WTC survivor and Marine reflects on life and America since 9/11

Laura Donovan Contributor
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These days, Mark Finelli’s top priority is law school. After serving in the Marine Corps, the 35-year-old, who earned an MBA from the University of Arizona this year, wants to work in energy law.

But ten years ago, Finelli had more on his mind than academic pursuits. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Finelli needed to fulfill his caffeine fix while training for an investment banking position in the World Trade Center south tower. As he waited in line for coffee on the 61st floor, the north building was struck. Upon retrieving his cell phone from the boardroom, he rushed to the stairwell. Once Finelli made it outside, he sprinted to the Hudson River, hopped onto a fire department boat, and decided to enlist in the military, formally entering the Corps in 2003. Though the attacks had a strong impact, he believes he would have joined the service whether or not he’d been in New York City on 9/11.

“I think I would have gone on with a lot more of a clear head,” Finelli told The Daily Caller of “what could have been” had he not been part of the life-changing event. “I think I’d probably still be in the Marine Corps, because after going into Iraq and surviving 9/11 it’s a little jarring to dig through all of that. So I would think if I wasn’t in the building, I would be in the Marine Corps still. I wouldn’t have to have my MBA and doing law school.”

Today an inactive marine focused on energy law, Finelli still says he’d happily slim down so he could get back into the military in the event of another attack.

“I’m actually really [re-entering], after I lose some weight, to be frank,” Finelli said. “But if something really bad happens I’ll beg to get in. Even after 9/11 all the people that had just retired all tried to get back in. You know, the people that retired before 9/11 never really saw war if they missed the Persian Gulf War. And you can imagine, being a writer, if you spend 20 years working for a newspaper and never get to publish anything, and how frustrating that could be…I don’t like having other people fight my wars for me, that’s why I joined the Marine Corps initially after 9/11.”

As to be expected, the 1998 Hampden-Sydney College graduate, who is set to appear on “Fox and Friends” on the Sunday anniversary, had nightmares about 9/11 for many years.

“I don’t [have nightmares] anymore, [but] through my faith, through my friends, I’ve gotten through all of this,” Finelli said.

“Once I got into the Marine Corps and Iraq happened, I had to listen to every single minute in the news, how troops were sitting ducks and an intelligence failure…So that really took a toll on me, the nightmares and waking up shaking, thinking the roof is coming down and the ceiling. And that went on for about a year. …It was actually very therapeutic to go to Iraq, because I got to actually do something of substance, since I’d survived in New York.”

Though 9/11 preceded two wars, Finelli feels the United States has seen a lot of success in the War on Terror.

“The most important thing is that we’ve had success in the war. There hasn’t been a collective attack by the enemy on American soil in almost ten years,” Finelli said before the 9/11 anniversary. “So, that’s what I feel best about.”

Despite last week’s warning about al-Qaida threats to small airplanes in the days following the big anniversary, Finelli himself isn’t concerned about a 9/11 anniversary attack.

“Terror is the admittance of weakness, because you’re saying ‘I can’t fight you conventionally, I can’t fight you with an army, so I have to use terrorism.’ I flew back to Arizona after the 9/11 attacks, and I always joke it’s the only time I’ve flown first class because I was the only one on the flight. But that was the safest time in the history of the United States to fly, after the attack. There’s going to be no safer time to be in New York than this upcoming weekend.  No, I’m not worried.”

Jordan Bloom contributed to this report.

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