Thanksgiving Traditions, Memories Have The Power To Heal

Emergency responders carry two American flags in the shape of the Twin Towers at the 2001 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan. Hundred watch them from the sidewalks.
A VIEW FROM THE MACY’S THANKSGIVING PARADE IN 2001. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SHERRY COHEN.

Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to catch up and look back on their shared memories. In the wake of 9/11, the tradition helped the nation recover, creating a space for people to reflect and make sense of the tragedy. The holiday can also be bittersweet for 9/11 family members, as they remember time spent with those they’ve lost. These three accounts show how our Thanksgiving traditions are both unique and universal in their power to comfort and heal.

Remembering the 2001 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

For many Americans, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a herald of the festive holiday season. After 9/11, it was also a healing event that helped return a sense of normalcy to a city and a nation still shocked by the terrorist attacks two months before.

The 2001 parade was observed with an undertone of grief. As recovery workers continued to search the pile at Ground Zero several miles away, first responders marched in the parade with two American flags that took the form of the fallen Twin Towers.

James Anthony Trentini smiles in a black-and-white photo from the Thanksgiving football game. In a second black-and-white photo, Trentini holds up a trophy his team won at the Thanksgiving game.

LEFT: PHOTOGRAPH OF JAMES ANTHONY TRENTINI COACHING ON THANKSGIVING DAY (1985). RIGHT: PHOTOGRAPH OF JAMES ANTHONY TRENTINI RAISING A TROPHY AFTER WINNING A THANKSGIVING DAY FOOTBALL GAME (1982). COLLECTION 9/11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM, GIFT OF JOE LEVASSEUR, FRIEND OF JAMES ANTHONY AND MARY BARBARA TRENTINI.

James Trentini’s Thanksgiving Traditions: Football and Lots of Food

James Anthony Trentini was a former high school football coach from Massachusetts with several quirky Thanksgiving traditions, his daughter Patti remembers. Every Turkey Day, two local rival football teams would face off. James would coach the game in shorts—no matter the temperature. “His reason for that was that the kids, his players, couldn’t complain about how cold it was if he was out there in shorts on a subzero day,” Patti said.

After the game, the Trentini family—James, his wife Mary, and their four children—would go to James’ sister’s house for a big meal with many relatives. Patti remembers her father following three football games at once; two broadcast on a pair of TVs and the third played from a radio. “That was his idea of heaven,” Patti said.

James was also known for his love of Thanksgiving food. Patti says there was a running joke in the family that her father would mingle with many guests throughout the day so “no one could see how much he really ate.”

James and Mary were among those killed on American Airlines Flight 11 on September 11, 2001. Every year James’ fellow coaches and former colleagues make a toast to the couple and wear shorts at the annual game to pay tribute.

Port Authority Police Lieutenant Robert Cirri and his wife Eileen Cirri smile together in an old photograph.

ROBERT D. CIRRI, SR. SEATED NEXT TO HIS WIFE, EILEEN, ON THEIR ENGAGEMENT DATE. COLLECTION 9/11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM, GIFT OF EILEEN MARY CIRRI.

Forgot to Bring the Gravy: Wife of PAPD Lieutenant Robert Cirri Recalls Thanksgiving Ruse

Families often share in holiday traditions unique to them. For Eileen Cirri, one of those was an annual ritual she shared with her husband, Port Authority Police Lieutenant Robert D. Cirri Sr.

Eileen remembers her husband as a very sarcastic and quick-witted man. When the two of them would sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, he’d seemingly start an argument about who was supposed to bring the gravy from the kitchen.

The apparent argument between the two of them would grow more heated, and their relatives would tense up. But it was all an orchestrated exchange—a ruse that allowed the two of them to steal a moment together in the kitchen and share a kiss.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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