The 2996 Project: In Memory of Michael J. Pascuma, Jr.

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The 2,996 project is an ongoing collective tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I signed up during its first year (in 2006). You were assigned a name, at random, of one of the people murdered on September 11, 2001.

I was assigned Michael Pascuma, Jr.

I cannot pretend to know Michael Pascuma. But now I can’t imagine that a September 11th will go by without me thinking, specifically, of him and his family.

Here is a post in tribute of a man taken too soon.

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Michael Pascuma, Jr., center, with his family on a recent vacation. Left to right are his son Michael, wife Linda, daughter Melissa, and son Christopher.

Newsday article:
Michael J. Pascuma
Broker didn’t sweat ‘the small things’
April 19, 2002

Every Tuesday morning, Michael J. Pascuma Jr. of Massapequa Park would take a short stroll from the American Stock Exchange to meet colleagues for a breakfast conference at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center.

“They would conduct business and maybe later tell a few jokes,” recalled his daughter, Melissa Pascuma, a fourth-grade teacher at the Shaw Avenue Elementary School in Valley Stream.

Pascuma, 50, worked as an independent stock trader with his father at their firm, MJP Securities. Both held seats on the exchange. The senior Pascuma, 93, still works as a trader at the exchange. Shortly before the terrorist attack. MJP merged with another firm and is now called Harvey, Young & Yurman.

Pascuma’s daughter said that immediately after the first plane struck the north tower, her brother, Michael, reached their father by cell phone. “I have to get out of here. There’s a fire,” were the last words he said to his family. The trendy restaurant was located on the 107th floor of Tower One. Pascuma’s remains were discovered shortly after the disaster, and a memorial service was held at St. Rose of Lima Church in Massapequa.

“My father had the most amazing sense of humor,” said Melissa Pascuma. “He thoroughly loved telling jokes to the family and his friends. He was constantly generous with everyone around him, and he enjoyed every single day of his life.”

She said her father was fond of chatting online with friends and was an avid golfer. “He never worried about the small things. He knew what mattered,” she said.

Pascuma’s wife, Linda, said, “My husband was a wonderful family man who was very much loved and appreciated by everyone.”

The couple would have been married 27 years on Sept. 21. Linda Pascuma called the entire family “Disney-O-Philes.” “For the past seven years at Easter time, we’d all go to Disney World for 10 days,” she said. A friend served as travel agent and also went along on the trips. The annual event also included her sister’s family, bringing the fun-seeking entourage up to about a dozen members, recalled Linda Pascuma.

“Sometimes when my husband got a little bored with things, he’d go off to play golf while we went on the rides and things,” she said. “But it always was a trip we’d talk about all year.”

Pascuma, who grew up in Richmond Hill, never attended college but as a young man learned the ins and outs of stock trading from his father, still a well-known figure in financial circles who remembers the stock market crash of 1929.

Besides his wife and daughter, both of Massapequa Park, Pascuma is survived by his sons, Michael, a college student at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.; Christopher, a Massapequa High School student; and his parents, Michael and Ada, of Richmond Hill.

–Bill Kaufman (Newsday)

I went to the memorial sites where people who knew the victims could leave tributes and I came across the following message:

You will be missed. Thank you for all of your kindness. I will miss being your customer. Anne Boudreaux (New Orleans, LA )

There were many messages I found from family members, childhood friends, but this one in particular really struck me: “I will miss being your customer.” How many businessmen can say that there will be those left behind who will say, “I will miss being your customer“?

Other people from Mr. Pascuma’s life left tributes on various victims’ sites – and here are some personal memories of him.

Childhood friend Al Husni:

“I will always remember growing up with Michael. Playing ball, hanging out at PS66 with Michael, Chris, Latz, and the rest of the gang. His sense of humor, his gentleness, will never be forgotten by myself or those who knew him.”

Michael’s cousin Susan wrote, in 2006:

It’s sad to think about all of this even five years later. You are a grandfather now and you are not with your family. Life seems so unfair. Not a day goes by that you or your family are not thought about. May God Bless you and your family always. You all are always in our prayers.

Childhood friend Robert A. Maltempo:

“I grew up across the street from Michael, moving away from Richmond Hill at the age of twelve. I will always remember the good times we had and what a wonderful father Michael had (he treated me like his son). I remember playing ring-a-leevio until dark, seemingly every evening, at P.S. 66. I remember Billy Speckman and also another friend of mine and Mikes, named Michael (I’m butchering his last name) Krachunis) who lived next door to Michael. Had many, many wonderful times growing up with Michael…his basement that was full of miniature/toy construction equipment, the NY ranger games his family took us to, a row boat trip with Michael’s father singing “Michael Row the Boat to Shore” while Mike and I struggled with the oars.

