It is hard to comprehend the billions of stars overhead, but focus on one star, and the rest seem to come into view. When it comes to remembering the impact of September 11, 2001 on our nation and the world, we also find it hard to concentrate: so many billions of directions from which memory, healing, and hurt can unfurl. So in order to focus, Bill and Christine and I will read portraits of 10 individuals who died that day, and then, with specificity and a more embodied focus, we will offer up our prayers to God. 20 bells will toll to remember 20 years.
Bill: Even in a family of 12 siblings, Rosanne Lang stood out. “She danced the longest, sang the loudest—even though she couldn’t carry a tune—and she loved the fiercest,” said her brother, Gerard. At 42, Ms. Lang was an equities trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. She was the first girl after her parents had six sons.
Katie: Gertrude Alagero, a senior vice president at Marsh Private Client Services, planned to marry Peter Walther in Boston on Jan. 5. A few days before the terrorist attack, Mr. Walther said, she pressed her fingers to his mouth while they were walking toward the subway from their Upper West Side apartment. “Shhh,” she said, “I need to tell you something: I am the luckiest woman in the world.”
Christine: “Big hugs!” is how Thomas R. Clark used to announce his arrivals home to his wife Lisa–a prelude to wrapping his arms around her. When their only son, Matthew, now 2, grew old enough to speak, he asked for a piece of the action. “Me too,” he’d squeal. Soon Mr. Clark changed his opening line to “Family hugs!” Mr. Clark worked at Sandler O’Neill & Partners. “We still do it, the three of us,” Mrs. Clark said, “and my son still smiles. He loves it.” Mr. Clark was 37.
Bill: Math and mitzvahs–those words ran through his family’s memories of Steven Furman, a broker at Cantor Fitzgerald who died two days shy of his 41st birthday. Mr. Furman’s math score on his SAT was 790 out of 800, according to his brothers, Michael and Andrew. “He always wondered where the other 10 points went,” Andrew said. “He knew he’d gotten them all right.” Mr. Furman joined Cantor last April. He didn’t have a fancy house or a fancy car,” said his sister Jayne Furman. “The more money he made, the more money he gave away.”
Katie: Every year just before Thanksgiving, Thomas Haskell, 37, Battalion chief for Ladder Company 132 in Brooklyn, would start disappearing into the basement of his home in Massapequa, N.Y., for hours, forbidding anyone else to come down. “He’d stay up till 3 a.m.,” said his wife, Barbara Haskell. Then about two weeks before Christmas, his wife, daughters, friends, and other relatives would be invited downstairs to see an elaborate winter landscape with hundreds of tiny ceramic figures, surrounded by ski chalets, with three separate train sets running through it all. In 2000 he built three miniature towns—Meaghanville, Erinburg, and Taratown, named for his daughters—along with Barbara’s Garden, for his wife. Behind them all was a dark blue night sky, lit up with electric stars.
Christine: Timothy Haskell trained his Dalmatian, Blaze, to “stop, drop, and roll.” He took the dog to the school where his sister, Dawn Haskell-Carbone, teaches. “Timmy would say to the dog, “Your clothes are on fire? What do you do?” she recalled yesterday. “Blaze would stop, throw herself on the ground, and roll. He would ask the kids, ‘What if you smell smoke?’ The dog would crawl on his belly over to a door. Timmy would say, ‘Feel the door first to see if it’s hot.’ And the dog would put her paws on the door.” Timothy’s brother, Thomas, also died in the World Trade Center attack.
Bill: Kenny Marino was a firefighter with Rescue 1 in Manhattan. His favorite baseball player was Ken Griffey. After he died at the World Trade Center, his wife Katrina e-mailed Mr. Griffey and asked him to hit a home run for her husband.” On September 25, Mr. Griffey, in his second at-bat against Philadelphia, obliged Mrs. Marino. He said it would always stand out as one of the most memorable he had hit. The bat was later given to Mrs. Marino and her two children.
Katie: Leo Roberts spent every day stalking the sidelines. Fall meant Michael’s soccer matches and Jeffrey’s and Daniel’s football games. Winter was for Taylor’s competitive cheerleading. “We would get up and we would plan who would be on what field with what kid,” said his wife, Debra Roberts, 43. “That is the way we lived. We lived for our kids.”
Christine: David Silver had a 2-year-old daughter, Rachel. The shape of her eyes and nose are his. She is going to be tall just like her father, said her mother, who was nine months pregnant when David died on September 11. On Friday nights, he often surprised his wife with a bouquet of fresh flowers that he had bought at Grand Central Terminal. “It’s like Friday night and I expect him to come with a bunch of flowers. It’s hard.”
Bill: Patricia Greene-Wotton is planning a memorial service and a baptism. Her husband, Rodney J. Wotton, disappeared in the attacks on Sept. 11, and their son, Rodney Patrick, was born eight days later. “It’s like death and resurrection,” she said. “The baptism was to have been a happy occasion, but it’s a sad thing knowing that Rod will not be there for the baby’s baptism.” Mr. Wotton, 36, who worked at Fiduciary Trust, never found out whether his child was a girl or a boy.
Katie: God of mud and breath, you mold shapeless dust and into it whisper life. From dust we have come and to the dust we shall return. We remember that before there was war, revenge, terror there was something more fragile and beautiful: a fierce love and kindness in the chaos. Before there was gun, there was garden. Before there was nuclear arsenal there was Big Bang. Before there was malice, there was possibility. We mourn all over again, twenty years later, because our grief is wrapped up in the magnitude of loss, and because deep down, in the center of things, we know there must be another way. The fragments of debris from that crystal morning twenty years ago force us to stand vigil, waiting and watching and living for a fleeting vision of your kingdom, where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control prevail. Bouquets of flowers, home runs, dalmatians, baptisms, family hugs, the song and dance of those who died: it reminds us that love is stronger than hate. Shift us, O God. Awaken us. Turn us. Move us. Put in our midst your peace that passes all understanding, a peace within and a peace between. For all those who mourn, whether a grief carried these many years, or the fresh infinity of this year’s loss. For all those who serve, whether on the front lines, or as essential workers, or as good Samaritans along the broken way. For all those who hope, for a possible peace and the promise of healing. In the silence between the bells, hear our prayer, O God. (Toll the 20 bells.)
And hear us as we lift our voices, to pray Jesus’ prayer of peace… Our Father…