Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Please, Ask Me About My Adoptive Family... But Not Like This

Photo of Curltop and Snugglebug
by Mad Rooster Photography
I love that people are curious about our family, and how it was created. After all, I am blessed to have gained children in every way imaginable -- I gave birth, I've raised full-time stepchildren, and I've adopted. I guess we can rule out immaculate conception, because I'm no saint. Trust me on that one.

Naturally, people want to ask questions, and I am flattered they care enough about our little tribe to find out more.

However, there are some questions that -- no matter how well-intentioned -- leave me bristling. Here are just a few, specifically related to our adoptions:

1. Where's their "real mom?" Or, Do they see their "real mom?" Or, Do they know their "real mom?" Or... You get the picture.

I might ask you, "What is a real mom? Is it someone who gets up in the middle of the night for feedings, cups her hands for a sick kid to puke into, agonizes over every parenting decision from what pediatrician to see to what colleges to look into, maintains a crazy calendar and works her butt off to make sure her kids have what they need?" If you answered "yes" to any of those, I am their "real mom."


Instead, feel free to ask me about their "birth mother," "biological mother" or their "first mother." We use those terms interchangeably, and we reserve a place of honor in our hearts and our family for the woman who gave birth to our daughters.

Incidentally, the same goes for their "birth father," "biological father" or their "first father."

2. Are they sisters?

Yes. Yes, they are sisters. They are sisters not only to one another, but also sisters to our five other children. They are sisters, because we are a family. 

In our particular case, our two youngest daughters do happen to be biologically related, and have the same birth mother and birth father, but even if they didn't, they would still be sisters.

3. Where did you get them?

Oh, you know... someone was outside the grocery store with a cardboard box and a sign that said, "FREE TO A GOOD HOME," so we packed them up, and brought them home. Actually, not really. 

Ask me if we adopted through foster care, or if we had a private adoption, or if we had an in-family adoption, instead. I'll be happy to share with you! Where we adopted from isn't the question you're trying to ask, I assume. Rather, I expect you're more interested in how we adopted.

4. Did you adopt because you couldn't have any more of your "own" kids?

Please, just don't.

Infertility, difficulty conceiving, miscarriages, high-risk pregnancy... It's all hard to talk about, and really -- it's none of your business, unless we are very close. Even then, it may be none of your business, unless I choose to share it with you.

Nonetheless, we adopted because it was right for us, and the decision had nothing to do with whether or not we could have more children of our "own." All our children are "ours," regardless of how they were conceived, and my adopted children are "my own kids."

5. Aren't you afraid they'll have... problems?

This is usually followed by a story about how the person asking has a cousin, or a friend, or a cousin of a friend, or they heard a story about someone who adopted, and the kid had all sorts of "problems." The perceived problems might be medical, behavioral, neurological, or any combination of these.

Yes, I am afraid my kids will have problems. All of my kids. I have an adult child with severe allergies. I have another adult child who has struggled with addiction. I have yet another child who has screamed and punched her way through emotional issues and behavioral problems. Perhaps most concerning, I have a kid who actually thinks Skrillex is "music." 

None of those kids were adopted.

As parents, we worry. We worry a lot. We question every decision we make, and we worry our kids will face challenges we can't save them from. We worry about whether we should save them from challenges and, if so, which ones. We worry they'll get sick, or hurt, or abducted or sucked into a destructive cult.

I'd worry about those things, even if all my kids grew in my uterus. In fact, the "grow your own" method doesn't alleviate the risk of health or behavior issues. 

My kids have 99 problems, and being adopted isn't one of them.





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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Project 2,996: Remember Zandra Cooper Ploger

Photo source
This tribute is respectfully reposted from 2011.

Zandra Cooper Ploger, a 48-year old resident of Annandale, Virginia on September 11, 2001, was a manager at IBM for over 20 years. She was dedicated to her work, loved her two adult daughters, reading, and hosting parties. In fact, she was busy planning a birthday party for her new husband, Robert, who would turn 60 in December.