George Moeser tells some really beautiful and funny stories about Michael Pascuma:

I met Michael Pascuma through my sister Jean Barone back in the 1980’s when my (now) ex-wife and I visited her and her (now) ex husband Tommy Barone during a Christmas holiday. We attended a party hosted by the family that owned the Mermaid Restaurant. Of all the people we met at that party in Massapequa Park, Michael was the standout. He was and still remains one of the nicest most genuine people I have met in this life. His warmth, demure and canny sense of humor along with that winning smile of his were a true reflection of great soul, something that can not be faked, learned or acquired.

He and his wife opened his home to us as if he had known us all his life. I met his father and talked about his horses. His wife Linda and Bianca became friends. Later that week we met him for a visit to the exchange where he worked, but I didn’t know there was the dress code and said he could take Bianca inside and I would wait. Michael thought for a moment then said, “Come on in with me, it will does these guys good to shake them up a little bit.” As we went on to the floor, all three of us were pelted with spit-balls and hoots laughter from the men and women working there, all in good natured fun. One of the keenest impressions I got about Michael was that you could sense the friendship and admiration his coworkers felt for him. He later told me, to his knowledge I was the only person in the history of NYSE to walk the floor in a cowboy hat and blue jeans.

The irony for me in learning of his tragic and untimely death was that he took Bianca and I to the Windows on the World Restaurant for lunch that day. I still have the photo Bicana and myself with the Manhattan backdrop taken by Michael. I have another of him and I on the train with him pretending to pick my pocket in an exaggerated pose, this great smile stealing the scene. Later in the week he met us for lunch again, this time to the Carnegie Deli. He didn’t want us to miss what he called the best corn beef sandwich on the planet – It was.

When we returned to Tucson, he would sometimes call the Boss Shears, the hair salon Bianca and I owned. Pretending to be a first time customer, he would ask if we took late appointments, saying he would have to fly in from New York. The receptionist would ask Bianca and I if we wanted a late appointment. And one or the other of us would ask what time. Then Michael would ask to speak to one of us, and I would recognize his voice instantly. He would laugh and say he might be able to catch the red-eye, get his haircut and fly back in time for work, but would bring two corn beef sandwiches from Carnegie as a tip for staying late.

Over the years we would fly back to New York on the holidays or a family function. Each time Michael and I saw each other again, it wasn’t as if years had past but only days since our last laugh, shared antidote or exchange of impressions.

Years later I was divorce, my sister was also divorced, and had moved to Brooklyn. She and I became estranged and I lost contact with her friends from Massapequa Park. My ex wife kept in touch with my sister Jean and Bianca continued to exchange Christmas card with the Pascuma family, but I lost touch. It was years later when I asked how he was doing that I learned he had died in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. That he died at the very same place where he and I had shared laughter over a meal was deeply moving to me. My eyes filled with tears and I prayed the Lord to bless him and keep him in all his ways. I still do.

Charlie Manos wrote:

You walked into my crowd on the floor of the Amex, and there it was a grin from ear to ear – always happy. I am blessed to have worked with you. I miss you guys. God bless.

Debbie Lenge wrote, in 2007:

With each day that passes you are missed more and more. “Nealon” events are just not the same without you. You would be amazed to see how the gang has grown. I often think about our commute–in the early days you made my trek into BBDO so enjoyable! Every morning was a comedy show. Few people can make me laugh as much and as hard as you did. Your granddaughter is absolutely beautiful. She looks just like her mommy. Melissa is a wonderful mom–you would be so proud of her. And Michael, I have to say from the bottom of my heart that you and Linda could not have raised better children. All three of your children are beautiful on the inside and out. They are truly class acts. If my children turn out half as good as yours did, I will feel like a success. I miss your jokes. I miss your stories. I miss you calling me an idiot. I miss the disapproving looks you gave me. I miss you shaking your head at me. But most of all I miss smashing pie in your face! You will never be forgotten. You are in our hearts forever!

On April 22, 2005, Michael Pascuma’s daughter Melissa had a baby girl whom they named Madison Michael. It would have been Michael Pascuma’s first grandchild.

