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JoAnn Cohen

  /  JoAnn Cohen

JoAnn Cohen

JoAnn Cohen, December 8, 2003. Photo by Richard J. Halpern

Reminiscences of son Pepe (John Salvatore, Jr.) Salerno (d. September 11, 2001), trader of foreign currency at Cantor Fitzgerald.

JoAnn Cohen (1947- ) raised her family in Port Washington in the 1970s and 1980s. Her eldest son, John “Pepe” Salvatore Salerno, Jr. was working as a Trader of Foreign Currency at financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, headquartered between the 101st and 105th floors of One World Trade Center, on September 11, 2001. Every Cantor Fitzgerald employee who reported for work that day, including Pepe, was killed in the attack. In this oral history interview, Ms. Cohen relays memories of her son, describes her experiences searching for him in the weeks following the collapse of the Twin Towers, and her eventual realization of his death. She then discusses the comfort and friendship she went on to find in a support group for mothers who lost their children on September 11, and the ways in which she and her family continue to honor Pepe’s memory.

“I was getting ready for work…And I looked at the television, and I was like, ‘Oh, they must be showing clips of the World Trade of ’93.’ And then I saw ‘LIVE.’ And I ran downstairs. I had one shoe on. I ran downstairs, and I called Pepe immediately and I got no answer. I got no answer at his office. And then I tried him on his cell phone, and I got his recording…I must have called Pepe, in ten minutes, I probably called him ten times, between his office and his cell.”

“And my daughter was like ‘You should go to New Jersey.’ And I said, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here, because I’m waiting for Pepe to call.’ … And then – and people started coming over. And I was like, I don’t know – I couldn’t understand why everybody was making such a big deal. I really, in my heart, knew – I thought I knew – that Pepe was fine. I couldn’t – I didn’t – how could you believe something like that?”

Click here to access the complete oral history on the New York Heritage digital portal.