The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Sept. 11 survivor realizes true passion in life

Photo credit: Samantha Tata, Contributing Reporter

At just 33 years old, creative writing graduate student Brian Palagallo has traveled the country, tested the waters of corporate America, witnessed a national tragedy and ultimately found his passion.

Reading “Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing” in the Sierra Hall lobby, Palagallo kept quietly to himself while he waited for his next class, English 457: Hybrid Narrative, to begin.

Donned with colorful tattoos on his arms and a grey knit cap, the life of this father, husband, artist and student offers a unique story.

Palagallo met his wife while they were getting their undergraduate degrees at San Diego State University, and the two have been inseparable since. Having graduated a semester before she did, Palagallo waited until her graduation before selling their belongings and moving to New York City in June 2001, he said.

While his wife attended graduate school, Palagallo was working for Nickelodeon Magazine in the circulation department of its Manhattan office. He was at work when the Big Apple was attacked on Sept. 11.

“If you looked down Broadway, you could just see this huge mushroom cloud,” Palagallo said. “We were all evacuated but stuck in Manhattan for eight hours. Everyone was huddled around televisions.”

Palagallo said cell phone lines were jammed, but he was able to reach his wife in Brooklyn to let her know he was safe.

“It was scary to be separated from her for so long after something so dangerous,” he said.

While he and his loved ones were spared from the day’s tragedy, he said co-workers were frantic as their relatives tried to leave downtown Manhattan.

Either by luck or misfortune, Palagallo is one of a select group of American citizens who were able to experience the palpable change in national attitudes following the historical attacks.

“It’s weird, that day is associated with so much chaos, but after, there was such calm over the city. It was so peaceful,” Palagallo said. “For about two months, people were really polite. They were saying ‘Excuse me’ on the subway, which is rare.”

The shift in manners was short lived, however, and New Yorkers went back to their stereotypical brashness soon thereafter, he said.

Missing their native California and having had enough of the East Coast bustle, Palagallo and his wife moved back to Los Angeles, where he continued his career in the entertainment industry and began working at Paramount Studios.

Palagallo said he was able to perform interesting tasks while working in the industry, such as assisting with casting on the set of a Nickelodeon Magazine commercial, but wanted to leave the corporate environment and return to school to fulfill his passion: creative writing.

“I enjoy being at school,” he said. “I love talking about writing and writing for fun, not having to compete with others.”

When he’s not writing poetry or short fiction, or playing or recording music, Palagallo said he loves to paint.

“My wife gave me the garage as my studio,” he said.

Despite his myriad of interests, Palagallo said they are strictly personal.

“I’m pretty shy, I just enjoy being at home,” he said. “Not to sound cliché, but trying to be a professional artist might ruin it for me.”

Palagallo said his travels are not over and hopes his next destination will be Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington.

“I was a huge Nirvana fan in the ‘90s,” he said with a laugh. “I want to be somewhere I’ll be able to grow a big beard and live near trees, but still be near the ocean.”

Palagallo, who said his “important priorities” are his wife and two-year-old daughter, will be graduating in the fall of 2011. He plans to teach English composition and creative writing to junior college students.

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