When Peter Negron's father, a Port Authority project manager, died in his office at the World Trade Center, the boy was only 11.
Immediately after the attacks, he was one of more than a thousand children left suddenly without a parent. His dad, Pete Negron, 34, worked on the 88th floor of WTC 1 on environmental issues. Living in Bergenfield, N.J., with his mother Leila, and 2-year-old brother, he spent that first Father's Day of 2002 angry.
"I don't want to talk to nobody, see nobody, do nothing," he told a news reporter then. "I just want to go to the cemetery and say that I love him..."
Two years later, the thin 13-year-old stood in a dark suit, steeped with grief, to shakily read a poem in front of the whole nation. It was "Stars," written by children's author Deborah Chandra:
"I like the way they looked down from the sky / And didn't seem to mind the way I cried / And didn't say, 'Now wipe away those tears,' / Or, 'Tell us, tell us what's the matter here!' / But shining through the dark they calmly stayed / And gently held me in their quiet way. / I felt them watching over me, each one / And let me cry and cry till I was done."
Peter Negron, 13, reads the poem 'Stars' on Sept. 11, 2003, at the second anniversary of the WTC attacks in which …
Today the 21-year-old appeared again in front of the nation, and this time shared a message of strength, growth and reflection.
He spoke about how he's tried to fill his father's shoes for his brother Austin, who turned 12 on September 1.
"I try to teach him all the things my father taught me. How to catch a baseball, how to ride a bike," and to work hard in school, he said.
He never stops missing his father in the important moments of life.
"I wish my dad had been there to teach me how to drive, ask a girl on a date, and see me graduate from high school," he said, choking up. "And a hundred other things I can't even begin to name."
He said he's learned more about his father since his death. "He cared about the earth, and our future. I know he wanted to make a difference," he said. He wants to do the same.
"I have decided to become a forensic scientist," he said. "I hope I can make my father proud of the young men that my brother and I have become. I miss you so much, Dad."
Contact Jess Wisloski, NYC editor