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- September 16, 2002
- Vol. 58
- No. 12
A Year of Loss, a Year of Love
Tim Soulas Is Gone, but His Widow, Katy, and Their Six Children Embrace Life with the Help of Friends and Family—and with Amazing Grace
On the night of Sept. 11, when Tim, 35, who worked on the 105th floor of Tower One, didn't make it home, Katy, 36, who was then three months pregnant, gathered her five young children in her king-size bed and lulled them to sleep by saying the rosary. Then, she recalls, as she looked out her windows to a bright, starry sky, "a glow took over my room, and I knew he was with me. It was peaceful and beautiful. I said, 'Honey, where are you? I hope you're okay.' And he said, 'I am okay. I'm with God. And I don't want you to think about what it was like for me today.' "
The guiding light in Katy Soulas's sky is now gone. But for the past 12 months, despite unimagined hardships and the most profound grief, she has done her best to follow what she believes was a directive from her husband that fateful night. "What he was telling me was that I needed to step up to the plate," she says, using one of her sports-loving husband's favorite metaphors. "Because now, the pitches were going to come at me."
Some of those pitches have been almost too much to handle—such as the questions her son Andrew, 10, asked: "Where is Daddy's body? Is it in pieces?" But there has also been joy. On March 30, surrounded by photos of Tim in the delivery room, Katy gave birth to Daniel, their sixth child. "I was afraid," she says. "But I felt that he was holding my hand."
In fact, comfort has come from all quarters. In Basking Ridge, which lost 18 residents on Sept. 11, neighbors have rallied, making sure that she rarely has to cook meals, pay babysitters or worry about ferrying her older boys to countless football games. "We don't wait for her to ask," says friend and neighbor Amy Haskel, 41. "We just say, 'Katy, how many want to see the movie?' or 'We're going to the pool. Who wants to come?' "
Her extended family has also stepped up to the plate. Tim's widowed father, Fred, 65, drives 130 miles from Ocean City once a week to help around the house and teach the kids poker and rummy. Tim's brother Stephen, 40, comes up from Philadelphia every Wednesday to give his nieces and nephews "a regular night with someone who looks and smells a little like their dad." And when Katy's brother-in-law, Rick Soulas, 42, of Greensboro, N.C., announced to his own three kids that they were going to spend a month in school in Basking Ridge so that they could attend classes with their same-age cousins, "they looked at me, like, 'Are you kidding?' But when I told them why, they said, 'Okay, that's what we'll do.' "
In fact, the kindness—not just of family and friends, but of an entire nationwide community in mourning-has been one of the most sustaining sources of strength for Katy. "It touched my heart that so many people we don't know have been so good to us," she says, recalling the gifts sent to her by complete strangers. "It reminded me, after such a terrible thing, that people really are good."
Even more than that, it is her kids who have given her solace. "I look in Tim's eyes every day," says Katy, recalling the man who had been her sweetheart since their high school days in Pennsylvania. "It's the sparkle in Nicole, or his wisecrack from Chris's mouth, or his dedication to hockey that I see in Timmy." Her children have also provided her with a resolute sense of purpose. "I'm determined that the nightmare of Sept. 11 won't overshadow the childhood memories Tim and I created," she says firmly. "I want us to be a story of hope and courage."
They are, it seems, well on their way. There are still heartbreaking flashbacks—for Katy, "the many times that Tim is in my dreams, and I want to sleep again so that I can be with him;" for Timmy, 12, the daily memories of his father, especially "his funniness." The kids cuddle teddy bears that a neighbor made from Tim's old T-shirts and still pile into their mom's bed most nights because, as she says, "they're afraid of waking up and not finding me."
Still, Katy manages to soldier on, despite a host of worries. She is grateful for two $100,000 checks she has received—one from an insurance policy, the other from the Red Cross—as well as Cantor Fitzgerald's promise of $100,000 more over the next 10 years. She also plans eventually to return to work as an emergency room nurse. Even so, "I'm 36 years old with six children," she says. "Is there going to be a magic number that will make sure my kids have clothes and Santa Claus?"