Melissa wrote to her father on Sept. 12, 2005:

Daddy,
I miss you more and more each day, month and year. I would do anything to get a tight hug from you, hear your laugh, or hear one of your jokes. There are very few children in this world that have an amazingly exceptional father. I am so thankful I happen to be one of them. You held our family together and were the kindest, most generous human being that lived. You did not deserve this. You are a grandpa now. She carries the name of a hero, Madison Michael. Love you endlessly, Your princess

Michael Pascuma’s son Michael wrote:

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and will be Madison’s first. You should be here sharing this with us in more than just spirit. I wish there was something I could do because I would in a second! There is so much that we never got to do or say and I would do anything for 1 more minute. I was in Miami this past weekend and saw more Ferraris than ever before and I didn’t have you to call. For a split second I thought call Dad and then realied that can never happen again. I will never forget all the times we did share and will cheerish those forever. I miss all the things we used to do together and wish we could play one more round of golf. I would even take just being able to hear one more joke and hear your laugh. I miss and love you so much and I’m getting to upset to continue writing.

The NY Times Portraits of Grief piece on Michael J. Pascuma says:

Golf was Michael J. Pascuma Jr.’s consuming passion. He played every Saturday with a group of friends from work, at courses all over Long Island. He watched golf endlessly on television.

Michael, 50, immersed himself in everything, whether it was golf, his family in Massapequa Park or his work as a stockbroker on the American Stock Exchange. Work and family were entwined: he and his 92- year-old father, Michael J. Pascuma Sr., possibly the oldest broker in the United States, had their own firm, M.J.P. Securities, which recently merged with Harvey, Young & Yurman.

“You would think it was a stressful job, but he was never stressed,” said his 23-year- old daughter, Melissa Pascuma, whom he called his little princess. He also had two sons, ages 20 and 17. “As soon as he came home, he detached from it and his family was No. 1.”

Michael’s wife Linda:

My husband, Michael J. Pascuma, Jr., was an only child. Michael worked with his father on the American Stock Exchange. His father is still employed there at 93 years old. His mother is 89.

He was very well liked and a very respected Stockbroker. He was a very fair and honest person. He had a great sense of humor. He loved telling jokes or playing pranks at work.

He also loved playing golf. He played every Saturday with friends. He had started to travel a little to play on different courses.

Most importantly, Michael was a great father. He had three children, a daughter and two sons. His children loved him. He never fought or got mad at them. He would do anything for them. His sons enjoyed playing golf with him. He never worried about the small things. He loved life and appreciated everything he had. He knew what was important. If they made a mistake or if there was a problem he would always say it didn’t matter as long as everyone was healthy.

We struggle every day without him and he is truly missed by his family, friends and co-workers.

From the Amityville Record:
September 26, 2001

Michael Pascuma knew he had a great dad. Over the years, he had never heard his dad raise his voice or lose his temper, and he always knew he was there for him and his brother and sister and mother if they ever needed him.

But it wasn’€™t until Michael Pascuma had a chance to work with his dad at the New York Stock Exchange that the younger Michael realized that his father was a person who treated everyone with respect and kindness.

“Even the man at the truck where he picked up his coffee and newspaper in the morning knew him by name and knew how he took his coffee,” said Michael Pascuma. “I saw that everyone liked him and liked to be around him.”

Michael Pascuma Jr., 50, died Tuesday morning, September 11 as terrorists crashed two commercial jetliners into the Twin Towers in New York City. He was having breakfast at Windows on the World as he did every Tuesday morning.

“When I heard that a plane had hit the Towers, I didn’t think much about my husband’s safety,” said Linda Pascuma. “I knew he worked in the area and occasionally had breakfast at the Windows on the World but thought – €˜what are the chances of his being there just as the planes hit?”

That misplaced sense of security was quickly shattered as Linda Pascuma received an urgent call from her son Michael who is a student at Sacred Heart College in Connecticut. “He knew my husband’s schedule because he had worked with him over the summer and knew that on Tuesday morning, every Tuesday morning, he and the other members of the firm met for breakfast there.” The young Michael had called his father on his cell phone after the first plane hit. It was a brief, ten second conversation before the phone lines went dead, but his son managed to get one, final plea out: “I told him to get out of the building,” said his son.

But like the thousands of others who perished in that cruel attack, Michael Pascuma Jr. perished. Unlike many of the other families, however, the body of Michael Pascuma was recovered and identified.

Linda Pascuma said that is the result of the intervention of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“Whenever I go on a long trip, I take a small statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that my grandmother gave to me,” said Linda Pascuma. “For some reason that morning, when I left the house to drive my husband to the station, I grabbed the statue and took it with me. I believe it was because my husband was the one who needed him that day.”