Zandra and Robert had married on May 12, 2001, but their busy work schedules - Robert was a computer systems analyst for several different companies - prevented the couple from honeymooning right away. When they boarded American Airlines Flight 77, they were headed to finally enjoy that honeymoon, in Hawaii. Zandra was looking forward to not thinking about work for two relaxing weeks, and enjoying a break with her new husband.
Photo source

Friends called her "Z," and she was known for her ability to organize and throw parties which brought together her many loved ones. She was a devoted mother, attending sporting activities and school events for her daughters, and even helping to orchestrate their high school graduation ceremonies. Described as a self-starter, Zandra didn't sit around, waiting for life and opportunities to come to her. Rather, she seized every moment and threw her ambition into exceeding the goals she set for herself, whether it was a work issue, or planning a social event.

Zandra's older daughter, Zena, was born with a heart condition, and Zandra carefully loved and comforted her child through childhood and into adulthood while avidly supporting the American Heart Association. She was the sort of mother who taught her children they could accomplish anything in their lives, and when her younger daughter, Erin, wanted to make a big move, Zandra supported her choice. Even though the distance would be difficult for the two, they maintained a strong bond. In fact, both of Zandra's daughters continued to look to their mother for advice and wisdom, even after they reached adulthood.

Max, Zandra's cat, was a source of joy for her, and by all accounts, she pampered him. Her daughter, Zena, related:
I just remember that when Erin and I were younger, my mom told us we could get a cat. On the trip to pick it up, we were thinking of a name. By the time we got there, she had named it and it was just her cat ever since. Max would cuddle up with her. He slept with her. She would spoon-feed him. He got groomed once a month. One time my husband came to visit and [he] was going to shoo the cat out of the chair and my mom said, ‘Let me get you another chair.’ She just loved this cat, and she showed him a lot of affection.
Photo source

Flight 77 was hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon at 09:37EDT, cutting short Zandra and Robert's much-awaited honeymoon.

Zandra leaves behind a legacy of love, friendship, laughter and inspiration to those who knew her. Please remember in your prayers Zandra, Robert, Zena, Erin, and all those whose lives were touched by this beautiful woman.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.

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Project 2,996: Remember Michael Theodoridis

This tribute is respectfully reposted from 9/11/09.


Michael Theodoridis, 32, and his wife, Rahma Salie, 28, were passengers on American Airlines Flight 11 on September 11, 2001. Rahma was seven months pregnant with their first child. The two were looking forward to being parents as they boarded the plane, intending to travel to California to attend a wedding.

Michael was of Greek descent and grew up in Switzerland. He graduated from Boston University and worked as a technical consultant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It was difficult to find information about Michael's life, but many online memorial comments helped me to understand the kind of man he was, and how desperately missed he will be:

It's nearly 8 years later and I still vividly remember the day shortly after 9/11 when it went from being a national tragedy to also being a more personal tragedy for me after I found out that Micky and Rahma were on Flight 11. Each summer when my second son has another birthday, I think about Micky's unborn child being the same age as I remember Micky congratulating me and telling me how excited he was about his future as a father.

I pray that they both rest in peace and be granted a place in Heaven. Amen.
- Abdullah Haydar


Micky:

I never forget your kindness and always positive outlook on life. I had a great time working with/for you at i-cube in Cambridge.

On this 7th anniversary of the attacks, I pray Rahma's, your kid's and your souls are blessed and somewhere special.
- Rob Garcia


Sincere sympathy for the loss of my cousin Michael, rest in peace in God's hand. - John Pondelis


In a business culture full of people whom you forget and whom forget you the instant you part, both Micky and Rhama were anything but forgettable. I still remember Rhama asking me to do an imitation of her accent and it makes me laugh with the memory. Like someone else who commented on this site, it was also Michael's humour, patience and support that kept me going in a very difficult work situation. The world is a much colder place without these two stellar human beings.
- Colin Owens


