St. Petersburg Times-Pasco

Souvenir with an ugly scar?
A man discovers a trinket he bought shows a plane about to slam into the World Trade Center.
By STEVE THOMPSON
Published June 4, 2005
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HUDSON - A crystalline collectible of the World Trade Center sits on a small table in Rick Capano's living room - part of a shrine of sorts.

Friday morning, he bought three more to give to friends.

Then, horror.

Capano realized two of the images also depict an airliner, poised, a split second before impact into one of the towers.

"I just dropped it," Capano said. "My hand went numb."

Capano's friend, New York City firefighter Stephen Siller, died on Sept. 11, 2001. Siller's name is tattooed on Capano's leg.

Capano, 45, bought the images at USA Flea Market without inspecting them closely, he said. He planned to mail one to Siller's brother.

He saw the plane just as he was packing the image among crumpled newspaper inside a cardboard box for shipping.

"I got this sickening feeling," Capano said. It was a feeling he was sure Siller's brother would have shared. But Capano had caught his mistake just in time.

It's not the fault of the vendors who sell them, Capano said. They import the "laser crystals" from China by the thousands. Dolphins, race cars, unicorns, Jesuses, ballerinas. The vendors can't look at every one.

Several booths in the flea market sell the 2- to 5-inch-tall plastic cubes. Capano isn't sure which booth sold him those he considers offensive. He bought two from one booth and one from another, he said.

"He didn't get them here," said Paul Markarian, standing by dozens of laser crystals in his booth Friday. "Because I've been out of them for a couple of weeks."

Markarian was talking specifically about the ones depicting a plane veering into the Twin Towers. Those are hard to find, he said. There aren't many.

The 50-year-old, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, doesn't find the image offensive.

"Why would you be offended by a fact of history?" Markarian said. "Be offended by Osama bin Laden. Don't be offended by something like that. That's ridiculous."

"People ask specifically for the one he was offended by," Markarian said. "And they're not fans of Osama bin Laden, either."

Capano, who spent eight years as a New York City police officer, said many in Florida may be too far removed to understand his point of view.

"If this happened in New York," he said, "the poor guy that was selling it probably would've gotten killed. There would've been an uproar."

The laser crystals are on sale in New York City just down the street from where Lt. Steve Carbone works. Carbone, vice president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, has spent 36 years in the New York City Fire Department.

But the lieutenant has not seen one depicting an attacking plane. "I find that offensive, too," he said Friday over the telephone.

Those close to the tragedy want to memorialize the towers, he said. Not the terrible moments of violence preceding their destruction.

--Steve Thompson can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245, or at sthompson@sptimes.com