She has put on a brave front, speaking before lawmakers on behalf of victims' families, lobbying in Washington for a victims' compensation fund and serving as a spokeswoman for a nondenominational support group that meets regularly in her home parish of St. James's. "Katy and her family are so compelling," says Susan McDermott, 35, a mother of three whose husband, Matthew, also worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died Sept. 11. "It was wonderful having someone in a similar situation to talk to."
Far tougher are the day-to-day trials—like bath time for six without a ready helpmate. "I'll have two kids in the tub, two will start to quarrel, Nicole climbs into the sink and all of a sudden I'm having a flood," she says. "Not having a second set of eyes around is really hard." One night when the pressure got too great, "I went into the bathroom, shut the door and yelled at God: 'How could you leave me like this?' " When the kids heard, she chose not to hide her emotion. "They were angry at God for taking their daddy away, and to see that I was angry too was healing for them."
In fact, Katy has been honest with her kids from the start. When they asked, "I said, 'I think Daddy died from smoke,' " and added, "We have to count on each other, because it's not going to be easy." Now, when baby Danny starts to cry in the car, one of the other kids pops a pacifier into his mouth. Andrew has taken on the job of walking Boomer, the chocolate Lab that Katy gave Tim last year for his birthday. And while Timmy at first didn't want to play hockey after Sept. 11 because it was always something he shared with his dad, "to his credit, he got back out there and gave it everything he had," says Tim's brother Rick. "I remember wondering, 'Where does a kid so young get the strength and determination?' "
One obvious source: his mother. At the moment Katy is trying to learn to throw spiral passes and jump from the high board at the local pool. "I know I can't be their father," she says. But according to the kids, she's not doing half bad. "When we were washing the car, she had the hose and she started spraying us," says Andrew. "And then we took the soap and we poured it on her, and she kept splashing us."
Those small flashes of joy—the moments when Katy thinks, "We're going to be happy again. We will survive"—are coming more often these days. Not long ago on one of her morning runs, Katy pondered how to mark the first anniversary of her husband's death. Suddenly, "I thought, Sept. 11 is Daddy's birthday in heaven, and it should be celebrated." Then she remembered the August day last year when the Soulases took a trip to the Jersey Shore. "Tim just loved the beach," she says. "He lived for it."
And so this Sept. 11 will find Katy packing her kids into the SUV and heading back to the beach, on a mission. On a day when the country will honor the memory of its lost loved ones, Katy and the Soulas kids will be doing that too.
They'll be the ones splashing in the ocean.
Answering the call
Tywana Key lost no one on Sept. 11, but she found out something about herself. As she watched the TV in disbelief, "I felt a hole in me," says the 27-year-old. "I knew I had to get in a position to help people." On Oct. 1, Key, a former administrative assistant, enlisted in the Army. A Long Islander who had rarely left New York, she felt homesick and physically stressed during basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where she kicked her 11-year smoking habit on the spot. In the middle of the night she would hide in the bathroom and cry. But "every time the drill sergeant said I was going to fail," she says, "it just made me more determined. Every test I passed took me one step closer to being a soldier." Today the hardest part is living apart from her son Christopher Roberts II, 5, and the boy's father, Christopher Roberts, 31, a disc jockey, whom she married on Feb. 8. "My friends thought I was crazy to try to do something about 9/11 by myself," says Key, now stationed in Ft. Lee, Va. "But it's not all about me."
Ready for the next rescue
Just after the attacks on New York City, Bill Callinan, the fire chief of Southfork, Ky., his wife, Roswitha, and fellow firefighter Ron Luster jumped into his car and drove nonstop for 13 hours to offer whatever help they could to the rescue crews at Ground Zero. Though the experience brought the Callinans face-to-face with unspeakable tragedy, it has strengthened their marriage immeasurably. "When you're married, you can drift in different directions," says Bill, 49, who has been fighting fires for 19 years. "She didn't really understand what I do. Then we worked side by side. Now she knows."