I worked with Mickey on multiple projects in i-Cube (Stuttgart, Germany; Phoenix, AZ and later in NYC). He was a great friend of mine in addition to being a professional colleague. He was very funny and used to crack me up at difficult times. He worked very hard and managed to keep his sense of humor. He and Rahma were made for each other. It is sad that they could not be together longer. It's so sad! My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
- Jay Natarajan


America Cries
We see your sorrow-
and our hearts cry....
We can not erase your pain
but you do not have to face the anguish alone-for we-
-the American people-
are beside you.
We so desperately want to have the touch that brings you comfort,
the strength that gives you courage,
and the words to lighten your spirits.
And when we are left speechless
may the silence of our nation weave love into your hearts
to ease your sorrow.
May you find healing through our nation's strength as we-
-the American people-
face this difficult time together. Our hearts are with you.
- Teresa Jahn

Please light a candle for Michael, his family and those who loved him. Say a prayer for the father-to-be, husband, and friend who lost his life on September 11, 2001.

Never forget.



This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.


Project 2,996: Remember Joseph DiPilato

This post was originally published on 9/11/09 on Citizen Gonzo. I've moved it here because I haven't blogged at Citizen Gonzo for a long, long time, and I get thousands more hits on this blog than on CG. I think Joseph deserves those thousands of views and more, don't you?


Electrician Joseph DiPilato, age 57, was working in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center when Tower 1 was struck on September 11, 2001. As he prepared to leave the building, he called his wife and childhood sweetheart, Maria, to tell her he was safe. He was last seen in an elevator, intending to evacuate.

Joseph was a romantic fellow who took his wife to dinner every Friday and held her hand as they spent summers strolling the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. He took pride in maintaining his backyard, patio and swimming pool. He coached and managed his sons' Little League team. He was, above all else, a husband and father.

Neighbors like Mrs. Phyllis Buono grew to appreciate the blooms Joseph planted and look forward to the seeing the flowers he would select each season. "He set that yard up like it was a resort," Mrs. Buono said. "In the spring the flower pots would explode with blossoms." Phyllis's husband, Mike Buono, enjoyed working on cars with Joseph.

Maria and Joseph grew up together in Little Italy, where Joseph's childhood friends gave him the nickname "Joey Brillo," a nod to his short, wiry hair.

I didn't know Joseph DiPilato, but I am touched by the words of those who did:

"He would do anything for me. He cared about me and I always came first," said his wife, Maria.

"We loved him more than anything and he's going to be missed by a lot of people," said his son, Joseph. "He just meant everything to us."

"I remember Brillo as a kid, a year older than me. He was the best basketball player in Columbus Park on Mulberry Street. He gave me great pointers on getting the ball through the hoop. Everyone in the neighborhood loved Brillo. He was a great role model in a tough neighborhood. A natural athlete, terrific sense of humor and a decent human being. A guy like him is surely missed by many,"
said childhood friend Anthony Venturato

And this, dated August 19, 2008, from his daughter-in-law, Andrea:

Dearest Dad,

It has been almost 7 years since you have been with us. We miss you tremendously. Something wonderful happened yesterday that I wanted to share. Your granddaughter Olivia typed in what she thought was her brothers name & brought up this website. As soon as she saw your picture she screamed with such excitement and said, "Mommy hurry come see Grandpa on the computer". It stopped me in my tracks & touched my heart more than you could ever know. All I could think about was how much you could not wait to be a grandfather. And little did we know on the last night that I was with you, I was already pregnant with your first grandchild. Leo & I would have given anything to be able to tell you in person you were going to finally be a Grandpa.

Olivia talks about her "Grandpa in heaven" all the time. She wishes she could have known you. You would be so blown away by Olivia. She has such a huge heart just as you did.

As Olivia & Joseph grow up they will know everything there is to know about their very special "Grandpa in heaven". We all miss you terribly!

All our Love to you in Heaven, Leo, Andrea, Olivia & Joseph


Please light a candle for Joseph, his family and those who loved him. Say a prayer for the father, husband, neighbor and friend who lost his life on September 11, 2001.

