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West Orange Coaches Reflect: 10 Years Later

Coaches remember lost friends

The events of 9/11 made West Orange High School boys soccer coach Doug Nevins realize how so many things around us are unimportant. 

A high school acquaintance, Brett T. Bailey, a West Orange resident and Seton Hall Prep graduate, was 28. He was engaged to be married in 2002. He had played football and ice hockey and was a surfer and lifeguard at the shore. He worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange before taking a job as an options broker in 1998 with Euro Brokers in the World Trade Center.

"Something like that happens, and you think 'how important is it to win and or lose a soccer game?'" he said. "I knew a lot of people who lost loved ones. You think of somebody like Brett, a kid I competed against. I was thinking about his mom and dad, how sad it is."

Nevins said his wife called him to tell him about the first plane attack.
"I just thought it was one of those accidents," he said.

Nevins was teaching at Edison Middle School at the time. He remembers his senior captain John Yee was scheduled to take his driver’s test that day.

"Nobody was there and the guy didn’t know what to do, whether to get somebody," Nevins said. "He was so upset, so he said, 'we’ll just pass you.' Everything that happened was so crazy. My wife and I drove over to Rock Spring Country Club. I can remember seeing the smoke; the towers had collapsed by then, to see the towers collapse, how eerie it was."

The attack made Nevins think of how the United States is often taken for granted by its citizens.

"We live such a comfortable life in this country, sometimes we lose site of how fortunate and privledged we are," Nevins said. "My life has brought me into so many families of other countries. We hear their stories and you think how lucky we are living here and how much we take for granted."

West Orange High track and field coach Joe Picateggio knew the area around the World Trade Center very well. Picateggio worked for Lucent Technologies about a mile away from the Twin Towers right across from Madison Square Garden at 510 Plaza.

Picateggio had just retired and was trying to get a few questions answered about his finances when the attacks happened.

"I was thinking 'these people take your money, but don’t pick up the phone,'" he recalled. "I put the television on and I went to CNN and from there I went to Eagle Rock. The police were already there. I was stuck in traffic when the first tower was hit."

Picateggio said he knew two people who perished.

"One of them was a friend of mine’s son," he said.

Kristen O’Connell was a sophomore at East Stroudsburg University (Pa.) that sunny Tuesday morning.

"I must have had a morning class," said O’Connell, the West Orange High girls volleyball coach. "I was with my friend Tara and after class we got something to eat at the Student Union. When the attack first started I just remembered seeing people gathering around the televisions and watching. My (volleyball) coach and the assistant were passing by. I just knew that we went back to our dorm room and kind of watching it live on television. I was kind of far away, but if I was home (in Wanaque) I would have seen some of the effects."

She said she tried to call home because her brother often went into the city. "I was nervous about it," she said. 

Ten years later she remembered feeling angry.

"I guess I was in shock, worse, upset, angry," she said.

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