The Advocate
The Advocate

Remembering Our LGBT Heroes as One World Trade Center Opens

Dawn Ennis
May 29, 2015

One World Trade Center is now open to the public in New York City, a towering tribute to resiliency in a world threatened by terror and hate, and a victory of love for those who lived openly as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

After 11 years of construction and fortification and more in the planning, the glass skyscraper once dubbed the Freedom Tower soars 1,776 feet over Lower Manhattan. It is adjacent to the original World Trade Center, the site of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

On that day, 2,977 people died, including 246 on the four planes, 2,606 in the World Trade Center complex and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.

At least two dozen of those victims were openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Some of their stories have been told here at The Advocate, and they are memorialized both at street level and in a museum that takes visitors into the cavern excavated from the ruins of the Twin Towers that the world came to know as Ground Zero.

But in the devastation, there was also a sense of community that many had not seen since the worst days of AIDS. Another West Village resident, 39-year-old Gary Spino, said he walked around the neighborhood those first nights “because I wanted to be with others, and the streets were filled with gay and lesbian people. Everyone was crying and hugging.”

Spino eventually made his way to the Hudson River and joined friends from his gym in a human assembly line—spreading mustard on bread, piling on lunch meat, slicing tomatoes, and bagging sandwiches, fruit, and cookies into care packages for the rescue workers.

“It was the greatest thing I’ve been a part of in ages,” he says. “It wasn’t about being a gay person or a straight person or a financial person or an artist. There were little women in nuns’ outfits standing next to gym bunnies in tight shorts, and we were all pitching in together.”

Jessica DuLong, an assistant fireboat engineer and a 28-year-old bisexual writer from Brooklyn, spent three days and nights with her team working around the clock, pumping water as needed. The Fire Department of New York told DuLong the water she and her group pumped probably saved 200 lives.