Survivors use different coping strategies to remember their loved ones
The relatives of those killed on 9/11 mark the dark anniversary in different ways, seeking to honor their loved ones in the most meaningful, comforting way possible.
More than 40 widows of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives have remarried, noted Jimmy Boyle, 73, whose own firefighting son, Michael Boyle, 37, died in the atrocity.
In his own family, illness, school and work obligations prevents many members from attending commemorations marking the 11th anniversary of Michael's death.
But Boyle, a two-time president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, will be attending a bevy of events beginning with an early morning remembrance of firefighters lost at the Firemen's Memorial in Riverside Park, followed by a visit to Ground Zero and Roman Catholic masses at fire houses throughout the city. "I'll go for as long as they have them," he said of the ceremonies. "Young people can move on, but mothers and fathers never forget their children," said Boyle, who'straveled in from Rochester with his wife, Barbara, to attend the ceremonies..
Boyle was shocked to read reports that people are treating the September 11th Memorial like a picnic grounds. "That shouldn't be," he said. "Eating lunch there? Throwing Frisbees? I don't know why they don't police it better."
Ceremonies, however, don't dictate the memories of his lost son. Boyle's thoughts turn reflexively to Michael at least twice a day, every day, whenever the clock hits 10:28: That was the time in the morning his son was crushed in the lobby of the North Tower, just a few feet away from escaping.
But Cheena Jain, 28, of Harlem, whose father, Cantor Fitzgerald employee Yudh Jain, 54, died in the North Tower, said her family will not be using their tickets to the Sept. 11 memorial events this year.
She thought about participating in the reading of the names, but then decided to stay away from the crowds, chaos and media. "After a point, you need to stop doing things like this," in order to heal, she explained. Jain will miss seeing the other families who also lost loved ones and with whom she has formed a bond, but prefers to contemplate her personal loss and her father's legacy in a quieter fashion.
Her father was a pacifist. "He would never have wanted people to hate each other," for any reason, much less as a result of the terrorist attack in which he died, she said. The politicization of the attacks in their aftermath has been particularly complicated for Jain as a "brown skinned person," who has been subjected to suspicious glances at airports in the wake of the attacks, she said.
Jain keeps her father's memory alive by trying to emulate all that was wonderful about him. Just the other day she found a bag with $60 worth of candy from Dylan's Candy Bar and a credit card receipt. She has been intent on tracing the owner to return it. "My dad would want me to do stuff like that," Jain explained. "He tipped the people in the malls who cleaned the food courts. He was very generous -- a very gentle man who believed in being good to other people."
Every day, Jain thinks of how her father, a technology expert, would have reacted to the "there's an app for that" culture that has emerged since his death: "I don't know if he would have tweeted, but he would have been very interested in net books, iPads and smartphones. He would have known how to do all that. I'm tech savvy because my dad taught me how to do all that stuff."
Even Boyle, who appreciates today's commemorations and opportunity to reaffirm his solidarity with other members of the FDNY, acknowledged he would like his son's loss to be acknowledged by having the FDNY finally solve its radio transmission problems, which were a factor in the mammoth casualties that day. While the Department says it has instituted numerous upgrades and improvements, Boyle complained the radios "still don't work! You can call around the world on a cellphone so I don't know why you can't call a guy inside a building," Boyle said. The lack of trustworthy radios for firefighters, he said, is a situation "that has to be fixed."
(Sheila Anne Feeney)