After watching the horrific pictures of the attack on the television, Linda Pascuma thought her husband’s body would never be found and she prayed. “I told the Sacred Heart that if my kids have to go through this to please allow us to have some closure. I didn’€™t want them to have to live in limbo, always wondering.”

Her prayers were answered and the Pascuma’s were able to lay Michael Pascuma Jr. to rest last week.

Linda and Michael Pascuma would have shared their 27th wedding anniversary Friday. The couple met through friends and made a life together in Massapequa, raising their family here. Michael Pascuma worked for NJP Securities, which merged recently with Harvey, Young and Yurman.

She described him as a man who never worried about small things and who enjoyed life. “He would always say to me that I shouldn’t worry about the small things that didn’t matter. He played golf every week; we went on vacations together to Disney World and he even got a chance recently to drive a race car. He was a wonderful husband and a wonderful father.”

In addition to his wife and his son Michael, Michael Pascuma Jr., is survived by his other son Christopher and his daughter Melissa, as well as by his father Michael Pascuma Sr., and his mother Ada.

His daughter is engaged to be married next year, a family event that will bring both joy and sorrow to the family, undoubtedly. “My daughter will be married and not have a father to walk her down the aisle,” said Linda Pascuma who added that she’€™s angry and outraged by the attacks.

“My husband was murdered by these people. I am angry because our system let him down. Not one, but two airplanes were hijacked from the same airport. In an effort in this country to be nice to everyone, we didn’€™t keep our own people safe.”

The anger comes in waves, replaced by sorrow and grief. In the next moment, Linda Pascuma cries a little and apologizes. She says that she asks only that people know that her husband was a good man and a good father and that his wife and his children loved him dearly and will miss him terribly.

“We want everyone to know that,” she said. “Just that.”

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(photo taken by me, at the Tiles for America display, corner of 7th Avenue South and 11th Street)

The purpose of the 2,996 project was tribute, memory, and personalization of the almost 3,000 human beings killed that day. Names, histories, loved ones, not just a statistic. Billy Collins, former poet laureate of the United States, wrote a poem about 9/11 called “Names” that is well worth posting today.

The Names
by Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name —
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner —
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening — weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds —
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

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27 Responses to The 2996 Project: In Memory of Michael J. Pascuma, Jr.

  1. Lisa says:

    Something tells me I don’t need to wear mascara on Monday.

  2. Kerry says:

    I don’t even know him and it still made me cry.

  3. Stevie says:

    My heart is full. Thank you for this beautiful tribute, and for the opportunity to know Mr. Pascuma.

  4. red fish says:

    What a wonderful man! It rips at the heart. I originally wanted to read all of the tributes, but after reading the one I posted again (I wrote it several weeks ago) and reading yours, I don’t think my heart can handle it.

  5. Laura says:

    That was absolutely beautiful, Sheila. When one thinks of 9/11 victims as people, not numbers. Each person had a story, a family..a life left behind. The ripple effect is enormous. It’s hard to believe 5 years have already passed by, but my heart still aches as though it just happened yesterday.

    God bless you, Sheila…that was an amazing thing to read.

  6. Alex says:

    I’m proud to call you my friend Sheila. You are a gift and seriously amazing.

    And Michael sounds like someone who would have really enjoyed you. Someone who’d be proud for you to represent him and honor his life and what it meant.

    This is mind boggling. Thank you for this.

  7. Jay says:

    Thank you, Sheila

  8. Ceci says:

    Beautiful, Sheila. Thank you for letting us get to know Michael Pascuma.

    My thoughts are with him, with the people like him that we lost five years ago today, with their families, and with all New Yorkers. All of you have my deepest admiration and respect.

  9. RTG says:

    What a beautiful, moving tribute. Well done, Red.

  10. mitch says:

    Well done, Red. As always.

  11. Another Sheila says:

    Your post is just beautiful. Thank you. What an amazing project. I followed your link and found the tribute to a good friend of my sister. Lovely. Out of so much badness, so much goodness has come forth.

  12. Jackie says:

    Amazing man and amazing remembrances by friends and family. They are all truly carrying his light.

  13. Alex Nunez says:

    This tribute leaves one feeling emotionally fulfilled and drained at the same time. If that’s how I feel after reading it, I can only imagine how it felt to write it. Thanks for doing this, Sheila.

