Despite a 14-year age gap, Anthony Amatuccio and his younger brother Joseph were very close.
Amatuccio was the godfather to Joseph’s son, and Joseph was the godfather to Amatuccio’s youngest son.
“We were pretty similar,” Amatuccio said. “We had good times together. Both of us loved to cook. Both of us loved to eat.”
Those bonds remained strong even after Amatuccio relocated to Eden Prairie and Joseph remained in their native New York City. Joseph came out to visit Amatuccio a few times in Minnesota and loved it.
“There’s no doubt that he would have been out here many more times,” he said.
He pauses to compose himself. “Excuse me a minute,” he said.
After 20 years, it’s still tough for him to talk about his brother, one of the 2,977 people killed in the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
Joseph Amatuccio, 41 at the time, was manager of operations and maintenance at the World Trade Center.
He was last seen on the street outside the twin towers after helping someone escape. Joseph ran back inside; his brother said his body was found with the last group of firefighters and police.
Thirteen civilians—including Joseph—were awarded the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor.
“You asked me what I miss most about my brother,” he said. “I miss all the things that we loved together. We talked a lot.”
Traditions bonded the brothers
Amatuccio especially misses the brotherly bond of shared experiences growing up in an Italian-American family in New York City with “amazing food and homemade pastas,” he said.
The two brothers kept traditions going with their own families even after they lived far apart. One was the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration of the Feast of the Seven Fishes (served with fish and other seafood).
“He would call me up, and we would compare fishes,” he said. “We enjoyed life, and a lot of it had to do with the way we were brought up. We lived in a two-family home with my grandparents. An aunt and uncle downstairs, and we were upstairs. If one bathroom was being used, we just walked down to the other. You’re not going to believe this in New York City, but the doors were always open.”
Now 75 and retired from his job at New York Life Insurance Company, Amatuccio said the memories of his brother spring up with ease.
“For myself and my family, especially the two older boys who remember him well, it’s very easy to keep in our memories,” he said. “We don’t have to try.”
‘I don’t want them to forget’
Amatuccio said much has changed in the 20 years since the terrorist attack.
“I’m more aware of things,” he said. “I’m always traveling with my eyes wide open. Suppose I’m in a situation on an airplane and something terroristic happens. In that case, I know, and my family knows, I would not just sit there. I’ve become more political. I try to stay up on the threats to the United States in that way.”
Amatuccio and his wife Diane have put down strong roots in Eden Prairie. He has become more appreciative of the “things we have,” such as family.
For him, that includes four children, seven grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. An eighth grandchild will be here soon.
“It’s all a mindset and emotions,” he said.
Amatuccio has also become outspoken about remembering 9/11.
A bumper sticker on his car reads “9/11: Never Forget.” He contributes to the Wounded Warriors Project and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. He wears a T-shirt listing all of the names of the New York Port Authority police who died on 9/11.
“I want people to remember; I don’t want them to forget,” he said.
Two decades later, he is still angry. He is also concerned that a similar terrorist attack could happen again.
“I’m not hopeful at all,” he said. “I’m 75. I doubt if the threat to America will go away in my lifetime. I’m worried about my children, especially my grandchildren. I think it’s foolish for anybody to think that we shouldn’t have the strongest military in the world, and I’m worried that’s already changing.”
A chance encounter
Amatuccio said Joseph got to know many of the New York Port Authority police, including a lieutenant. When that lieutenant retired, he started touring the country with the traveling 9/11 memorial.
By chance, Amatuccio heard that lieutenant mention his brother’s name while being interviewed on a local TV station. The memorial was in town.
Joseph worked his way up from a toll booth collector with the Port Authority.
“I quickly ran in front of the TV,” he said. “The next day, I was there as early as possible. When he saw me, I had a Port Authority shirt on. I couldn’t even get the words out. He got emotional. They had this big poster of many people, and one of them was my brother.”
Amatuccio went back to the museum several times.
“People would stop and look at the photos,” he said. “Like a proud brother, I couldn’t stop talking about him.”