Trumbull teacher writes memoir of his 9/11 survival story

Trumbull teacher Daniel Geraghty published a memoir of his experience as a first responder during the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks titled "Cast Away Stones", at the Trumbull Library in Trumbull, Conn. on Thursday, December 9, 2021.

Trumbull teacher Daniel Geraghty published a memoir of his experience as a first responder during the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks titled "Cast Away Stones", at the Trumbull Library in Trumbull, Conn. on Thursday, December 9, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

TRUMBULL — The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Daniel Geraghty was headed to an interview in the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

When he stepped out of the subway, he walked into chaos. A plane had struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and people were rushing about in panic. The horrifying scene initially dazed Geraghty.

“I definitely was in shock,” said Geraghty, now 46, of Trumbull. “I remember thinking ‘How am I going to get to work?’ instead of ‘How am I going to get out of here?’”

When the second plane hit the South Tower — about 50 yards away from where Geraghty was standing, he said — he realized he had to run. Geraghty said he made it back onto the subway, into Grand Central and onto a train back to Connecticut before the city locked down.

All the way back, Geraghty said, one thought began running through his brain.

“I kept thinking ‘What’s going to happen next?’” he said.

Geraghty, a special education and English teacher at Trumbull High School, detailed the harrowing story in his new memoir “Cast Away Stones: An Eyewitness Account of 9/11 and Memoir of a Survivor, Soldier, Citizen.”

He self-published the book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing with a goal of getting the book out in time for the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Geraghty missed the anniversary — the book was published in late November — but he still thinks his experience has a lot to say to people. In particular, he said, he hoped the book is a benefit to his chidren, now ages 15, 14, and 6.

“At some point in their lives, I want them to understand me a little better,” Geraghty said.

A native of Long Island, N.Y., Geraghty moved to Trumbull shortly before 9/11. He is a former Army ranger and was in active service with Connecticut National Guard on 9/11.

When that second plane hit the South Tower, Geraghty said, his initial shock dropped away and his Army and National Guard training told him that the second hit meant this was a planned attack, and he needed to flee.

“The decision was basically hardwired into me,” he said.

Once on the train, Geraghty struggled for a way to let people know he was OK. At the time, he said, he had no cell phone — only a pager. And the only page he received was from his National Guard unit. He borrowed a cell phone from a fellow passenger and tried to call, but “I had a hard time getting through,” and was almost in Connecticut by the time he reached them.

Geraghty said he spent the days following 9/11 doing “presence patrols” throughout the state with the National Guard “to let people know we were around.”

He said the air of certainty in the days and months following the attacks was palpable wherever he went.

“The whole country was waiting for the next thing to happen,” Geraghty said. “Everyone was on edge.”

When he wasn’t patrolling, he was doing some substitute teaching to earn extra money. He went on to earn his teaching degree and teach full-time.

He has told his 9/11 story before, most notably as a speaker for the CT United Ride, a 9/11 tribute and fundraiser for the state’s first responders. But writing it all down felt different, Geraghty said.

“It’s very cathartic for me to write things down,” he said.

Geraghty said the title of his memoir, “Cast Away Stones,” comes from a Bible verse in Ecclesiastes, which references “A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together.”

To Geraghty, to “cast away stones” means to get rid of the things that hold us back or do us harm.

That’s what writing the book felt like to him, he said.

“You have to be able to let things go and move on,” Geraghty said. “In the end, it’s really about survival and overcoming life’s challenges.”

“Cast Away Stones” can be purchased at Amazon.com.