Margiotta more than a victim to some

Margiotta more than a victim to some


Missing: Lieutenant Charlie "Chuck" Margiotta, New York City Fire Department. Few Smith Countians have ever heard the name nor seen his face, but Lieutenant Margiotta knew about Smith County's picturesque rolling hills, its meandering rivers and streams and the slower paced life style of its people.

Unknown to most residents, Lieutenant Margiotta visited Smith County in August, just days before he became "missing". The few Smith County residents who know Lieutenant Margiotta began praying last Tuesday that he would no longer be "missing".

For Lieutenant Margiotta to return to his friends and family will take nothing short of a miracle-which has yet to happen a week after he was deemed "missing".

Lieutenant Margiotta was one of the hundreds of. New York firemen who first rushed to the twin, 110 story, World Trade Center office towers when two hijacked jetliners crashed into the buildings.
When the first airplane struck, Lieutenant Margiotta, aboard Rescue Unit 5, rushed to the scene with fellow firemen, not knowing that the building would be a crumbled pile of steel and cement within minutes after his arrival.

The Man
During his brief stay here, Lieutenant. Margiotta did not have time to learn volumes about our county but relatives say he observed enough to appreciate it. And Smith County's people will feel an appreciation for Lieutenant Margiotta when they learn a little about him.

Last month, Lieutenant Margiotta was in Smith County to visit New Middleton residents Phil and Cynthia Neilson, who relocated here from Staten Island, New York four years ago. Lieutenant Margiotta, or Chuck as his friends and family call him, is Phil Neilson's first cousin.

Chuck is one of an estimated 300 New York firemen and several thousand residents who have been "missing" since the twin towers fell. "He was a colorful man…a character," described Cynthia Neilson. "He was a big man (both in physical size and stature) who had friends everywhere."

Since learning last Tuesday afternoon Chuck was "missing", his wife, Norma, and two children, Norma Jean, 13, and Charlie, 11, along with other family members have been waiting to hear from him or at least someone who knows of his whereabouts. Individuals have searched New York hospitals and its streets in hopes of locating Chuck. A lot of people have been searching for him. They will continue to until there is no hope," said Neilson.
The family suspects they know where Chuck might be right now but have no way of reaching him. That's why they still hold on to a faint hope that a miracle will emerge from beneath the rubble of the twin towers.

At Chuck's Staten Island home and next door at his mother's home, a candle light vigil, which began last Tuesday, continues. If the miracle doesn't happen, Chuck will remain "missing" to his family forever. "He's going to remain missing. People can't kill the spirit of a decent human being. To say they killed him would be giving them (the terrorists) the benefit," said Neilson. "We still hope for a miracle that they will find him," Neilson said Monday; "but as each day goes on it's hard to believe that will happen."

"As each day goes by, we realize he's not coming back, but don't want to admit its over," said Neilson, who finds' some solace when realizing there are other families experiencing the same situation.

"Chuck, like the other firemen, chose to go in the burning building because that was their job. He would be proud of what he did," said Neilson, "If he could stop time and go back to before the buildings collapsed, he would put on his gear and go back inside."

As he was heading to the World trade Center aboard Rescue Unit 5, Lieutenant Margiotta telephoned his mother to tell her his destination. "I think he knew from the start the magnitude of what was happening," speculated Neilson. The fireman's family assumed he was just doing his job until Tuesday afternoon when they learned he was "missing".

In addition to being a fireman, Lieutenant Margiotta was also a movie stuntman and had most recently worked in the film Hannibal.

When visiting Smith County, Lieutenant Margiotta rode horses on the Neilsons farm and went with them to the DeKalb County Fair. "He enjoyed the woods, hunting, fishing and country life in general," described Neilson. "He would have not wanted this (his death) to be what his life was all about. He would have liked to have been known as a good father, husband and son, a decent man," said Neilson. "He grabbed life and shook it; only this time life grabbed him back." Lieutenant Margiotta talked about retiring from the fire department this year.

The Neilsons, former residents of New York, Phil and Cynthia Neilson lost a number of friends and knew others who lost friends in last week's terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The morning of the attack, the Neilsons were traveling by car to Hermitage. As they rode along Interstate 40 they were listening to the Bob and Tom Show, a morning radio program, when they heard an airplane had struck one of the two 110 story towers.

"I thought they were just kidding at first but then I realized by the tone of the speaker's voice this was really happening," said Cynthia Neilson, whose husband works in the movie industry. As soon as the first airplane struck, Neilson said she felt something was wrong because airplanes were not allowed to fly in that area of the city.

The couple, who discovered Smith County after returning to their home state from Selma, Alabama, managed to get to a television in the Nashville area and saw the second airplane strike the second 110 story tower. "Being from New York, as soon as we heard the first airplane had struck, my husband turned to me and said, 'It was terrorists' ", said Neilson.

Despite the grim news, as a result of last week's terrorist attack, Neilson says she has found herself even laughing as she recalled Lieutenant Margiotta’s life. "I have spent the last couple of days remembering him. I have laughed about some of the things he has done. I cried when I remembered what kind of person he was. We're really proud of him," said Neilson.

Inside this week's, edition the Courier has a full page remembering Lieutenant Margiotta which was placed by Neilson and her husband. "In addition to thanking all the people who prayed for Chuck, we wanted to show people how far this attack reached," said Neilson. "I wanted people to see a face, and to know that there was a life that went with this face. I also want them to know this horrifying crime reached further' than they realize."

After returning home Tuesday afternoon the Neilsons tried to get in touch with relatives in New York but were unable to because the telephone lines were tied up.

Like others the Neilsons were stunned when the two 110 story towers gave way. "When I heard of the first collapse, I thought they couldn't have reported it right," commented Neilson. "One of the family members went to the scene Sunday night and said what remains of the building looks like the gates to hell."

"It's important to understand the devastating loss. This affects all walks of life and all ages. Everyone on those airplanes thought they were going to California. People thought it was just another work day," said Neilson. "This was a defining moment. It will be how life was before September 11, 2001 and how it changed September 12, 2001."

 Ed West / Cartharge Courier