Never forget.



This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.





Project 2,996: Remember Deborah Merrick

Image from Project 2,996
Mr. Wright originally wrote this tribute for Deborah on 9/11/09. He posted it on a blog we set up for our business, but never ended up using. Therefore, it gets relatively no traffic. I wanted to move Deborah's tribute here, where thousands can stumble upon it and say a prayer in her memory.


Deborah Merrick
45 years old
Resident of New York
Worked for the Port Authority
Victim of World Trade Center Attack 9/11
Appears to have passed away subsequent to 9/11

I looked and searched for details of your death. I looked and searched for details of your life. Unfortunately, not much was to be found.

Forty-five years old is too young to die, but certainly there was time to live.

There must be a story there. There must be a story to tell.

I wonder: What if...?

What if your story is never told?

Then it occurs to me...

How many other stories never get told?

Deborah, I want to recognize you.

In the end, you are not a story. You are not a statistic. You are not a name. You are a person; you have a soul. You had a life and that life was cut short because of 9/11.

Deborah Merrick, we remember you by name. As we remember your death, we remember to celebrate life.



This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.


Project 2,996: Remember Kenneth Watson

This tribute is respectfully reposted from September 11, 2010.

Kenneth Watson was laid to rest on November 9, 2001 - almost two months after terrorists decimated the World Trade Center, where his body was finally found. He served as a firefighter with Engine Company 214.

Engine Company 214 responded to the devastation caused when the towers were struck. By mid-day, several members of the crew were missing. Kenneth was among them. The company's remaining men searched through the rubble and chaos with their bare hands - they had no tools.

In the days and weeks that followed, Engine 214 members continued to search for their fallen comrades, and became part of the bucket brigade, filling and passing buckets of debris from the wreckage along a line to be dumped into trucks, then hauled off to Staten Island.

By early October, there was still no sign or information about the fallen members of Engine Company 214. Then, the crew received word that a shield badge from a 214 helmet (belonging to Lieutenant Christopher Sullivan) had been found - but no body was recovered to go along with it.

October 31, the body of one of the company's men (Michael Roberts) was recovered, along with shields from two more 214 helmets (belonging to Carl Bedigian and John Florio).

By this time, enough rubble had been cleared that recovery crews were finally able to get to where Engine 214's men had been - on the first floor near the elevator, waiting to go up to rescue people.

The surviving members of Engine 214 dug and tunneled and worked, moving the debris, concrete, blocks of marble and ash, until they recovered each of their fallen, the last being Kenneth Watson.

It is a long-held tradition that each company recovers their own men. It is a tradition of honor, of pride, of sacrifice, of brotherhood.

Each of the fallen heroes of Engine 214 deserve so much more than respect and honor. They deserve for their stories to be remembered and told again and again.

For Kenneth's story, I looked to the people who knew and loved him, and their comments on his tribute page.

Kenneth was a loving husband to Susan, and devoted father to his five children. Friends and family describe him as brave, generous, and heroic.

Attempts to find more, more details, more stories, more specifics about Kenneth's life fell short. It saddens me that somewhere, today, a wife and children grieve Kenneth's loss, and I can't share their story, can't tell how he met and married Susan, how he felt the first time he held each of his children, how he became so devoted to committing his life to serving others.

But, really, that's the enormity of it. 2,996 lives were lost on September 11, 2001. So, so many stories I'll never know, so many names I won't be able to remember, so many prayers left to say.

Never forget.




This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.





Project 2,996: Remember Matthew Gerard Leonard

Image from Project 2,996
This tribute is respecfully reposted from September 11, 2010.

Please note: I was heartbreakingly unable to find a photo of Matthew Gerard Leonard. If any friends or family stop by to read this post, first, I hope you'll read in the following words my respect, care and admiration for such a wonderful man. Secondly, if you have a photo you wish to donate to this post, please contact me at mama@thegonzomama.com so I may add Mr. Leonard's image to this tribute.

