9/11/2009: Arlene T. Babakitis
Arlene is remembered as a bright, energetic mother of two, born and raised on the Lower East Side of New York City in a family that understood and taught their children the values of hard work and independence. She got her first job at the age of 16, and a couple of years later began her main career as an employee of the Port Authority of NY/NJ.
Her elder sister, Evelyn Pettignano, remembered Arlene in a NY Times article from Sept. 2002:
Mrs. Babakitis and her older sister, Evelyn L. Pettignano, were pregnant with their first children at the same time, and would take the PATH train together to their jobs in Manhattan. "When you see two pregnant women walking together, you would really see the looks," Mrs. Pettignano said. "I have to admire her as a mother. She wanted the best. She was always there, giving."Her tenure with the Port Authority would last for 30 years and lead her to a post at the World Trade Center, before her untimely death on September 11, 2001.
Her niece, author Melissa Pettignano, recalled her love of staying active in a recent article for the Hudson Reporter, and also related just how close Arlene may have been to surviving the disaster:
Before she died on September 11, 2001, Secaucus resident Arlene Babakitis loved to exercise. But according to her niece, writer Melissa Pettignano, her weight loss regimen “had a bit of a twist. My mother, my aunt, and I would exercise together. Like, we’d walk around the track at the high school – and then we’d go out for ice cream.”Ms. Pettignano has taken the memories of her aunt and used to help write a book entitled "Suzanne Lantana", a collection of stories about the experiences and views of a young girl. Details can be found here.
According to those who were in the stairwell with her who survived, she stopped walking down after emergency workers told her it was safer to stay in the burning building and wait for help to arrive. After no help came, she eventually began walking again. Babakitis made it to street level just as the building collapsed.
“The time she spent waiting made all the difference,” noted Pettignano. “Another five or 10 minutes, who knows, maybe that’s all the time she needed to get to safety.”
This post was made as part of Project 2996, an online blogging effort spearheaded by Dale Challener Roe, aimed at keeping the memory of the events of 9/11/2001 alive by memorializing, one blogger at a time, all 2,996 victims of that day's horrendous attack on the World Trade Center. Anyone wishing to view any of today's other memorial posts can start at the link above, which displays a linked list of all the participating blogs. Please take some time and visit as many of them as you wish.