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A Twin Remembers How 9/11 Changed His Relationship With His Brother Forever

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. To mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we have a story of two identical twin brothers who were alike in every way. Rich and Ronnie Palazzolo did everything together. They both worked as brokers in the North Tower of the World Trade Center and were both there the morning of the attacks, when the floor you worked on met the difference between life and death. Ronnie came to StoryCorps to remember.

RONNIE PALAZZOLO: My mother didn't know she was having twins, so my brother was born at 8 o'clock, and the doctor - he left to go out and tell my dad that he had a son. Twelve minutes later, the nurse delivered me, and she went out and told my father he has two sons. That's when he lost the rest of his hair, I think.

I have a picture of me and my brother when we, like, six, seven months, holding hands in the crib, and my mother told us all the time, you guys sat, half-hour, just talking to each other. We had our own language. We just did everything together, from getting up in the morning till coming home at night and eating together and whatever it was. And that's right to the end. I mean, we were roommates in the city, doing the same career. We were so close that it was like just being, like, one person.

On the day of 9/11, I mean, the plane hit, and I was trying to get my brother on the phone, and finally, somebody picked the phone up - not sure who it was. I just said, is Rico (ph) there? And he says he can't get to the phone, and I heard my brother in the back saying, just tell my brother to get out of the building.

And my first reaction was, I got to go up and get him, and I started walking up the stairs. There was water flowing down the stairs - I remember that - and the smell of airplane fuel, and, like, all of a sudden it just hit me that - what are you doing? That's not where you're supposed to be going. You got to get back down. We got things take care of. And that's when, I think, my brother passed. So.

You often try to imagine what the hell those people went through. I guarantee my brother went out like a hero. He probably tried to help people out. But you know how it ended up.

My dad passed away, and my mom gave me and my brother his dog tags takes from World War II, and we both wore them religiously every day. We loved wearing them. But when I actually got back to the apartment, his dog tags were hanging on the doorknob of his room. And I looked up and said, why weren't you wearing your dog tags? But then I realized that I needed to have them. And I have them on right now.

It doesn't feel like 20 years to me. It's all - it's yesterday to me. Every day is yesterday. The first thing I think of when I get up and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep is my brother.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PALAZZOLO: That's how I feel. Pain doesn't go away.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTINEZ: That was Ronnie Palazzolo. This recording was made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as part of StoryCorps' effort to collect one recording for each life lost that day. It's archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.