A removed kidney at age 18 dashed Arthur Lorenzo’s hopes of joining the military or working in law enforcement or as a firefighter.
However, Lorenzo, a native New Yorker who lives in Carthage, said he has tried to make up for his lack of service by paying tribute to Sept. 11, 2001 — a day in which nearly 3,000 people died after terrorists hijacked four planes.
Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Passengers who learned about the earlier hijackings that day stormed the fourth plane, causing it to crash in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Lorenzo, 65, said he penned a poem about the day and mailed and handed out more than 30,000 copies of it over a five-year period.
“This is my life,” Lorenzo said Wednesday as he oversaw a 9/11 memorial at the Longview Public Library. “This is my way of paying back my country.”
Lorenzo, who was living in Las Vegas during 9/11, said he began gathering memorabilia about two weeks after the attacks.
“I spend about 2,000 hours a year going through thrift shops trying to find little pieces,” he said.
He assembled the memorabilia Wednesday on tables and a wall in the library. He conducted the memorial over the past four years in Carthage but moved it to Longview because the Carthage City Commission declined to cover the cost for use of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, he said.
The memorial included flags that list the names of first responders and everyone who died during 9/11, newspaper front pages, two stuffed teddy bears and a stuffed American eagle, a wreath, commemorative bowls and plates, a photo collage of Ground Zero (where the World Trade Center once stood) and a moving screen of the New York City skyline.
Lorenzo also provided a display that contained a commemorative coin made from a sewer pipe from the World Trade Center, a cross made from debris from the building and a bolt from the building.
He also displayed crime scene yellow tape, a helmet, gloves, safety vests and a protective mask that were not part of 9/11. He said his intent in doing so was to feel what the day was like.
Lorenzo explained the memorial to a small gathering around lunch time and drew praise.
“I think it is fabulous, comprehensive,” said Rich Prickitt, a Longview resident who arrived at the library not knowing about the memorial. He added the memorial took him back to a conversation he had with a stockbroker who was watching TV when a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.
“I could not catch my breath,” recalled Prickitt, who said he is retired from a career in law enforcement.
Like Prickitt, retired teacher Sharon Burkett of Longview also used the word “fabulous” to describe the memorial.
Burkett, who was accompanied by her husband, Ken, said she was teaching her fourth-grade students in Hallsville when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center.
“She told me that her kids (in class) were confused and scared,” her husband said.
New York native Steven Filippazzo arrived to provide pizzas from his family’s restaurant, and described the memorial as being “very somber. I have lots of family that still live in New York.”
Filippazzo, who said he visited Ground Zero in 2005, said people “just remember it for one day,” adding they need to do so throughout the year.