By Elise G. McIntosh Staten Island Advance
Connie Labetti, 52, of Rosebank was invited by StoryCorps to share her 9/11 account about her boss, Ron Fazio, whom she credits for saving her life during the terrorist attacks.
“He was a really warm, sweet man,” Ms. Labetti recalls, noting Fazio’s easygoing personality was a big reason she decided to work at Aon Reinsurance.
Their office was located on the 99th floor in the World Trade Center’s south tower. On that fateful day, Fazio was the first to notice the low-flying plane heading toward the north tower. “Keep away from the windows!” he yelled, before instructing colleagues to take the stairs down. As Ms. Labetti headed down, Fazio ran back to warn others on the floor who didn’t know what was happening. It was the last moment she saw him.
Ms. Labetti made the 99-flight trek down with Fazio’s secretary, Jillian, which took about 45 minutes. Once at the bottom, they found shelter in another building, and were there when the Twin Towers collapsed.
The two crossed the Brooklyn Bridge by foot and nearly made it to the border of Queens, where they were picked up by Jillian’s husband. The next morning, when the Verrazano Bridge re-opened and Ms. Labetti finally got home, she received a call from Fazio’s son, Robert.
“Tell your father thank you,” Ms. Labetti said. “He hasn’t come home” was Robert’s reply.
From what the family was able to piece together, Fazio was last seen handing his cell phone to someone in the lobby right before the south tower collapsed; he was killed by falling debris.
The sad and ironic thing is, Fazio wasn’t supposed to be there that day; originally, he had a day off but went in for an important meeting, according to Ms. Labetti.
Had Fazio not been there that day, Ms. Labetti believes she may have died. She credits Fazio’s leadership and “instincts in that moment to know that we had to leave immediately” for saving her life.
Eternally grateful, Ms. Labetti says she thinks about Fazio often, especially when there’s a milestone event, and how by sacrificing his life, he saved her own.
Afterward 9/11, Fazio’s family heard from many people who expressed similar sentiments, including some who said he held the door open so they could leave before him.
Ten years ago, the Fazios created a foundation in Ron’s honor called Hold the Door Open for Others, which helps children and adults who’ve experienced any type of loss or adversity.