After four days at Ground Zero, the trio could think about only one thing during the drive back. "We all kept saying, 'What more can we do?' " recalls Callinan. They went to work forming a highly trained volunteer rescue squad, ready to travel anywhere in the country to assist at catastrophes. "People out here—we just have an overwhelming desire to help," Callinan says. The Southfork Tactical Rescue unit, an 11-member team that includes EMTs, MDs, RNs, firefighters and police officers, is designed to be able to mobilize within two hours of news of a disaster. So far, so good. "If we never go out, that's okay," Callinan says. "It will just mean that nothing bad has happened."
Linking lives one stitch at a time
Sometimes beauty is born from frustration. That was the case for Alexis Owen, a freelance writer who watched the towers collapse from her balcony in Brooklyn. Wanting to help, she rushed to give blood but none was needed; she tried to volunteer her services but found a long waiting list. So Owen, 26, came up with her own way to pitch in. She moved back to Denver to be closer to her family, and with her mother, retired Realtor Pamela Moye, 55, quilted a huge American flag out of small panels inscribed with personal messages (including one from Laura Bush). "It was my way of not only helping other people heal but of healing myself," she says. "I realized what I needed was to reach out and not feel so alone and scared about what happened."
The project also brought Owen and her mother closer together. When their 60-by-120-ft. flag—made up of more than 3,000 panels received from people in nearly every state—was unfurled for the first time in New York City on July 4, "we hugged for a long time," she says. "We were totally speechless." On Sept. 11 the flag will grace the Capitol lawn and after that may be taken on a national tour. "It helps people share their emotions with thousands of other people," says Owen. "When it comes to Sept. 11, we're all in this together."
Filling his brother's boots
Both brothers dreamed of being New York City firefighters. But when Michael Cammarata scored two points higher on the entrance exam, he was able to join the department months earlier than his older brother Joseph, an NYPD officer. Then on Sept. 11, Michael, 22, became the youngest fireman to lose his life. "I was never gonna let that stop me," says Joe, 25, who joined Staten Island Engine 157, Ladder 80, in March. "It was the last thing [Michael] knew I was gonna do," he says, adding, "Although I lost my blood brother, I feel I gained 12,000 brothers."
The hand of fate, and friendship
One man was drenched in blood and gasping for every breath. The other, a stranger, lent a handkerchief and an arm to lean on. Together they made their way down nearly 60 flights of the burning south tower. "Once this is over," the bloody man promised, "I'll buy you a beer."
The two emerged only minutes before the building collapsed, and, a few weeks later, finally shared that beer. Today Silvion Ramsundar, 31, and the man who helped him, Doug Brown, 55, share something else: a powerful, life-affirming friendship. "I'll forever be indebted to him," says Ramsundar, one of only 16 people from above the 77th floor of the south tower to survive the attacks. "I can't forget what he did for me."
Then an assistant vice president for Mizuho Capital Markets, Ramsundar was on the north end of the 78th floor—one of the impact floors—when the second plane hit the tower's south side. A fist-sized piece of metal lodged near his heart and his left lung collapsed; still, he hobbled down the only serviceable stairway. Around the 60th floor, Doug Brown, an executive director at Morgan Stanley, held a handkerchief to Ramsundar's bleeding chest and stayed with him the rest of the way. Without Brown, Ramsundar believes, he might not have survived.
They are of different generations and hail from separate parts of the world—Ramsundar was born in Guyana to Indian parents, Brown is from South Bend, Ind.—but their journey to safety that day forged an instant bond. Their families (Brown and his wife, Alice, 56, have two grown children, while Ramsundar and wife Nimmi, 30, have a 5-year-old daughter, Mariah) also felt an immediate closeness when they met. "We all hugged," Alice recalls. "Lots of hugs, lots of tears."