Matthew Gerard Leonard was a 38-year-old lawyer working as director of litigation at Cantor Fitzgerald in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when tragedy struck on September 11, 2001. He was husband to Yolanda, brother to Helen, and father to Christina, seven months old at the time.

Matthew was a devout Catholic, steadfastly involved in his church. He was compassionate attorney, with an extensive history of pro bono work for those who could not afford legal help. A good singer, he sang Christmas carols in the hallways of his office and with the homeless on the streets of New York.

He was an early riser - always wanting to get started on work before the busyness of the day set in, and September 11, 2001 was no exception. He awakened, got ready for work, and headed out the door. His wife, Yolanda, looked at the clock as he left. It read 7:11 a.m.

How could Yolanda have known he wouldn't return that day?

People described Matthew as "kind," "a saint," "loving," "wonderful," and so much more. Remember Matthew Gerard Butler, a compassionate attorney, a loving husband, a doting father, a son, a brother, a friend. Let his memory, and the mark he made on the world, not be forgotten.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.




Project 2,996: Remember Andre G. Fletcher

This tribute is respectfully reposted from September 11, 2010.

Andre G. Fletcher was a 37-year-old firefighter with Rescue 5, an emergency response unit with NYFD. Andre and his twin brother, Zack, also a firefighter, responded to the crisis on September 11, 2001. Andre was killed in the first tower collapse at the World Trade Center.

Zack described he and his brother as "type A-plus" personalities, thriving on action, adventure, danger and excitement. The brothers last spoke as Andre raced toward the burning towers. Zack told him he'd be there soon, to work alongside him, and not to do anything stupid - "Don't be a hero," he told his brother.

But Andre Fletcher was a hero, through and through. And he was a man of action. When he joined the fire department in 1994 and learned they didn't have a baseball team, he started one. He played on the department football team. I imagine him playing catch with his son, Blair, 12 years old in 2001.

I imagine, when Andre arrived on the scene at the World Trade Center, he never had a second thought about being a hero. It seemed to be what came naturally to him, and that, quite simply, is how I imagine him; a hero in death - and in life.

Say a prayer for Zack, who must certainly feel the loss of his twin each day. For Andre's parents, Lunsford and Monica, Jamaican immigrants who must be incredibly proud of their sons, but mourn the loss of one of the twins. For Blair, who lost a father at that all-important time of adolescence when a boy needs his father's guidance and patience. Say a prayer for the memory of Andre G. Fletcher, killed in the line of duty, doing what he lived for.

Never forget.



This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.








Project 2,996: Remember Shekhar Kumar

This tribute is respectfully reposted from September 11, 2010.

Shekhar Kumar was a 30 year-old programmer analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He'd been married in November 2000, and didn't have the opportunity to celebrate his first wedding anniversary.

A co-worker described Shekhar as "a gentle man with a great capacity for figuring our arcane problems, and who had a smile on his face and a way about him that when he asked you to move a mountain, you'd say, 'no problem.'"

On Shekhar's Legacy.com page, friends describe him as "a really great friend," "energetic, enthusiastic and optimistic."

Please say a prayer for Shekhar, his family, and the young widow left to grieve for him.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.




Project 2,996: Remember Paige Farley-Hackel

Photo source
This tribute is respectfully reposted from 2011.

Paige Farley-Hackel of Newton, Massachusetts was a motivational speaker and writer, on the verge of her dreams. Her new radio program, "Spiritually Speaking," was preparing to hit the air, and she had lofty goals of appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show - or of becoming Oprah's competition. She had a Master's degree in substance abuse counseling, and was a tireless advocate for the Salvation Army.

In keeping with her passion for spiritual growth, 46-year-old Paige was headed to California for a conference at Deepak Chopra's Center for Well Being on September 11, 2001. She was traveling with her best friend, Ruth Magdaline McCourt, and McCourt's four-year-old daughter, Juliana. Together, they'd celebrate Paige's certification at the Center for completion of the Debbie Ford Shadow Process and take Juliana ("Miss J") to Disneyland.

