A Florida couple, Margie Campo and Stan Burke, live in the same Nokomis house once occupied by the two terrorists who flew planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11.
They met at the Moose Lodge and things just clicked. The next step was a house.
Margie Campo was walking one day when she spotted the perfect one. It was small — two bedrooms, one bath, 858 square feet — but there was a yard for the dogs and a doorway wide enough for Stan's wheelchair.
Stan Burke had a stroke in 2008, not long after they met, leaving his left side paralyzed. In fact, he was in the hospital when Margie first saw the "For Rent" sign in front of 516 West Laurel Road in Nokomis. She couldn't wait to tell him.
The place needed some new tile and paint, but it was cozy, had a good feel, like a beach bungalow she thought, and as the years went by they made it their own. They placed photos of their grandchildren on the refrigerator. He hung his "Dogs Shooting Pool" masterpiece in the bedroom. She displayed ticket stubs from when she went to see "America's Got Talent" and met Simon Cowell.
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They've lived there for 11 years now, and it's simply a normal house inhabited by normal people. There are no evil spirits lurking, no creepy vibes as perhaps one might expect. On Monday night, there were just two baseball fans: A 63-year-old woman from New York — Go Yankees! — and a 68-year-old man from Boston — Go Red Sox! — watching "Wheel of Fortune" in their living room while Sarah and Trixie slept blissfully by the window.
No, you would never guess that for six months — starting on July 13, 2000 — two of the 9/11 hijackers rented the same house that Margie and Stan live in now.
While taking flight lessons at the Venice Municipal Airport, Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi — believed to be the two pilots who crashed Boeing 767s into the World Trade Center buildings — paid $550 a month to reside in the rental owned by Steve Kona, chief of the Nokomis Fire Department. They were said to be the perfect tenants and moved quietly about the area. They shopped at Walmart, returned clothes to Burdines and bought a car at Cramer Toyota. Indeed, evil was among us, and we took their money without suspecting a thing.
Campo and Burke did not know of the home's history until about six months after they moved in, finding out when a friend began a sentence with "Oh, by the way." A short time later, their Realtor apologized for not initially filling them in on this little tidbit. Then she told the couple not to worry, they were "safe."
"I'm like, 'They're dead. They're not coming back to get me,''' Campo said. "It's just a house."
The house's history does not seem to faze the couple. They are not consumed with wondering who walked the floors before them. They sleep in separate bedrooms, though, so it is a virtual certainty they both sleep in a room once used by a 9/11 terrorist. They sleep well.
Though their house is not the only one the terrorists occupied in Venice, people occasionally stop by to take photos from the street. Their privacy has been respected, though. In 11 years, not one curious soul has knocked on their door and wondered what it is like to live there — except for the one curious soul who knocked Monday night during "Jeopardy" and unleashed the fury of two poodle mixes.
They are quite aware of the historical connection the house has to one of America's darkest days, and they respectfully mourn on 9/11, as we all do. On the other days, however, "we're just happy people doing our own thing."
As Campo walked outside at dusk Monday night, she talked about the house. She loves the French doors that lead to a backyard of bamboo shoots and her avocado tree. The way the living room is set up so the dogs can sit on the couch and watch her do dishes in the kitchen. The roses in front.
"It's not creepy, right?" she said.
There was one thing left to show on her tour. It was a small bench under a palm tree in the yard. Placed on the bench were two ceramic statues. One was a small boy next to a dog. The other was a small girl next to a bird. Above them was a small American flag.
This, in her own way, is her tribute to the eight children who died aboard planes on 9/11, right there, in the front yard of the people who killed them.
"It's sad," she said. "And we'll never forget."
Then she turned and walked inside, to where Stan was watching television from his wheelchair, to just another living room in just another house, theirs during all this time.
This story originally published to heraldtribune.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.