On Sept. 11, 2001, New York City police officer Joseph Cammarata was on the deck of the Staten Island Ferry, plunging toward the burning World Trade Center, when the South Tower suddenly collapsed. He knew it had just fallen on top of his brother, brand-new FDNY firefighter Michael Cammarata.
No trace of Michael would ever be found. And no facet of Joseph’s life would be untouched by the tragedy.
Over the next decade, Joseph was buried under his own pile of emotional rubble: anger, anxiety, frustration, guilt. Now, in a new book, Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble, Joseph Cammarata shares how he reached rock bottom and eventually, painfully, found his way back out of the abyss into which his brother’s senseless death had driven him.
He became controlling, driven, haunted by flashbacks. Nightmares of streets littered with body parts, buildings consumed by fire and fire trucks crushed like soda cans kept him sleep-deprived. He lost his friends. His wife divorced him. He stayed angry.
“My lifestyle after 9/11 altered the person I had been for 24 years and drained my soul,” he says. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
Joseph wrote Face of Courage to show other people how they, too, can come back from despair.
“In every disaster, there are stories of hope and heroism. Good things come out of negativity. You just have to find them, no matter how long it takes,” he says.
Joseph also wrote the book to live out one of his brother’s last requests. A few days after 9/11, their mother had discovered an unmarked envelope in Michael’s dresser. Inside was a letter from her youngest son.
“If anything was ever to happen to me: (1) Take care of Jenna. (2) Don’t mourn me. This is the career I chose. (3) Make my spirit live on. (4) Remember I love you all and will be waiting for you upstairs.”
Joseph knew which directive was meant for him: Jenna was Michael’s girlfriend. Joseph, a cop, understood about career choice. He knew Michael loved his family. So it was #3, “Make my spirit live on,” that spoke to him.
Today, Joseph bears a portrait of his brother tattooed on the left side of his back, the same side as his heart. He has attended innumerable memorials for his brother and others who fell on 9/11. He became a firefighter himself. And he has survived.
Visit www.911faceofcourage.com for more information.
Joseph Michael Cammarata was born in New York City in July 1977. His parents, Joseph and Linda, raised Joseph, his brother Michael and his sister Kimberly in a home that instilled strong ethics and family values. Joseph and Michael always dreamed of being a NYC firefighter, but when the police department called first, he took the job – he so much wanted to serve his community. After 9/11, Joseph joined the fire department and served until 2006, when he retired to expand his family’s real estate development firm. He simultaneously earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at St. John’s University in 2007 and is pursuing a law degree. He and his current wife, Stephanie, have a 3-year-old daughter, Francesca Lynn.
Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble
By Joseph Cammarata
Paperback 6×9, $14.99
Hardcover 6×9, $19.99
Published by AuthorHive
© 2010 Joseph Cammarata
Autographed copies available at 911faceofcourage.com