Remembering the 9/11 lost

John Puckett could ‘light up a room’


Michele Puckett-Formolo remembers her father as a man who could light up a room. That quality is one of the things she misses most about him, 20 years later, since the light went out on John F. Puckett, of Glen Cove, on Sept. 11, 2001.

“He always made sure everyone around him was having fun,” Puckett-Formolo, of Sea Cliff, said. “He just had that ability to be the light in a room.”

Puckett, 47, was an audio engineer who worked with a number of high-profile artists, recording albums for musicians like Frank Sinatra, B.B. King, Johnny Mathis and Paul Anka. According to his obituary, several of those recordings went gold. He often set up the sound system for conferences at Windows on the World, on the top floor of the North Tower, which is where he was when the hijacked planes hit the tower.

According to his daughter, he had an engineer’s mind, and was good with wires and gadgets. He converted a truck into a sound studio, using it to record his own band’s music as well as others.

“We would call him MacGyver,” she joked, “because you could give him two paper clips and a toothpick and he’d build you a raft.”

Puckett-Formolo remembers her father as a fun, happy person who always had a smile on his face. He was also an active musician, she said, and played bass in his band, 100 Percent Pure, which often played around Long Island.

She was 16 when her father died, and when she heard the news, she said, she was in denial. “He was one of the first people to be found,” she recalled, “and I figured it wasn’t him and he was still missing.”

She said it took three months for her to believe that he had died. 

Puckett was born in Chicago, but grew up in Las Vegas, his daughter said. Living in Las Vegas introduced him to show business — and some of the big players — enabling him to find his calling. He moved to Glen Cove in the 1980s, purchasing a house on Laurel Avenue — the street that now bears his name. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the City of Glen Cove dedicated streets to each of the four victims of the attacks who called the city home.

Puckett-Formolo has remained local, while her brother, Michael Puckett, 39, lives in Scotland. The loss of her father has had a big impact, she said, though at times — such as on her wedding day, without her father to walk her down the aisle — she has felt it more strongly.

“It’s affected me in every way,” Puckett-Formolo said of the loss. “Just like with any milestone in anyone’s life that’s good or bad, it changes you.”

She does not dwell on the negatives surrounding that day, however, she said.  “I like to look at the bright side of things, too,” she said. “It showed you the beauty in people that surround you and those that come to comfort you. You get to see the beauty as well as that horrible pain. I like to look like at both sides and think, it’s a horrible tragedy that happened to so many people. There were a lot of people that were in your same shoes and felt your pain, and even if they didn’t lose a loved one . . . everyone was feeling pain during that time.”

Puckett-Formolo attends the annual Glen Cove Sept. 11 remembrance ceremonies, which always acknowledge her father and the three other Glen Cove men who died that day: Matthew McDermott, Joseph Zuccala and Edward Lehman. Of the milestone anniversary, she said, 20 years sounds big, though is not necessarily a bigger year.

“But it’s going into two decades of the last time I saw my father,” she said, “which makes it a little more unbelievable that it’s been so long.”