PJ Media

The Familes of 9/11 Victims Speak

All Americans were affected on September 11, 2001, as they watched people jumping to their deaths, airliners crashing into buildings, and towers falling.  No one’s life changed more than the family members of the 3,000 victims. PJMedia interviewed some family members as they reflect back ten years later.

Vice President Dick Cheney recounted in his book, In My Time, his conversation with Lyzbeth Glick about her husband’s bravery and heroism on United Flight 93. About the 9/11 victims and family members, he said:

I think it is important, as a nation, to remember that day, to remember the sacrifice of those that died, some very bravely, including the passengers of United Flight 93; the first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center Towers, as well as the private citizens who were going about their business on that day.  They were totally innocent.  Those who lived through it will never forget those who lost their lives in that moment. The families should know that there is a commitment on the part of the rest of us to do everything we can to make sure that never happens again. I hope they can feel some good by the fact that we finally ran Bin Laden into the ground and he paid the price he deserved.

Debra Burlingame, the co-founder with Liz Cheney of Keep America Safe, did not initially think that her brother, the pilot of the plane flown into the Pentagon, was involved in this horrific event.  She was in shock, stunned, and deeply shaken as events unfolded on that day.  A decade later she wants to thank Americans for showing “we have a country of extraordinary people of character”:

My family is very appreciative to the American people for helping us during those very dark times by supporting us, standing up with us, and crying with us.

Debra also cautions “that the terrorists see this fight as generational: remember what Zacarias Moussaoui, the ‘20th hijacker’ said: ‘our children will finish the fight.’’’ She constantly thinks about her brother, Chic, the leader of her family who was smart, solutions oriented, and had a great sense of self-deprecating humor. Besides Chic, she wants Americans to know that there were eleven children on those planes who also died.

Gordon and Kathy Haberman cannot believe that it has been a decade since they lost their daughter Andrea in the World Trade Center. For them:

[E]very day is 9/11 in some shape or form.  It is not something you can put on the shelf and drag it out for an anniversary. It will never be a footnote to 9/11 families.

They saw the attack as a means to cripple America: Pentagon — military, World Trade Center — financial, and the plane heading for Congress — political.  Going forward they want the terrorists tried in a military tribunal and are wondering if the schools will include 9/11  as part of their curriculum, since “most kids today were not very old when it happened and [we are] not sure they care about 9/11.” Their book, Just A Few Sleeps Away, was written to help Americans understand the impact of 9/11. What they want Americans to know is that their daughter Andrea was full of love and intelligence, and will always live in their hearts.

Shirley and Robert Hemenway were watching TV when they heard the news about 9/11.  As they watched they were hoping to recognize their son as one of those evacuating the Pentagon, where he worked. They want Americans to

once again have the same patriotism felt on that day!  Remember how everyone flew the flag on homes, autos, and businesses.  Remember when we all felt united.  I wish people would remember that good American feeling.

Their son Ronald, only 37 when he died, was a hands-on dad with a zany sense of humor. Now, a decade later in Wasilla, Alaska, Shirley and Robert will donate the battlefield cross awarded to Ronald to be placed at the entrance of the high school in hopes “that the students who attend the school will remember the attack of 9/11 that killed many Americans including one of Wasilla High’s own graduates.”

Alice Hoagland is afraid that this tenth anniversary will mark the end of any real significant attention being paid to 9/11.  She is glad every time “September 11 rolls around on the calendar because it helps us to rededicate the memories of 9/11”:

For me it is re-living that phone call at 6:44 am when my son Mark, who was on United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, told me that his airplane was hijacked.  It was a three and a half minute conversation where he told us: “I just want to tell you guys I love you in case I don’t see you again.” I was speaking with a man who was going to die twenty minutes later, my son.

She wants Americans to take to heart the seriousness and urgency of the threats. Alice wants the world to know that her son Mark Bingham was a gay man who was loving, brave, and strong.

Joe Holland is upset that people are forgetting. He does not understand why people are making such a big deal about this tenth anniversary: “What happened to years 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,11,12…? For me it feels like it happened just yesterday.”

He is angered by all the political correctness and sees it as ridiculous and “insane because you can’t have a different opinion anymore”:

Look at the Tea Party. What did our vice president call them, terrorists? Yet this administration does not call the Muslim extremists terrorists. Something is wrong here.

For him, Joe Holland Jr. should be remembered as a father of a baby boy who will grow up not knowing his dad, who was a great man with everything to live for.

Judy Reiss feels that every American lost some of their innocence on 9/11. She believes that the Muslim extremists “do not look on life as we do”:

I don’t think a lot of people get it, or maybe they don’t want to because people want to get over the bad feelings.

Many of the memories of that day are vague except that instant when the towers fell and her husband turned to her and said calmly: “We just lost a child.”  According to her, Americans need to remember that “the victims are not a lump number, but are individuals, all loved by someone.”

She thinks about her son every day, and says it is “different when you lose a child.  You are not supposed to outlive your child.”  Her son Joshua was friendly, vivacious, outgoing, charming, and someone who loved his his job, his city, his country, and his family.

Susan Rescorla is grieving for America because America is no longer the country it once was. She was able to get through the years since 9/11 by keeping a memoir which she turned into a book, Touched by a Hero.  She had the good fortune of speaking with her husband on that day, when he called to let her know he was all right and that “if something happens to me I want you to know you made my life.” Having the philosophy “no man or woman left behind,” he went back into the towers to make sure everyone in his group got out safely. Unfortunately, he died when the towers collapsed. Susan describes Rick as a warrior and a man of passion who loved people.

Jacquie Van Laere experienced the pain she felt on 9/11 every day she met with her mother who had dementia. At every visit, her mom would ask why her son, Dan, was not visiting anymore. She was told over and over again that he died rescuing co-workers at the World Trade Center, and during every visit Jacquie would see her “mom sob in despair, as though she was hearing of his death for the first time.”

She sees Americans today as complacent with short memories. She thinks many have tried to turn 9/11 into a political event. She agrees with Clare Lopez, a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy, that “we must return to the principles of our Founding Fathers; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which is what has made us an exceptional people.”  Her brother Dan’s body was never found, but she believes “that as his soul left the earth a part of him has remained with my family; his humor and sensitivity.”

Maureen and Al Santora feel that this September 11 will be a particularly difficult day since “the politicians who have not cared for the past ten years will all be at the site telling the world how they remembered.” The Santoras watched the towers fall since their windows faced the WTC.  Maureen wrote three books for school age students to teach them that hatred is terrible, that each day should be treated as though it were their last, and that it is important to be vigilant and report anything that seems unusual.  Their son Christopher was one of five children, the only boy.  At age 23 he found his perfect job. He became a firefighter because he was “analytical, calm, and athletic.”

Those of us that have not directly lost loved ones cannot begin to understand the feelings of the 9/11 family members. They live with this horror each and every day, not once a year as many of us do.

Also read: “Commemorate 9/11 by Stopping Iran