When Islamic terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center (WTC) on September 11, 2001, I was a reporter on Long Island. It struck me, while writing dozens of obituaries and other stories of the people killed there, that their tales captured the root of the conflict between America and Islam, between the life-oriented and the avowedly antilife.

Kenneth Marino

Kenneth Marino, age forty, was fulfilling his boyhood dream of being a firefighter for the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), battling blazes and saving lives and property, when he was killed during his company’s rescue efforts in the North Tower on 9/11. He was survived by his wife, Katrina, and their two young children, Kristen and Tyler.

Marino worked with Rescue 1 in Manhattan, a unit of firefighters with exceptional skills who were among the first emergency personnel to arrive at the smoldering WTC that day.

At eighteen, he volunteered as a firefighter in his native Oceanside, Long Island, and joined the FDNY with a company in Queens in 1990. His outstanding physical and firefighting skills led to his assignment with the elite Rescue 1 in 1999. Yet Marino, a high-school track-and-field star who idolized baseball great Ken Griffey Jr., never rested on his laurels. He continually studied to better his knowledge of firefighting and improve his skills.

At a 2003 street-naming ceremony for Marino, his friend and FDNY firefighter Frank Corona told me a story that he thought captured Marino’s passion for his work. Corona was struggling to learn how to tie intricate knots for rescue procedures, a requirement for the job. During his downtime, Marino invited him to his home and laid out the entire knot-tying course in his backyard. Corona said:

[S]tation by station, he took me and taught me, and he showed me a video. The next day was the test and I aced it. He gave me the confidence. He was just so into the job. There weren’t enough days in the week for the fire department. Even on his off time, he was learning how to be a better fireman. He was an awesome fireman.1

James Barbella

A general maintenance supervisor for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) at the WTC, James Barbella, age fifty-two, stayed in the burning South Tower, directing and assisting emergency personnel during their evacuation efforts when the skyscraper collapsed, and he was killed. He was survived by his wife, Monica, and their three adult children, James Jr., Joann, and Sara.

Barbella had exhibited similar heroics when terrorists detonated a bomb in the WTC basement in 1993. He predicted that terrorists would one day strike there again.

A former U.S. Marine, Barbella originally worked as a radio repairman for the PA at LaGuardia Airport before he was transferred to the WTC. There, he initially worked in operations. As a property manager, he supervised the moves of tenants and oversaw the electrical contracts, systems, and maintenance personnel of the South Tower.

Among Barbella’s top values was maintaining his physical condition and health. As part of his various fitness routines, he scaled the 110 flights of stairs at the South Tower regularly during his lunch breaks. On good weather days, he rode his bicycle some thirty miles from his home on Long Island to work in downtown Manhattan.

Monica, Barbella’s wife of twenty-nine years, told me that his personal attachment to the WTC was such that if the towers had fallen in 1993, he and his colleagues would have rebuilt them “brick by brick.” She said, “Jimmy always thought the World Trade Center was the seat of the world. Commerce, and everything else you could think of, was there.”2

Timothy Haviland

Timothy Haviland, age forty-one, was working as a project manager at insurance brokerage Marsh McLennan in the North Tower when he was killed there on 9/11. He was survived by his wife, Amy, and her two middle-school-aged children, Nicholas and Jesse.

The couple had recently celebrated their second wedding anniversary, and Haviland expected to be promoted that October to vice president at his firm in an industry devoted to mitigating risk in people’s lives.

Amy—who also lost her brother at the WTC on 9/11 (see below)—remembered her husband for his honesty, patience, generosity, and commitment to her kids, supporting them financially and helping with their studies. She also noted that he continually studied to boost his knowledge of his profession.

After graduating college, he worked as a mailroom manager at a St. Paul software firm, where he introduced computer programs to make his department operate more efficiently. After twelve years, he left that company to return to school and study computer programming.

Before he moved to Long Island, Haviland landed a job with Avis to run its programming department in New York at double his prior salary. Later, at Marsh McLennan, he worked as a programmer at the firm’s headquarters on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. With his promotion to project manager, he transferred to the firm’s office on the 96th floor of the North Tower. Amy told me that her husband “absolutely loved New York” and glowed when he got to work at the WTC: “He was on top of the world. He’d go to the windows every day and watch the ferries and all the people below. He loved the hustle and bustle and the people. He loved talking to the people.”3

Of course, many others were killed at the WTC on 9/11.

  • Robert Spear, age thirty, Amy Haviland’s brother and an ex-paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, was a second-year firefighter at Engine 26 in midtown Manhattan. His goal was to become a battalion chief.
  • Laura Marchese, age thirty-five, an executive assistant at Alliance Consulting Group who was remembered as kind and generous, had moved with her fiancé, Joseph Mendez, into their first home together just days before the terrorist attacks.
  • Thomas Gardner, age thirty-nine, an expert in combating toxic threats with HazMat 1 in Maspeth, Queens, was a member of the International Firefighters Association, trained law enforcement agencies nationwide on hazardous materials, and earned three citations of valor.
  • Jeffrey Nussbaum, age thirty-seven, who in his time off as a senior vice president of foreign currency at Carr Futures Associates, enjoyed playing sports and socializing in the Hamptons on Long Island’s east end.

These people, and thousands of others who died that day, were brave and heroic, passionate and goal-oriented, curious and studious, honest and generous.

Whereas these people were committed to life-enhancing pursuits here on Earth, their faith-driven murderers were not. They subordinated their minds to dogmatic religious leaders and texts that commanded them to fight and kill nonbelievers. And that’s just what they did, flying jets into buildings to murder thousands of good, productive people. These jihadists had faith that, in doing so, they guaranteed their place in an afterlife where they could have their way with seventy-two virgins. More fundamentally, they were driven to destroy the non-Islamic, life-oriented values that the people in those buildings were pursuing daily. The terrorists specifically targeted the WTC because those soaring skyscrapers symbolized everything they hated and wanted to destroy: freedom, capitalism, the self-interested pursuit of profit, the unprecedented material abundance all of these values helped to create in the city that most vividly represents Americans’ love of life. As Osama Bin Laden said after 9/11, “We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the big difference between us.”4

On 9/11, let’s remember not only the death-worshipping nature of the faith-driven creatures who planned and committed these atrocities but, more important, the life-loving nature of the rational people who lost their lives that day. And let’s redouble our efforts to help more people understand and uphold the values of reason, freedom, and the American way.

On 9/11, let’s remember not only the death-worshipping nature of the faith-driven creatures who planned and committed these atrocities but, more important, the life-loving nature of the rational people who lost their lives that day.
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1. Joseph Kellard, “Ken Marino Remembered for His Unmatched Passion for Firefighting,” Oceanside/Island Park Herald, September 2003.

2. Joseph Kellard, “He Knew It Wasn’t Over,” Oceanside/Island Park Herald, November 1, 2001.

3. Joseph Kellard, “Tim Haviland, 9/11 Casualty, ‘Absolutely Loved New York,’” Oceanside/Island Park Herald, November 201.

4. Alan M. Dershowitz, “Worshippers of Death,” Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2008.

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