Tom Resta has suffered trauma and tragedy repeatedly throughout his 64 year life.
In 1983, a relative of Tom’s was among 241 marines and sailors killed in the Beirut Marine barracks bombing—the largest loss of life in a single day for the Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.
In 1993, when a terrorist detonated a truck bomb below the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Tom’s brother was among the fatalities.
And during the September 11th attacks, Tom’s brother, John, and seven-and-a-half-month pregnant sister-in-law, Sylvia, were among the 80 people—co-workers of his brother, neighbors, local firefighters, childhood friends, and others—he knew who died that day.
This past week, over sixteen years later, Tom found himself for the first time in Guantanamo Bay Naval Air Station in Cuba, at the 29th pre-trial hearing for the five defendants—led by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—being tried for the attacks that took his brother’s life.
“What’s important to me is that justice gets served,” Resta said. “I mostly just want it to be done. I’m less concerned about the conclusion than that justice gets served.”
A born-and-raised Brooklyn New Yorker, Resta was forced to leave the area, to Florida and now in Georgia, in the wake of the trauma. “I couldn’t go anywhere without this,” he said. “I couldn’t even walk to the subway without seeing a headline about 9/11 for six months—for literally six months.”
Tom’s brother and sister-in-law were on the 92nd floor of the North Tower, the same building that his other brother was in eight years earlier when it was bombed, working as a manager and broker for the same company, actually separated only by a glass partition. September 11, 2001 was supposed to be Sylvia’s last Tuesday on the job before going on maternity leave.
Instead, Tom’s brother was identified in “multiple dozens of pieces,” while his sister-in-law and her baby have still not been identified.
Thanksgiving 2001 was the first holiday Tom, and his whole family, spent without his brother. Gathered at his sister’s house, his father sat mesmerized watching a loop of the planes flying into the building. “Every time that loop went through, he’s hoping this time maybe there’ll be a different outcome,” he said, “Just loop after loop.”
“I don’t think you ever move on from trauma,” he said. “I don’t think you ever reach that point.”
Yet, at Guantanamo, mere feet away from the accused terrorists and defense attorneys and Government prosecutors who have kept the pre-trial process going on for some six years, he’s reflective and philosophical.
As to how he felt when he finally viewed the accused with his own eyes: “I thought I would feel more emotion than I really did. I was surprised at how I didn’t get enraged. I was expected more of that then there was. On the odd chance that they get adjudicated not guilty,” he pauses, “well,” he pauses again, “that is something I am prepared to accept.”