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Tarboro brewery owner pens memoir about working in World Trade Center

Tarboro restaurant and brewery owner Inez Ribustello remembers spending her days working in the north tower of the World Trade Center.

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By
Kathy Hanrahan
, WRAL lifestyle editor
TARBORO, N.C. — Tarboro restaurant and brewery owner Inez Ribustello remembers spending her days working in the north tower of the World Trade Center.

In 2001, Ribustello was the Beverage Director for Windows on the World, the famous restaurant located on the 107th floor. In 2000, it was the highest-grossing restaurant in the country, according to the New York Post.

"The majority of of the bulk of my time ws in the office, daytime and most likely I did go in early. I was normally there by 8, 8:15 a.m. at the latest Monday through Friday," Ribustello said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists from the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York. The first plane struck the north tower at about the 80th floor at 8:45 a.m. Eighteen minutes later a second plane struck the south tower. Another plane flew to the Pentagon in Virginia. A fourth plane crashed in empty field outside of Shanksville, Pa. The intended target of that plane is still a mystery.

When the first plane struck the north tower, more than 70 employees of the Windows on the World were there. Ribustello would have likely been in the building had she not been back in North Carolina to be the maid of honor in her sister's wedding. The wedding was Sept. 8, but Ribustello stayed in town to go to the mountains with her family before planning to return to New York on Sept. 12.

Things changed when she saw the news on Sept. 11. Ribustello said she immediately felt "shock, disbelieve and denial" as she saw the plane crash into the north tower on TV.

"I thought, oh my gosh, 'This is going to be such a mess to clean up in the office,'" she said. "It was very naive. And then when I watched One World Trade Center implode, a bunch of denial. And for the days after that just like a lot of hoping that people were able to get out."

Hope soon turned to anger and then to hopelessness and confusion over what had happened and why, Ribustello said.

Ribustello explores her emotions in depth in her self-published memoir, Life After Windows.

"I just think the biggest thing with the book is that people will be able to feel or to understand that we can literally reach the depths of hell in life where you believe there's just no coming back, but there is always a way back," she said. "I'll never be the same person I was before September 11th and while there's a mourning in that. I remember that person and yeah I'm sad that she's not around any longer..there's also a growth and kind of a transitioning."

Ribustello doesn't think about what would have happened had she been at work that day.

"I don't think about it that way at all. I just think about the people who were there. I think about their families all the time and just the experience of someone you love leaving in the morning and just not coming back," she said.

Later in 2001, Ribustello took on the position of beverage director at Blue Fin Restaurant in Times Square. The restaurant opened on New Year's Eve.

"I was not emotionally equipped to go right back into that kind of job. And I was really miserable," Ribustello said. "My parents back home in Eastern North Carolina were saying, 'Come home, come home and take a break.'"

Eventually Ribustello and her fiancé (now husband) Stephen ended up in Tarboro where they opened On the Square, a restaurant, wine bar and retail store.

In 2016, the couple opened Tarboro Brewing Company. A year later, Tarboro Brewing opened a satellite taproom in the Rocky Mount Mills.

Ribustello said her memoir was pulled together from journals, letters and other writings she did over the past 20 years.

"I just wanted to make sure that at the end of this time, my children in particular have a very clear understanding of like what the past 20 years have been like," Ribustello said. "The rebuild for sure, but also like some of the decisions that we made."

Ribustello is holding a book signing on Saturday at Rusty's in downtown Tarboro from 11 a.m to 1 p.m.

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