Image: Jake Meltzer
Stephanie Keith for
Jake Meltzer, 13, was only 3 years old when his father, Stuart T. Meltzer, died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He lives now with his mother, Lisa, 42, and brother, Dylan, 10, in Woodbury, Long Island, N.Y.
Image: JoNel Aleccia
By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
updated 5/3/2011 4:07:50 PM ET 2011-05-03T20:07:50

A 13-year-old New York boy who lost his father in the 9/11 terror attacks knows better than to be superstitious, but he can’t help believing that the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden last weekend was, in part, a bar mitzvah message from his dad.

“I just know he was trying to talk to me,” said Jake Meltzer, son of Stuart T. Meltzer, who died Sept. 11, 2001, on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

Jake completed the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony on Saturday, hours before the elite U.S. Navy SEAL team conducted a targeted raid that killed the man responsible for the death of his father and nearly 3,000 others in the nation’s worst terror attack.

When he heard the news on TV, Jake raced to wake his mother, Lisa Meltzer, 42, who was left alone nearly a decade ago to raise a baby and a toddler on her own.

Sunday night Jake woke her with the news of bin Laden's death. “I was sleeping and it was like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God.’ He feels like his father gave him that gift,” said Lisa Meltzer. “It was a milestone in Jake’s life. It was as if Stu wanted to say, ‘I’m here. This is my gift to you.’”

Image: Jake Meltzer
Stephanie Keith  /  Stephanie Keith for
Stuart T. Meltzer, 32, an energy broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, left behind Dylan, 5 months, and Jake, 3, shown here in 2001 in the last family photo of Meltzer with his sons.

Jake Meltzer was only 3 when he lost his father, too young to remember the 32-year-old who called his family for the last time from the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, where Stu Meltzer had recently started a new job as an energy broker.

“He said, ‘There was a plane that just hit the building,’” Lisa Meltzer recalled of her husband’s final cell-phone conversation. “He said, ‘I’m going to die.’”

In the near-decade since then, Jake Meltzer has grown up with vague memories of Stu Meltzer, a vibrant, energetic Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fan who comes alive only in old photos, family stories — and online tributes posted in the days and years after 9/11.

“I look on the internet to find things I didn’t know about him,” said Jake, a seventh-grader who lives with his mother and 10-year-old brother, Dylan, in Woodbury, N.Y.

But at crucial times in his life, Jake swears his dad is still there.

“If I’m sad, or if there’s a milestone in my life, I feel it,” Jake said. “This time, I knew he was with me.”

Jake and Dylan Meltzer are among some 3,000 kids involved with Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit social service agency that provides support for children who lost parents in the 9/11 attacks and others affected by global terrorism.

Many of those bereaved kids suffered from anxiety, depression and other psychological disorders, according to Dr. Cynthia Pfeffer, a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, who studied the mental well-being of 45 children in the first years after they lost a parent in the 9/11 attacks.

The news of bin Laden’s death could have varying impact on the kids, Pfeffer said, providing comfort to some even as it reawakens emotions from the tragedy for others.

“I think the sense of justice being done is a big factor,” said Pfeffer. “Finally, this terrible man has been killed.”

Jake Meltzer, whose maturity appears to belie his years, agreed. The strike against bin Laden was a military victory as well as a personal one, said the teen, who praised the actions of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, saying it proved that the U.S. was as good as its word.

“I would tell people, just remember: mission accomplished,” Jake said. “Bin Laden actually did pay for all the innocent civilians that he killed.”

That’s important for the boy who has missed nearly a decade of everyday interactions with his dad. Stu Meltzer wasn’t there Monday afternoon for Jake’s baseball practice — he’s a lefty who pitches and plays center field — or for the spring concert Monday night where Jake played trombone.

But, in Jake’s mind, anyway, bin Laden’s death is a signal that he’s never really alone.

“It means that even though my father’s not with me physically, he still loves me and my brother,” Jake said. “It makes me stronger to know he’s there.”

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Video: 'Never be OK,' daughter says of Dad's 9/11 death