And lots of changes too. Brown says he is now "doing things I've always wanted to do," such as tutoring an inner-city child. Ramsundar has trouble using his left arm and faces many more months of rehabilitation. Now when the two men look back on Sept. 11, they focus not on what was lost but on what was gained. After Nimmi quit working as a teacher to be with her husband, Brown helped her find a job at Morgan Stanley. Brown's sister also raised $1,500 for Ramsundar's family. On holidays their two clans come together, as if they were all old friends.
In this way, two men weather the worst crisis of their lives. "It's bad that we met under those circumstances," says Ramsundar, "but maybe it was meant to be that we become friends."
Where his son died, a father finds strength
The last time Michael Flocco saw his son Matthew, 21, was on Sept. 9. They had their usual exchange. "I remember saying, 'There's only one thing better than you.' And he said, 'I know—two of me,' " Flocco, a Newark, Del., sheet metal worker, recalls. "He gave me the high five."
After the Pentagon attack claimed the life of their only child, Michael and his wife, Sheila, lost their way. "I was drinking a fifth of whiskey every night," says Flocco, 54; Sheila, 47, was too distraught to work and quit her job as a grocery-store cashier. Then, in January, Michael was hired to help repair an interior ring of the Pentagon. On his first day he headed straight to the spot where Matthew, a Navy meteorologist, was killed. Since then he has reported to the site daily, swinging a sledgehammer in an act of remembrance and healing. "It's been an honor helping to rebuild the Pentagon," Flocco says. "I've found strength there."
While on the job, Flocco has been living temporarily in a Winnebago in Maryland, but he will soon head home, bringing with him a new peace of mind. "I'd have gone crazy without the work," says Flocco, who with Sheila started a high school baseball scholarship in Matthew's memory. "And I feel like my son's still there, helping me."
He took the calls. Always
Last February, Wallace Miller, the coroner of Somerset County, Pa., arranged a meeting for all the families who lost relatives in the crash of Flight 93, which plowed into a field just outside Shanksville. He wanted to explain the process of recovering and identifying remains but also to help the families set up a network of support and remembrance. Miller worried, though, that someone would break down during the meeting—and someone did. "Turns out I was the first person who was overcome," says Miller, 45, who also runs two local funeral homes. "I'm an emotional guy. I have a tendency to get involved."
That's been a saving grace for all those who lost loved ones on Flight 93. "He has treated us with the utmost compassion," says Lisa Beamer, whose husband, Todd, died on the plane. "I would put him in the category of hero." From the moment Miller first glimpsed the crash site—just burning trees and a huge crater—he realized his was going to be more a job for a funeral director than a coroner. There was no mystery about how the 44 aboard Flight 93 died. His duty was to bring comfort to the survivors. "He knows how to handle death," says friend Mike Shealer, who coaches track and field with Miller at the local high school. "That's what those people needed."
So Miller, who is married and has an 18-year-old stepdaughter, made himself the point person for the grieving families. He gave them his office, home and cell phone numbers and invited them to call any time of day or night. (They did.) Countless times he escorted families to the crash site. He listened and tried to help them with their heartbreak. "I just tried to think of what I would say if my daughter was killed out of town," he says. As the Sept. 11 anniversary approaches, the crash site remains—at the families' urging—under Miller's tender jurisdiction. He had the county spread topsoil over the ground, and fresh grass was planted. Recently, during a visit there with one of the families, he found a flock of wild turkeys cozily roosting in the field. "It made me feel," he says, "like nature has returned."
On the front line against hate
Marine Staff Sgt. Jamal Baadani, in uniform, and a buddy were at the Tampa airport in April when a man who had been randomly searched gestured toward them and said, "Get those two, they look like terrorists." Baadani, 36, was saddened but hardly surprised. In recent months Baadani—born in Cairo to Muslim parents—has discovered that even the uniform he first put on at 17 offers little defense against post-Sept. 11 prejudice. "I knew in my heart that I had to speak up to educate others," he says, "so people don't think anyone Middle Eastern is a terrorist."
Baadani has been doing just that, through lectures across the country and his new group, the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in the Military (which now has more than 300 members from all military branches). Says Baadani: "I am a proud American."
