the good fight. Even I was really involved in the beginning, I kind of backed off a little bit. Now I'm coming back on again. It comes in waves, but I'm glad that there is still organizations out there that are still fighting for the truth.
And Michele I'm going to turn back to you here because I asked Drew this question, and I'm curious from your own end and your perspective, when everything was going on you said you were in a haze for the days that followed September 11th, understandably so. I actually remember those family members on TV with the pictures of their loved ones holding up... one of those images is burned in my brain from those events. It's hard to remember things that happened 20 years ago but then I think I can remember that almost photographically. Anger, once the shock subsided was there a lot of anger on your end?
You know what, I don't know that I ever felt anger that she was gone. I think it was more like sadness only, because I still don't really focus on how and why and who did this. I really just focus on her absence and her loss in my life. And there are moments when I think about, gee I wish Jean were around because I wanted to ask her this or that. And even though I'm a social studies teacher and I study history, and these are areas that I have discussed with my students, I think you could go around and around in a circle trying to figure out who, why, when, what, where, but in the end lives were lost, people died.
It created ripple and impact on people's lives and the people who were left alive in different ways. And I don't really focus much on, again, like the why and the when and the who and the how and all of that, because for me, it was such a close to hit home. Do you know what I'm saying? Maybe if I was more removed I would be more interested in how this all happened, but because I was personally affected I really just focus on the absence of my sister, not being there.
There was no body to bury. It's hard to have closure ever when there's no physical body that maybe... people go through an active grieving where they have a coffin, a body, a burial, but there is really none of that in a way. So that's another reason why I think that these things linger as well.
Right. And it's interesting you told me about overhearing those people talking when you were at the police station, and that's when you sort of realized that Jean likely wasn't coming back. And I can't imagine in terms of other people who may have not had moments like that, those people on the street who had pictures of their family members, at what point they have to come to the conclusion that their family member had likely died.
People held out hope maybe for the first few days, but it's terrible that for a lot of people, there's no final closure of being able to say we found a body because of the nature of how all of these people died that day. Drew, in our activism here at AE911truth, I've heard some people say this. Even people sometimes who are supportive will say, "Well, 9/11 was 20 years ago. Who cares? There's so many things going on now in this world, we got to move on." People who are on the other side of the debate will say, "Well even if it was a controlled demolition, who cares?" Indeed, it was a long time ago — we're at 19 years now coming up this Friday. What's your answer when people say that?
Lots of stuff happened a long time ago, but there's never been an event like this with the controversy that surrounds it like this. If there's even a chance that the stuff that AE911Truth says happened, happened, now that's something that needs to be exposed or something like this, could happen again, maybe not today and maybe not in my lifetime, but those kind of deceit shouldn't happen to its own people. If it did indeed happen.
And the government's supposed to look out for its citizens, and NIST, it just didn't seem like they... whether their report is right or wrong, it just didn't seem that they did the investigation that they're supposed to. A lot of things just didn't happen the way you would logically have thought would have happened. The lack of oversight of everything and things of that nature. So it really is just a cautionary tale that, it did happen a long time ago... maybe a lot of people don't care about it, especially people that aren't from the immediate area, but people still care about every other like major war or tragedy. And this is a big one and, you know, it's one unlike any other. And it really shows you got to learn from the past, and one way to do that is to keep remembering.
That's right. And this is something that is still affecting our world. Even things we're dealing with now in my view are an offshoot of the way that we handled 9/11, the aftermath of 9/11, the invasions and everything that changed in this country and in other countries as a result of it. And to me, what got me was the reaction of the system to people asking very reasonable questions.
I've said this before so many times on the show that if you believe the official story, it would still constitute a huge screw up by the federal government. Think about it, an attack like this under your watch — you pay all this money for defense. So it constitutes a huge screw up if you believe the official story. So taking that, the government should be open to answering every single reasonable question that the people have for the next 100 years about this event. That's how we learn about how to stop these things from happening again.
NIST withholds the input data on its World Trade Center 7 models claiming it'll jeopardize public safety if they release this information on a building that no longer exists. It's going to jeopardize the public safety. But actually the irony there is that the architects and engineers need that data, because if what NIST said was true, then that would mean that we need to study exactly what happened there and what their own input was to prevent it from ever happening again. So you see this closed off brick wall being put around 9/11. And I think that is a completely wrongheaded way to go about it, regardless of what you believe of what happened on that day. We should be able to look into these questions. I think the government at least owes that to its people.
Now, Michele, I think this is a good opportunity here, not just for people who are in the 9/11 Truth Movement who are listening but anyone else who may be questioning or just happens across this podcast, maybe just listening to it out of curiosity. What's your advice for somebody who goes through a tragedy, not even necessarily on the scale of 9/11 but just a tragedy in their own family when they lose someone close to them unexpectedly — how do you move forward?
Probably you never do move fully forward, but I can only speak about what I did that was cathartic for me, is I joined an organization down there — I was giving tours of the memorial. I was on actually a teacher workshop and it was all about 9/11 and how to teach it to your students. And when they took us out, there was a 9/11 tribute organization that was created in the in-between before the actual 9/11 museum was built. And they were giving tours out on the memorial for years before the museum was actually built.
And so I became part of that organization, and that organization, all of the tours, the docents were all related to 9/11. Either they were first responders or family members or whatever. And you would give these tours. And then on each tour, a family member or responder or whomever would be a second person on the tour would tell their story. So I did that for a couple years, and I found that to be like a release in a way, because people were very interested in hearing about the tour and hearing other people's stories.
Now, mostly, the people on the tours were not New Yorkers. They were people from out of the country or from around the United States. So you'd often get an audience like that. But again, people were very riveted and very interested in hearing personal stories of loved ones or first responders or firemen who were there on the scene, telling their stories. And in addition to that the training that you had to go through before that, you were always meeting with these other family members, these first responders, all these other people preparing for these tours. And so you would talk and discuss and you hear other people's stories. And I found that to be kind of... felt like I was giving something back and honoring my sister's memories.
I just want to mention one thing my kids and family and my daughter, my son and my wife today, we've help set up flags at our local elementary school. They put out over 3,000 flags for each victim. We probably set up 300 or 400 ourselves. The kids, they know about grandma Jean, and they like to be involved in anything that remembers her.
And I think that is what we have to continue to do, not just in terms of what we do here in the 9/11 Truth Movement and all the work we do, but remembering that this is not just some obscure thing that we're debating about. These were real people, real lives that were affected here. I think we need to remember that with our activism and keep in mind what we are really fighting for. Drew, Michele, thank you so much for coming on 9/11 Free Fall.
Oh, you're welcome. It was a pleasure. Thank you for having us.
Yeah, thanks, Andy.