The group ended up flying out of Boston on different airlines through the use of frequent flier miles - Paige on American Airlines Flight 11, and Ruth and Miss J on United Flight 175.

Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, followed by Flight 175's collision with the south tower, minutes later.

As USA Today noted, "Ruth Clifford McCourt and Paige Farley Hackel were inseparable in life. Tuesday, in a fluke of airline ticketing, they became inseparable in death."
Paige Farley-Hackel with Juliana and Ruth McCourt
Photo source


Family, friends, supporters and loved ones have not allowed Paige's untimely death to derail her passions. They've established the Paige Farley Hackel Free Care Fund, which provides addiction treatment at no cost to those most in need. In 2007, the Paige Farley Hackel Memorial Playground was dedicated at the Salvation Army Children's Learning Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

In my research on Paige Farley-Hackel, one of the most profound and all-encompassing statements was what she wrote in her 1973 yearbook:

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.





Paige knew changing lives begins with changing oneself. She bettered herself to better the world. I am proud to remember Paige. Please say a prayer for her family and those she loved so dearly.


This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.



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Project 2,996: Remember Rahma Salie

This tribute is respectfully reposted from 9/11/09.


Project 2,996 volunteer Asher Styrsky wrote the following tribute to Rahma Salie, wife of Michael Theodoridis, on Facebook. Since only Asher’s friends can see this wonderful tribute, Asher asked me to copy and post it here, where Rahma’s tribute can be joined with Michael’s.

Here is Asher’s tribute to Rahma:



For several years now, I've participated in Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. This year, my assignment failed to come thru via email, but fortunately I was contacted by another participant last minute who got me on track.

The name ... Rahma Salie.
Rahma was of Sri Lanken descent, and grew up in Japan. It seems she considered her Muslim faith to be a very important part of her life, for her husband Michael Theodoridis converted to Islam just before their marriage in 1998. Soon after, Rahma discovered she was pregnant. Seven months later, she and Michael left their home on the outskirts of Boston and boarded a plane headed to California where they intended to attend a wedding. Tragically, the lives of Rahma, Michael, and their unborn child were taken from them by radical jihadists in an event that would change history.

As I searched online for information on Rahma ... trying to learn as much as possible about her ... I discovered an online collection of photos from her life, including childhood gymnastics and pictures from her wedding. A beautiful human being ... (look on the right under 'Tribute' for more photos) Also, please note that a tribute has been put together for Rahma's husband, Michael here.
Having never met her, I have no way to know first hand the type of woman that Rahma Salie was. And so I must rely on the words of those who knew her.

Common words used to describe her ... effervescent, smiling, joy, and kind.

"Rahma was a beautiful person, always smiling, always caring. I had the pleasure of working with Rahma only for a short time, but she made a distinct impression on my life.
~ Pam Sheen, Kingston, Massachusetts"

"Mmissing you rahma! and remembering you. i never got a chance to tell you just how much of a role model you were to me. thank you."

"I met Rahma when I became a teacher at the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo in 1990. I'll always remember how welcome she made me feel. She was so friendly and warm. The following year I was lucky enough to be her International Relations teacher. We had lots of laughs in class. I was so proud when she majored in International Relations. When Rahma was killed she was seven months pregnant. My wife was seven months pregnant too. Our daughter is now five and a half years old and my love for her sometimes is a reminder of how lucky I am, and how Rahma and Mickey were robbed of their happiness. My deepest condolences to their parents.
~ Paul Doolan, Zürich"

May we never forget the lives that were taken so suddenly on September 11, 2001.

Today, I hug my wife and children a little tighter, remembering the life and tragic death of Rahma Salie, killed at age 28.


This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.




Project 2,996: Remember Pendyala "Vamsi" Vamsikrishna and Prasanna Kalahasthi - a Victim of Grief

Photo source
This tribute is respectfully reposted from 2011.

Pendyala Vamsikrishna, "Vamsi" to friends, was 30 years old on September 11, 2001. A project manager for the consulting firm of DTI, he was a talented software developer.