Flying in the face of danger
Thomas Heidenberger, a pilot for US Airways, keenly feels the loss of his wife, Michele, but he also feels her spirit more strongly than ever. Michele, 52, a flight attendant, died aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. Married for almost 30 years with two children, Thomas, 16, and Alison, 21, the Heidenbergers had been planning a trip to Italy to celebrate their anniversary at the time Michele died.
In this year, Heidenberger, 56, has discovered resources he never imagined. "The biggest surprise," he says, "was how strong my kids are. If it weren't for that, I don't know what I would do." Then there's his own resilience. At first he was understandably anxious about flying again. But within a month of Sept. 11 Heidenberger was back on the job. "Just going to work shows that I'm not going to let the bastards win," he says. Heidenberger is also fighting back in a more public forum. He has lobbied lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass legislation allowing pilots to carry guns. An avid jogger and marathoner, he took part last fall in several segments of a coast-to-coast run organized by pilots to honor fallen crew members by carrying an American flag from Boston to Los Angeles. Since then he has taken to carrying a flag almost every time he competes in a race, and he says he feels his wife's presence at the finish line. "Michele and I had a good run," says Heidenberger. "My children had a mother. I had a wife. I had a lover. And I had her for 30 years."
A legacy of love
Jeff Collman and Keith Bradkowski, who had been together for 11 years, were officially registered as domestic partners in California. Yet when Collman, 41, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, died without a will, a family feud erupted. As next of kin, Collman's father, Dwayne, staked a claim to the estimated $250,000 available from the federal victim's compensation fund. Since only a single survivor is eligible to collect for each victim, that would have left Bradkowski out in the cold.
From the initial ugliness, a sort of harmony has emerged. Although they were never close, Bradkowski, 46, called Collman's mom, Beverly Sutton (who is divorced from Dwayne), in April, and they talked for an hour. She agreed with Bradkowski that he should inherit her son's estate. That led to a face-to-face visit in Illinois and regular chats and e-mails. "It meant a great deal when she acknowledged who I was," says Bradkowski, a Bay Area hospital administrator. Even Dwayne Collman may be coming round; lawyers working on behalf of the two sides now say an agreement about the estate could be finalized soon, perhaps in time for the first anniversary of the tragedy. In the meantime, Beverly Sutton has discovered she has a son-in-law. "What better way to honor Jeff than to become a family again?" she says.
The last survivor
Roger McMillan won't be at work on Sept. 11. "I'm going to stay home and enjoy what I almost lost," says the 39-year-old New York City print-shop employee. Last year his girlfriend Genelle Guzman—the last person to be pulled from the World Trade Center alive—was working as an administrative assistant for the Port Authority on the 64th floor of Tower One. When the attack occurred she scrambled down 51 flights of stairs before the building collapsed, burying her in concrete and metal. "It felt like an earthquake or a hurricane," says Genelle, 31, who spent 27 hours in the rubble before rescuers reached her. "I was thinking, 'I'm going to die.' "
Her right leg was crushed, her head swollen to three times its normal size. She was hospitalized for just over a month, and at one point doctors feared they would not be able to save her leg. But one thing in Genelle's life was certain. "Every minute I opened my eyes in the hospital," she says, "Roger was at my side." After four operations and months of physical therapy, she can walk again unaided, although she has a permanent limp.
From her hospital bed Genelle, a native of Trinidad who moved to New York in 1999, asked Roger a question that had been on her mind for years. "I said, 'Honey, when I come out, let's go to City Hall and get married,' " she says. They did, and on July 13 the couple repeated their vows before friends and family—including Genelle's 13-year-old daughter from a previous relationship—at a Manhattan restaurant. For Genelle McMillan, who says she no longer has nightmares about Sept. 11, that was the happiest day she has had since being released from the hospital. "I was given a new life," she says. "I feel like nothing is impossible."
Stronger by the day
In loss, five widows (as seen above, left to right) have risen to the challenge—and have made an impact.
