Alice Martin remembers it like it was yesterday.
Her husband, a lieutenant in the FDNY’s Rescue 2, left his Miller Place home on Monday afternoon, Sept. 10, for his 24-hour shift in Brooklyn. He was supposed to come home Tuesday night, but he unfortunately never walked back through the door.
“I left all the lights on in the house,” she said. “I left the front door unlocked because I figured maybe if he gets his way home somehow, he would just come in.”
The mom of three boys, ages 13, 8 and 6, had just finished dropping them off at the bus stop when the first plane hit the tower on Sept. 11.
“As the day unfolded, and I was watching the news, I realized he could be there because even though he didn’t work in Manhattan, he was in a rescue company,” she said.
But Peter was always fine, Alice thought. “Then by six o’clock, when obviously he never called and then he didn’t come home, it became very real.”
Looking back two decades later, she doesn’t know how she did it.
“It was beyond horrible,” she said. “But especially as a mom, that’s really the key. I went into mommy gear right away. My kids needed me more than they’ve ever needed me, and I really needed to keep my head screwed on straight.”
Peter C. Martin began his career as an FDNY firefighter in 1979. A native of Valley Stream, he graduated from St. John’s University where he met his future wife.
“He was good at it and he loved it,” she said. “I think most of them do … It really is a calling.”
A full-time dad, who also worked at the Suffolk County Fire Academy as a teacher, she said her husband was just “a really good guy. A wonderful dad, and a wonderful husband.”
The two were married for 17 years when he passed away.
“It’s strange … I’ve been without him longer than I’ve been with him,” she said. “I never remarried, and my heart still belongs to him.”
According to Alice, Peter was just 43 years old on 9/11 and was among seven that were killed that day in his firehouse.
“I started calling the firehouse in Brooklyn and nobody was answering. My kids started asking questions,” she recalled. “And as the hours were going on, I felt useless because I wanted to do something. So, I actually started calling hospitals that I knew they were taking the wounded to.”
She eventually got a call that her husband was missing and unaccounted for.
“That’s when neighbors started coming over, people started reaching out to me, which was comforting in some ways and frightening at the same time,” she said.
Alice said the outpouring amount of love and support she and her boys got from the local community during that time was “wonderful.”
“I can say nothing bad,” she said. “There was just such a generous spirit from the people of Sound Beach, Miller Place and Rocky Point … That whole area, the letters I got from strangers.”
Peter was the only 9/11 victim from Miller Place.
“I have to say it was a horrible, horrible situation, but it was also — now looking back — just unbelievable, the goodness of people to strangers they never met,” she said.
Along with learning that a community can come together, Alice said she’s learned two other things after that day’s events.
“I believe in the gift of time with finding a new normal and learning how to live,” she said. “I started taking one thing at a time, whether big or small, I just took everything one thing at a time.”
Twenty years later, with her now-grown sons and a grandson who bears Peter’s name, they still talk about him every single day.
“Now the good thing is any stories that are told, it’s peaceful because we’re not crying, we’re just talking about him,” she said. “You just keep going, and I’m still going.”
Alice said that her husband would be “busting over the moon” knowing that he’s now a grandpa, and that the baby is Peter Charles Martin, the second.
“He’d be so happy to see that these three little boys have become three wonderful men, all doing wonderful things, all living their dreams,” she said.
And the sons followed in their dad’s footsteps. All three have begun careers helping other people; as a registered nurse, paramedic and licensed Master of Social Work.
“They’re definitely making a difference in the world,” she added. “He’d be so proud with everything.”
Peter loved snacks and Alice will be reminded of him when she bakes certain things.
“I don’t believe in closure, but I do believe in the gift of time and the healing that can come with that,” she said. “The hardest part is you have to go through it.”