Son of 9/11 victim writes memoir to inspire hope
The heartbreaking news of his father's untimely death was Matt Bocchi's launching point for years' worth of psychological and physical torment, and a devastating act of abuse that stripped away his boyhood.
The Morristown resident was just 9 years old when he was ushered out of class and informed that a plane had crashed into the building where his father works, the north tower of the World Trade Center.
His father John, at 38 years old, would become one of the 650+ Cantor Fitzgerald employees killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Leading up to the 19th anniversary of the tragic events, Sept. 8 marked the release of Bocchi's book Sway, the first published memoir told by the child of a 9/11 victim, which details his personal story and the lessons learned since his father's passing.
The book's title is a metaphor for what Bocchi's had to endure over the years, the author said. But it also connects to his visit at age 8 to the 105th floor of the Manhattan skyscraper, for a Cantor Fitzgerald holiday party.
"(My dad) told us to go up to the window and look down. We could see and feel the building swaying in the wind," Bocchi said.
After his father's death, Bocchi became incessantly interested in learning more about his father's final moments before the building collapsed, Bocchi said.
"I was so incessant about asking these questions. I literally wouldn't stop," he said.
Bocchi was led to believe his father had jumped from the tower that day, but that was not the truth. The lie, Bocchi said, was delivered by a family member who wanted to "help," and sexually abused him in the process.
"It was an uncle through marriage who took me under his wing," Bocchi said. "I think when he realized that's what it would take to ultimately strip my vulnerability and innocence, he used it and preyed upon it."
Bocchi ultimately went down a path of drug and alcohol abuse. He tried multiple times to sober up, but didn't really care about getting clean.
"Eventually I got to a point where I wanted to get sober and wanted to change my life," he said.
The 28-year-old is now more than five years sober. Speaking at schools about his story led to the writing of his book.
"I want to show the resilience and strength that my story encapsulates, and I think that it's a lot to learn from," Bocchi said.
Bocchi said he also wants to urge people "to never forget" the events of 9/11 and the thousands of lives lost.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.