With the death of her husband, David, 45, a brokerage-firm sales director, Bauer successfully lobbied Congress for a two-year federal tax break for victims' families. Now raising three teens on her own, Bauer, 46, says, "The old adage, Adversity brings you strength, is true."
In tribute to her husband, Richard, 50, an insurance executive, Gabrielle persuaded Washington lawmakers to fully investigate why the burning WTC buildings fell to the ground. "It won't bring back Rich," says Gabrielle, 50, "but it's empowering to see changes."
A Bronx schoolteacher, Iken, 32, has led the fight to delay reconstruction at Ground Zero until plans are in place for a memorial honoring the nearly 3,000 victims, who included Iken's husband, Michael, 37, a bond broker.
Mobilizing the families of firefighters, Fontana, who is the mother of a 6-year-old son and lost her firefighter husband, Dave, 38, seeks to win financial help for the survivors and respect for their fallen loved ones. Says Fontana, 36, an actress and writer: "I felt like I didn't have a choice."
Eckert, 51, an insurance executive like her late husband, Sean, 50, has created a Web site for civilian victims' families, pushed for safer skyscrapers and demanded a blue-ribbon investigation of events on and before Sept. 11. "We need to learn from this," she says. "We need to make sure that the deaths of 3,000 were not in vain."
Healing herself, helping others
About a month after her brother-in-law Terence Manning, a New York City computer consultant, died at the World Trade Center, Carolyn Manning was leafing through the newspaper in her Scottsdale, Ariz., home. She wasn't searching for a way to lift herself out of her grief—but that is exactly what she discovered in the pages of the Scottsdale Tribune. It came in an article about refugees from Afghanistan who had recently come to America to escape persecution. "We are different socially and economically," Manning, 37, recalls thinking, "but we share a common enemy."
Manning, who has five children with her husband, Philip, 39, a UPS driver, created the Welcome to America Project, a group that has helped some 150 immigrants from countries like Iraq and Albania to furnish their new homes with goods donated by individuals, churches and corporations. "When people have a sense of belonging," Manning says, "they're much less likely to hate." While her work hasn't erased her pain, it has helped. "This," she says, "is my memorial to Terence."
Love among the ruins
It was New York City firefighter John Mraz's first-ever massage, and he needed it. "I felt his neck and shoulders shiver with relief," says Dawna LoPiccolo, a masseuse who frequently volunteered at Ground Zero and had come there on Christmas Day because she couldn't bear to stay away. "At the end, we hugged. I felt it down to my toes. Our bodies sighed." Says Mraz, who had lost 25 buddies on Sept. 11: "I didn't want to let her go." Less than two weeks later LoPiccolo, 36, and Mraz, 43, arranged to meet at a hotel bar in Uniondale, N.Y. "We were there for 11 hours," says LoPiccolo, then a single mother to Gillian Rose, 3. "We just sat there talking, crying, hugging. I came home and told my mom, 'I met my forever guy.' "
Today, "Love, Your Forever Girl" is engraved on Mraz's gold wedding band. Still, getting to the altar wasn't without complications. Mraz, a firefighter with Engine 248 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, was a widower with an 8-year-old son, John James; Rosemary, his wife of nearly 20 years, had died of a heart attack at age 39 in May 2001. When he proposed to LoPiccolo two months after their first date, "some of the guys in the firehouse wondered why I was rushing into it," says Mraz. "I never thought I'd get remarried. But on that Christmas Day, we connected."
On June 5 the pair wed at a memorial near Ground Zero. "It was just immediate family—we didn't want to appear to be overcelebrating," says LoPiccolo, whose 1993 marriage ended in divorce. Today they are raising their blended family at Mraz's home in Brooklyn. "My son told Dawna, 'Mom sent you,' " says Mraz. Adds LoPiccolo: "For all the children who lost a parent [on Sept. 11], a little boy gained a mommy and a little girl now has a daddy. It's humbling."
It's not about the paycheck
He was about to begin a lucrative career at Morgan Stanley with a $75,000-a-year job and a window office. Then the planes struck, and he barely escaped Tower 2. Days later this 23-year-old son of immigrants from Ecuador contacted the CIA. "I want to work for you guys," he told them. "If there's anything I can do to speed up the process, let me know."
