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Forever mourning loved ones lost in the attacks

We asked readers tell how their lives were changed by Sept. 11 and its aftermath. Here, in their own words, are some of their stories.

Name: Vicki Shoemaker
Age: 64
Hometown: South Brunswick, N.J.

On a beautiful, sunny, Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I lost my son.

He was at his job at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor. We did not hear from him at all. From that fateful moment, my life would never be the same. He was my oldest child, first born. He was an easy child to raise, humorous, intelligent, handsome and charming. When he walked into a room, the entire room lit up.

Since 9/11, I am sorry to say I don't trust my government. I feel my country let us down. I also learned how difficult it is to deal with public grief. The current movie commercials for Oliver Stone's new movie "The World Trade Center” caught me by shock and surprise while I was in a doctor's waiting room. I resent this very much. They are treading and interfering with my life and will profit from such, while at the same time constantly reminding me of devastating loss.

No, I will never be the same. My heart is forever broken and is constantly being broken, over and over again.


Name: Diane Horning
Age: 59
Hometown: Scotch Plains, N.J.

I lost my 26 year-old son, Matthew on September 11, 2001. This tragedy has changed my life in more ways than I can recount. The personal elements are too raw to share, and the words are so inadequate anyway.

But, shortly after the closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill (dump), my husband and I and another couple were horrified to learn that the human remains of our children and so many others were literally dumped on top of the garbage. Our struggle to have them removed for a proper and dignified burial was met with indifference and sometimes hostility by the powers-that-be.

As a result, we formed a not-for-profit organization called WTC Families for Proper Burial, Inc. We have a petition with over 65,000 signatures demanding the proper burial of all victims. We have support from religious, civic and military organizations, from Governors, Senators and Congresspersons. Nothing has made a difference. Today we are facing Federal Court having sued to have a proper burial for my son and all with whom he died. Our suit does NOT ask for any monetary damages. We do not want a financial settlement; we want a remedy to this inhuman treatment. We need the solace that showing proper dignity to our dead will give us.

So, how has my life changed? I have learned how to put together an organization based at my kitchen table, the top of which we haven't seen in four years. I have made lasting and wonderful friends among the families and supporters, the rescue workers and volunteers who have rallied for our cause. I have learned to use a computer (albeit in a limited way) and have founded a not-for-profit organization.

I have become an activist, reaching out to Trenton and Albany for the passage of legislation, lobbying and calling and writing to everyone and anyone. I have lobbied in Washington and learned to make cold-calls and appointments. I have had to learn the jargon and the machinations of landfill usage and can now talk about the characterization of garbage and the proper procedures for "closing to grade" and "capping." For someone who preferred quilting, this has been an awakening beyond anything I could imagine.

I also traveled with a small group to Lebanon a few months ago and met other women who had suffered losses in terrorist attacks. These past few weeks I have come to the brutal assessment that lightening can strike twice. The beautiful people I met and the wonderful places I saw, including a school for orphaned children in Tyre might very well have been destroyed.

Did I ever think I would travel to Lebanon, the daughter of Italian and German parents, born in Chile? Did I ever think that I would know the people from Oklahoma City and truly understand why they aren't "over it" even 11 years later? Would I ever have attended the services for the people killed at the WTC in '93 or ever understood the double pain of having lost a loved one and having the same mistakes made again, as if no one learned from their deaths?

This has turned longer than I had intended. I hope you can call me and use my story as it is also the story of many, many September 11 families and friends. Thank you for your time, Sincerely, Diane Horning WTC Families for Proper Burial, Inc.

Name: Anita LaFond Korsonsky
Age: 58
Hometown: Livingston, N.J.

My only sibling, Jeanette LaFond Menichino, was killed on Sept. 11. She worked for Marsh McLennan on the 94th floor of Tower 1. My life began and ended on that day.

My relationship to my beautiful sister, Jeanette, was ended on that morning, and can never be recovered. I had to learn to live without her and to relate differently to the world around me. I had to learn to live differently on the day she died. I am forever branded as the family member of a 9/11 victim - even if I am reminded of pleasant memories of our childhood and adult life, I must always end it with her death.

I believe that for many of those left without their loved ones from that day, that the changes in our lives are tiny, little things everyday - and only those living through this can understand how it changes you forever and will be with you forever, and that no matter how well you are able to function, there is a sadness in your heart that you carry with you everyday. It is only through the kindness of others that you are able to face each day.

I still don't really understand the reasons why this was done to us on what began as a beautiful morning on Sept. 11 and ended with the death of so many.


Name: Dusty Roach
Age: 53
Hometown: Midland, Texas

Being from Midland, Texas, where George W. grew up, I was different from most in the sense that I was and am a registered Republican. The morning of 9/11 I was in shock and awe. I was watching the coverage of the first plane in the tower when I saw live on TV the second one hit. All day I was enraged, saddened and in disbelief.

Fast forward a bit in time and everyone was buying how Afghanistan and Iraq were responsible and had weapons of mass destruction. I also bought in yet was not hasty to go to war until we enlisted more support from the world community. I felt very strong that George had not exhausted every resource to convince the world to help. He then did the invasion thing.

