Every Sept. 11, Michael Collarone, a Brooklyn-bred florist who goes by Mikey Flowers, has the same routine. In the hours before 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane struck the World Trade Center 19 years ago, he parks his truck in downtown Manhattan and, bearing buckets of angelic white roses, walks to the site where he once helped scour for victims' remains in the twin towers' smoldering wreckage.
There, the burly 62-year-old meets up with "my guys" from the Port Authority police. This year, he will be wearing a mask for the first time and, for social distancing reasons, the victims' names will be played from recordings on a loudspeaker rather than read aloud from a stage, but little else will change for him. "I'm going to hug my friends," he says. "I'm going to hug my guys."
Collarone’s steadfast devotion to honoring the victims of 9/11 isn’t a once-a-year kind of thing, though. He’s been the de facto volunteer florist to Ground Zero since it was known around the city as the Pile or the Pit. And that didn’t change when the novel coronavirus forced New York to freeze in place in March, and the National September 11 Memorial Museum chained off its eight-acre plaza. A couple of days a week, as he’s done for the past eight years following the memorial’s opening, Collarone or members of his shop would drop off a donation of 50 to 100 white roses.