A computer whiz and jujitsu black belt, Javier (not his real name) now earns about half what he would have made at Morgan Stanley. But at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., where he works in a cubicle on classified systems, he is "in the game," he says. "We need a world where everyone feels protected. This wasn't a difficult choice."
A diary of Ground Zero
He made unforgettable images of twisted beams and dirtcaked workers-"whatever moved me," says Joel Meyerowitz, 64, who became the unofficial Ground Zero photographer. During nine months in the pit, Meyerowitz gave up his other photography work to produce an archive of thousands of photos, which have been exhibited in more than 160 cities. "People tell me, 'I'm shocked, but they're beautiful,' " he says, adding that "seeing different races and creeds come together at Ground Zero was the most moving thing I've ever seen."
A boost from the Boss
They were major Bruce Springsteen fans, Stacey and Joe Farrelly, two New Jerseyites who had seen him perform 15, maybe 20 times. Then Joe, a New York Fire Department captain, died in the attacks. A few weeks later Stacey, 44, was surprised to pick up the phone and hear Springsteen's familiar voice. "We talked about Sept. 11, about our children, about Joe," she says. "I was on a high for a good month and a half from that." Springsteen, who wrote several songs about Sept. 11 for his album The Rising, also invited Stacey and her three children to a few concerts. Seeing him play "was hard," she says. "I could see Joe there, singing and dancing." But knowing Springsteen cares "really does help," she says. "It makes you feel less alone."
An act of kindness, a gift of thanks
The pilot announced an emergency landing due to a minor malfunction. But the 218 passengers on Delta Flight 15 learned the awful truth when they touched down in Gander, Newfoundland: All U.S. flights had been grounded because of the terrorist attacks. "We were all in shock," says Shirley Brooks-Jones, 66, a retired college administrator flying from Frankfurt, Germany, to Atlanta. "We were worried about our safety and families."
It was then, in the darkest of hours, that goodness prevailed. All told, 6,500 people from dozens of planes were stranded in Newfoundland. Flight 15's passengers were bused, without their bags, to Lewisporte, a small fishing town of 3,300 people. Despite the region's bleak economy (unemployment in Newfoundland exceeds 16 percent), the townspeople opened their homes to the passengers, stacked tables with food, converted schools and churches to sleeping quarters and provided banks of telephones and piles of free toiletries and medicine. "We have a tradition of helping our neighbors," says the town's mayor, Bill Hooper, who hosted Brooks-Jones in his home. "We treat our guests the same way."
The passengers found a way to say thanks. On the flight back to the U.S. three days later, Brooks-Jones and others collected $15,000 in pledges for a scholarship fund for Lewisporte high schoolers; Delta and other donors soon upped it to $50,000. This June, 14 seniors each received a small award upon graduation. Brooks-Jones, who oversees the scholarship program, returned to Lewisporte to watch the ceremony. "They were so excited," she says. "I thought my heart was going to burst."
A born New Yorker
Many Americans love New York, but few are as hooked as Trish and Christopher Coyne. While they were courting, says Trish, a videographer, New York was a place the Houston couple found "magical." Sept. 11 didn't deter them from their planned October honeymoon in the Big Apple—but, as it did for many Americans, it changed the way they thought about their future. "We realized you could just walk out the door one day and not come back," says Trish, 29, who, with Chris, 37, a retail-inventory manager, vowed to start living more fully in the here and now. "So we decided we would try to start a family while we were in New York for our honeymoon."
Two months later a queasy Trish learned she was pregnant. On July 1 she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Nicole Yvette Coyne. "You can never take back the tragedy," says Chris. "But you have to rebuild. This is our way of rebuilding. When she's old enough to understand, we'll explain to her why her initials are N.Y.C."
- Diane Herbst,
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- Barbara Benham,
- Robert Calandra,
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- Jane Sims Podesta,
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