Vamsi and his wife, Prasanna Kalahasthi, like most young couples, had dreams and plans for their future. Both from India, they'd moved to the United States to pursue education and career opportunities - Vamsi to study engineering, and Prasanna to attend USC as a grad student in the International Student Program for Foreign-Trained Dentists. Brought together by an arranged marriage, the two were lucky enough to truly find love and devotion in one another, and had been married two and a half years in September 2001. They'd planned to start a family, had received their green cards, and dove into their pursuits in the U.S.

A devoted employee known for his strong work ethic, Vamsi had been in Boston for business and ended up staying an extra day, missing his original flight. On Tuesday, September 11, he left a voicemail for Prasanna, telling her he'd be home to Los Angeles soon:

Hi, sweetie, I've just boarded the flight, and I'll see you in Los Angeles this afternoon.

Vasmi never made it. His plane, American Airlines Flight 11, was the first to strike the World Trade Center, crashing into the north tower at 08:46:26.

Photo source

On October 19, 2001, Prasanna took her own life, leaving behind notes and an audio recording for her family, stating she just couldn't go on without her husband.

All I want is for you people to understand and respect me for what I'm doing. It's a lot, I know... But I'm responding to this in the only way I can bring peace to myself.

I chose Vasmi's name blindly from a list. Within minutes, I knew I had to include his young wife - and the tragic end to both beautiful, promising lives - in this tribute. Please, pray for the families and friends of Vasmi and Prasanna. Years may have passed, but this loving couple must not be forgotten.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.




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Project 2,996: Remember Norma Lang Steuerle

Photo source
Norma Lang Steuerle, of Alexandria, Virgina, drove her convertible with the top down, relished a day at the beach, and loved reading and travel. She lived with an energy and zest that others admired.

Norma was 54 years old on September 11, 2001. A clinical psychologist working with women and children suffering with depression and ADHD, she was described as "a particularly gifted therapist" who deeply connected with her clients, putting them at ease and providing undivided attention.

While she was singularly-focused in her profession, friends and family describe her as constantly busy, doing everything with enthusiasm and purpose, whether she was volunteering for causes she believed in, dedicating time and talent to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, or attending sporting events when her daughters - Lynne and Kristin - were in school.

She attended Dayton University, then graduated at the top of her class from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in psychology. She received a master's degree from Temple University, and her PhD. in social psychology from University of Wisconsin Madison in 1975.

According to friends, Norma met her husband, Gene, while attending Dayton. The two dated for a while, but Norma broke off the relationship, "left Dayton to be closer to another guy, and to attend Carnegie-Mellon." Apparently, after realizing the error of her ways - and giving full credit for Gene's persistence - the two were married after he returned from Vietnam in 1970.

The couple's first daughter, Kristin, was born in 1973, and their second, Lynne, followed in 1977.

Norma's family brought her great joy and pride, and she was excited to board American Airlines Flight 77, which would take her through the first leg of a trip during which she planned to meet up with her daughter, Kristin, a Navy doctor in Okinawa. She'd then connect with Gene, who was traveling in Japan on business. Together, the three planned to visit Thailand, where the couple would celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary.

Flight 77 was hijacked and, at 9:37 a.m. on September 11, 2001, crashed into the Pentagon.

Please pray for Norma's family and friends, who lost a vibrant part of their lives on that tragic day.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.

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Project 2,996: Remember Krystine C. Bordenabe

Photo source
This tribute is respectfully reposted from 2011.

On September 11, 2001, Krystine C. Bordenabe was a 33-year-old resident of Old Bridge, New Jersey, working in the south tower of the World Trade Center, and - at eight months pregnant - was looking forward to leaving her job after maternity leave to become a full-time mother to her new baby and then-13-year-old son named Andrew.

Krystine and her husband, Alfredo, had been married just over a year, and were excitedly awaiting the arrival of their first child together. Prior to their marriage, Krystine had been a devoted single mother to Andrew, and was counting down the weeks until she'd resign from her job as a sales assistant at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods to stay at home with her children.

