WELLINGTON, Fla. — Twenty years ago, lives changed forever for thousands of Americans. One family lost a loved one that day, and another member of WPTV NewsChannel 5.
Steve Villanueva, First Alert Weather meteorologist, recalls what happened that day as well as the hero he lost.
Sergio Gabriel Villanueva was Steve’s older brother. He was born in Argentina on July 4, 1968 and moved to the USA as a toddler. He was three-and a half years younger than Steve.
Steve stated that they shared a bedroom from the time I was 25 years old, so they were very close. We shared a bedroom until I was 25, so we were very close.” Steve said. All three of us were close to each other, my sister included.
His name is inscribed on the Wellington 9/11 Memorial with a fire shield. Sergio Villanueva was an heroic firefighter who died trying to save lives in the South Tower 20 years ago.
Steve, his mother, sister and Sergio’s fiancée plan to attend a remembrance ceremony in New York City.
He said, “I’m trying think about my emotional state when I am down at the World Trade Center site.” “On my way to work today I was trying to figure how this conversation would go and I just got emotional, tearsy-eyed so it can start to come on.”
He said that the day was still fresh to his mind even twenty years later.
“I called my mother and I was like, “He’s fine. Don’t be worried about it. He is in Brooklyn. Steve advised that it was not a good idea to get upset. Later that evening, I discovered that he had been missing for some time. They had a list with 343 missing people. My mother said that my body went to Jell O when I told her. I fell on the ground and began sobbing, sobbing, sobbing, and sobbing.
Soon after, the Villanueva families were given false hope when Sergio was removed from the unaccounted list. However, it was later revealed that the incorrect information was wrong and that Sergio was not on the unaccounted list. His name was instead under the clipboard.
Steve said that they all entered the building to assist as many people as possible. We eventually figured out that they entered the South Tower. They didn’t climb any higher than the roof. They were on the 20th or 19th floors. This is where they were when the tower fell.
Sergio was then engaged to his wife and would be getting married shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
He said, “She’s still my family.”
Steve spoke about life and called it a series if twists, turns. He spoke of a photograph taken years ago.
“My mom and brother, who were small, probably 2 years old, at the time, when the World Trade Center was going up, it was only steel beams and steel while it was being built,” he stated. My mother, who was brand new to America, just arrived.
The same steel is more than 1,000 miles away now from New York. Sergio’s mother was a would-be bride, her brother, sister and their families eventually moved to Florida.
Steve said, “Your life changes so drastically when something like that happens because if I were alive, who know where I would end up?” “Because my father died, I returned to New York immediately, met Noelle and married Noelle. Then I moved to Florida.
Steve said that the only thing that hurts him the most is that Sergio’s siblings and children don’t know about him.
He said, “They hear about his.” “They see pictures but don’t know his voice.”
Sergio’s memorabilia are kept by Steve around the house. They include a cigar box, a fire nozzle and a police cap. Sergio worked as a detective and police officer for 10 years before becoming an emergency responder in the wake of 9/11.
Steve is now 20 years old and wonders what his brother would think.
Steve stated, “I always try and figure out what he would look like at 53.”
He can only remember his boy by looking at old photographs.
“My youngest son reminds of me of my brother.” He said that he felt like they were the same person. “The older one, too, but it’s how he sits while he reads.”
Steve stated that his brother is with him always in spirit.
He had a big personality. He was funny, charming, outgoing, and very charming. He stated that people loved him. He was the centre of attention. This led to the fact that he will always be remembered.