My daughter married a soldier, who had served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and was getting ready to go Iraq on his second tour. My daughter and Brian K. Baker had found out that my daughter was pregnant with twins right before he was to be deployed. After he went, that July they found out that it would be twin girls. They were due around December 30th. My daughter and son in law planned for him to come home in the end of December.

On November 7th, 2004 Sunday at 1800 hours, a casualty affairs officer and chaplain rang our doorbell. My daughter opened the door, and fell to her knees. She kept crying, Daddy fix this, Daddy fix this. With all that I have ever done and fixed, I couldn't fix this one. My son in law KIA in Baghdad, was and is a hero. My beautiful twin granddaughters are heroes. My daughter is a hero.

I can honestly say, time does not heal. It just provides distraction. The hurt today is just as bad as it was on Nov. 7th. I know the hurt is felt by the families of approximately 2,600 families. I know it is for the thousands of soldiers who have been wounded. I know the same pain for the families of 9/11 is just as bad now as it was five years ago.

I am angered by people who have strong opinions of the war, for or against, who have not lost anything and presume to know the sacrifice. I fault Al Qaida, I hold Bush responsible, and we need to finish the job. War is truly hell, and I know Justice rides a slow horse, but he still rides. All who have it coming, will get it, however you want to interpret that. God bless America.

Name: Brian Branco
Age: 40
Hometown: Lyndhurst, N.J.

The September 11th attacks have greatly changed my life. I worked on the 78th floor of the south tower. There were 5 of us on the floor that day and just an associate of mine and me escaped.

One person, who died, was right behind me. We were leaving together and he forgot something in his office. He went back and I left. The 2nd plane hit from my floor, 78 to 84.

I have lived with the guilt of this ever since that day. I have lived with the emotions of seeing the attacks over and over, the constant news media and the daily conversations about it. I think I have become a better person from my experience. I don't take things for granted as much as I did before.

One change that I have done in my life is participating in events at my daughter's school. Whether it's a class trip or a mother's day sale, I always try to volunteer. It's my little way of giving back. We are organizing an event in my town, my daughter and her friend came up with an idea to honor the memory of the deceased. This information can be found at


Name: Maureen Garri
Age: 36
Hometown: Dallas, Pa.

There are no words to describe the loss you feel after realizing everyday for the rest of your life will be different and that your children will never get to share a Christmas or a family barbeque with their uncle.

Even though my brother Keith Roma, 27, of the New York Fire Patrol has been gone since that terrible morning, I still miss him everyday. How do you describe watching your father take patches off his eye and return to the site a few days every week to look through the rubble and sift through the ruins looking to recover those that were lost. The countless phone calls made to say that there were 344 firefighters lost and then to have the number 343 seep into the nations memory. It makes you want to cry, but wait there is one more. One more life lost  while saving others from an incomprehensible act of terror.

In the five years since that morning my husband has left behind a tour in the Air Force to settle our family into a home much closer to our family in New York. We filter out what we watch on TV waiting for the kids to sleep before turning on the news. We do not have newspapers delivered for we can not control what is on the front page.

But we gather as a family and continue to live a life that matters and to celebrate the life Keith lost. For those that hate will not win, my children will have children and they shall remember there is no greater gift than to love each other and to touch the lives of others with kindness and soft words. Yes we shall remember, yet the world may forget.

Name: Susan C. Russo
Age: 48
Hometown: Pearland, Texas

My brother lost one of his best friends (who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald) when the first plane slammed directly into his office floor.

I remember Bob from our college days. He left behind an awesome wife and two beautiful children. It's still so difficult to grasp that such evil exists in our world.

My life was transformed in a very simple way... Each year, I "adopt" a different Fire Station and on every anniversary of 9/11 I personally deliver flowers to the Captain and his crew, I hug them and tell them "thank you for what you do everyday.”

I don't know them and they don't know me, but we are all connected. It's my way of giving back to a world that so desperately needs the help. And it's my silent tribute to all who were effected on that horrendous day in history. It's nothing grand or glorious that I do. It's a simple act of kindness..the way things used to be...the way things ought to be.


Name: Mark Berger
Age: 41
Hometown: Ossining, N.Y.

My life was changed by 9/11. First, I lost one of my best friends ever. This is the guy I was living with before I moved in with the woman who would later become my wife. He was like a brother. He died when the towers collapsed.

Following that however, came the next big change. I found I could no longer work in NYC anymore. I was constantly nervous. Sounds of planes in the sky froze me. Loud noises made me jump. I was staring at everybody trying to figure out who was a terrorist and who wasn't. Not a healthy way to live.

Nine months after 9/11 I quit my job and decided I would only work closer to home (in NY's Northern suburbs) and away from the city. I was out of work for nearly 4 months, yet even with offers to go back to NYC, I couldn't and wouldn't.

Lastly, I think I have been in NYC maybe only a dozen times since then. I have no interest in being in NYC. I feel like it is almost a strange place to me now and no rebuilding or memorial will ever make it the same.