  14. Michael Pascuma says:

    Thank you for this

  15. Melissa Pascuma says:

    Dear Sheila,
    Thank you so much for this tribute. I laughed and cried. I received this web page from my brother on a day that I was really missing my dad. You really captured the true essence of who my dad was. It is still hard for me to believe he is not with us anymore and never will be. The stories that George Moeser told were great because I never heard them before, but at the same time could see it happening b/c that is who my dad was: smiling, laughing, joking and giving. As I grew up and I was faced with responsibility and daily stresses I couldn’t believe how my father never could have a bad day and always turned any situation into a joke. Being with him was unpredictable and fun, but at the same time was the safest I have ever felt. Again, thank you for being such a special person to do this for a man and a family you have never even met. Love, Melissa Pascuma

  16. red says:

    Michael, Melissa:

    I am gladder than words can say that you feel I did some sort of small justice to your father.

    He sounds like such a wonderful person. I am so sorry for your loss. Can’t even imagine.

    Best to you all,

    Sheila

  17. gina in alabama says:

    Whatever became of the Tiles? that was such a wonderful project. One of my favorites was simply blue, that blue sky blue, and had a simple line outlining the towers and accompanying immediate skyline. Thank you for posting this, Sheila. I make sure to visit you on this day each year. This link is to a poem I love. http://nielsenhayden.com/110.html 110 Stories by John M. Ford. I have always wanted to stage a performance of 110 Stores, perhaps a small theatre, and each person reading a line at random, maybe based on their ticket number, and the line would be attached to the seat like a flip card at a game.

    • sheila says:

      Gina – unfortunately the Tiles for America display is no more. It was there for years and now – construction is going on on that little vacant lot. Probably to make room for condos or a Starbucks and it made me so sad. I am sure the Tiles are safe somewhere – but that display was so meaningful. Yes, “The Sky Was So Blue” – that was my favorite tile – although the tiles sent in by firemen in, say, Norway … or little kids in Beijing sending in a tile saying how sorry they were … the whole thing was just so powerful.

      Thank you for the link to the poem – I will read it later.

  18. KC says:

    Thank you for the tribute. I never knew about project 2996, but think it’s an amazing concept.

    I lived in Philly, my brother was stationed at Rammstein, our parents in Arizona on 9/11. I remember my surprise that my mom and brother were most worried about ME. But then, no one knew what the next 5 minutes would bring. I see 9/11 as the day I became an adult. It was day I realized the world is not always what we had hoped it will be. I had never been to NYC, and was originally supposed to be in D.C. for the first time on 9/11. I was determined to make the pilgrimage to Ground Zero before it became something else. I needed to see it for myself. There is a photo of me with tears streaming down my face, looking up to where the towers should have been. I can see the utter confusion on my face, even 5 years hence at that point. It was tempting to delete that photo, but I still remember that feeling. It’s important not to hide from these feelings. For years, I would hole up on 9/11 and watch the programs, feeling guilty if I were to spend the day doing normal things. Nothing on 9/11 will ever be normal again. I have loved the idea of community service on the anniversary, what a wonderful way to bring meaning to what seems such a senseless tragedy.

    Last summer, I came to Philly to see my best friend and help her with her new baby for 3 weeks. The only thing I asked was that we see the memorial and museum. They were both even more powerful than I imagined. I was very proud of the way New Yorkers, and the rest of the country came together on 9/11. Your stories and poems revive that feeling and help me recall what continues to make NYC so special. Thank you.

  19. Susana Elaine Pascuma says:

    thank you so much.. my cousin was so loved.. he is missed by all who knew him. may He rip always.

  20. Mark Johnson says:

    I knew Michael and his father very well. The week before 9/11 Michael called me to tell me about his new business endeavor, and to scold me (in jest) for retiring from the business because I would no longer be his customer. We had a long wonderful talk and I wished him well. I told my wife about how much I always enjoyed doing business with Michael because he was the most honest and pleasant man I knew. I am one of those who will always miss being his customer, and Michael Sr’s as well.
    My heartfelt condolences to his family always.
    RIP Michael.

  21. John Vail says:

    A powerful, moving portrait that I will feel an urgent need to revisit every year. Thanks you so much Sheila. Michael Pascuma presente!

  22. Aslan'sOwn says:

    Thank you for sharing. The people who died that day — they weren’t just a number, a statistic, a fatality. They were individuals who loved and were loved. I’m glad I got the chance today to read about Michael.

  23. Anne Boudreaux Rooks says:

    Michael was the only person I knew, personally, who perished in the attacks. I think about him every year, and today googled his name to re-read some of the tributes to him. Imagine my surprise when I saw my own name. I’m Anne – the woman in New Orleans who adored Michael and his father. And I still miss being his customer 15 years later.

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