Wilton Sekzer has an excellent memory.
He can recall entire conversations he had decades ago when he was a gritty NYPD cop. He can convincingly re-enact the time he barked orders at a couple of green officers or the time he was reprimanded for yelling at a cadet’s mother on the phone.
He is a raconteur whose whole life is composed of narratives, some overlap and run into others, but they all start out the same way: “Here’s a story for ya.”
But that memory can also be a curse.
Sekzer remembers in vivid detail the moment the No. 7 train he was riding on through Queens curved northward the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. As the Manhattan skyline slowly came into view he saw the smoldering World Trade Center towers where his son, Jason Sekzer, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, a worldwide bond-trading company that lost 638 employees in the attacks.
“Now I know that Jason works on the 105th floor, and I know the tower is 110 floors high,” he said, recounting the thoughts that raced through his head as he stared out of the train window with all of the other passengers. “For whatever reason, I take my thumb and start counting down the floors.”
Jason worked above where the plane hit, Sekzer thought, so hopefully he made it to the roof.
And as suddenly as the towers appeared, the No. 7 train curved back to its westward path and the horrifying scene vanished.
Sekzer later watched news reports and saw the towers fall.
By evening he knew enough time had elapsed for Jason to make it home on foot.
Sekzer can recall the day so completely it is almost like he relives it.
But he has a wealth of happy memories to draw from as well. When he speaks of Jason, the tough cop and Vietnam vet turns into the doting father.
In a recent interview Sekzer put on his reading glasses and shuffled through pictures of Jason. By the smile on Sekzer’s face it was clear he had rewound his memory once again and was back in his son’s childhood.
“I tell people that God blessed me with one of the greatest sons anybody could have. Why he took him? I don’t know,” Sekzer said. “I’m looking forward to dying so I can ask him why.”
Jason was brought up in the Sunnyside apartment where Sekzer and his wife still live.
When he was a boy, he used to live by his father’s word.
“He died at 31 years of age,” Sekzer said. “In 31 years, I never once raised my hand or voice to him.”
What makes the attacks such a bitter moment for Sekzer is that his son had led the kind of model life that makes fathers like himself proud. Jason had a kind heart and worked hard, and it got him far.
When he was younger, Jason used to cook at an upstate camp for underprivileged kids.
“He used to say, ‘I can cook for 600 kids, but I can’t cook for two,’” Sekzer recalled with a chuckle.
Sekzer got his son a job taking care of businesses and people who rented suites at Madison Square Garden. One of his clients was Cantor Fitzgerald. The management liked Jason’s service so much they offered him a job at their World Trade Center offices.
Jason worked his way up and was promoted several times, which made his father swell with pride at each phone call.
“Now you know what you have to do,” Sekzer told his son after his first promotion. “You have to send me business cards so I can shove it in the face of all my friends. And then you have to find me a nice nursing home.”
Jason was made vice president of IT trade support for the company, and just months before the attack he married his longtime girlfriend Natasha.
The night of Sept. 10 a message left on the couple’s answering machine informed them that their wedding album was ready.
Jason never saw it.
Sekzer risked his life in the Army and the NYPD and witnessed all sorts of hardships. But nothing prepared him for that morning train ride.
“I cannot believe that I’m the other guy,” Sekzer said, shaking his head. “My whole life it always happened to the other guy ... unless you have kids, there is no way you could understand.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community News Group
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