Alfredo and Krystine dated a few times during high school, but lost touch afterward. Then, years later, Krystine attended a men's soccer game, at which Alfredo was playing. The two renewed their friendship, and married in 2000.
Photo source
Krystine attended Chubb Institute in Jersey City, graduating as valedictorian. She loved helping others, being a mother, baking, cooking, and the occasional indulgence in a pair of stylish shoes.

A doting husband who looked after his wife with love and concern, Alfredo called his wife as he traveled to work the morning of September 11, 2001. He'd heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Krystine assured him she was safe in the south tower, and that workers were being told to stay in the building.

Minutes later, a second plane - United Flight 175 - smashed into the south tower.

In a moment, Alfredo lost both his beloved wife and their unborn baby, and Andrew lost his mother and sibling. Please, remember Alfredo and Andrew in your prayers, as well as those who loved and cared for Krystine, and the child she carried with her to heaven.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.


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Project 2,996: Remember CeeCee Lyles

Photo source
This tribute is respectfully reposted from 2011.

To be honest, I chose the name CeeCee Lyles because our family nickname for Snugglebug is "SeeSee." I was initially compelled to write Mrs. Lyles's story simply because of her name, but what I found in my research was the story of a mother, a wife, and a hero.

CeeCee was a 33-year-old resident of Fort Myers, Florida who'd fulfilled a lifelong dream in becoming a flight attendant after years of police work that took her from patrol officer to detective. In her law enforcement work, she was respected for "for her willingness to tackle fleeing criminals." A single mother, CeeCee provided for her two sons by working multiple jobs while still finding time to volunteer for a Christian women's shelter. In 1997, she began a relationship with police dispatcher Lorne Lyles, and the two married in 2000. It was the second marriage for both of them, and Lorne brought his own two sons to the family, making CeeCee and Lorne the proud parents of four.

People described CeeCee as an easygoing woman who loved to talk and enjoyed people. She was thoughtful, kind and caring. How natural that when United Flight 93 was overtaken by hijackers, she'd reach out to her family. CeeCee's cell phone call to her husband reveals her professional training. She is calm, explaining the situation. Still, toward the end, the heart of a wife and mother comes through clearly - her words are tinged with emotion and love.



At 10:03:11, Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after an attempt by passengers and crew to reclaim the plane. It has been presumed that the intended target of the hijacked plane was the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Shortly before the crash, CeeCee called her husband again, telling him that passengers were preparing to force their way into the cockpit.

It is unclear whether the brave passengers and crew were successful in breaching the cockpit, but it has been established that the hijackers knew of their efforts and heard the heroes coming.

I imagine CeeCee Lyles passed on to heaven as she lived - taking care of others, calming and soothing them while remaining vigilant and seeing that an attempt at rescue was made.

Four sons, a loving husband and many co-workers, family members and friends were left behind to miss and remember CeeCee. I hope you'll remember not only this beautiful, brave woman, but her loved ones, as well, in your prayers.
Photo source


Thank you, CeeCee, for your service and sacrifice. You are not forgotten.


This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.
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Project 2,996: Remember Shannon Lewis Adams

Photo from Legacy.com
Much like myself, Shannon Lewis Adams, 25, grew up in a small town (Star Lake, New York). Like mine, Shannon's graduating class was less than three dozen students. He had a longstanding dream to leave his small hometown, in search of something bigger.

That dream landed him on the 101st floor of Tower One in the World Trade Center, as a fixed-income account at Cantor Fitzgerald. His mother, Gwyn Adams, reported he was so proud of his new career in the big city, having come from a town without a single stoplight. He set up a bachelor pad with friends in Astoria, complete with a huge fish tank, a big-screen television and a wall full of music.

According to his father, Lew Adams, "He was going 100 miles an hour all the time, it seems like. The city seemed to satisfy that a lot better than the northern Adirondacks."

Classmate Seth Adam Stuart described Shannon as "...pure fun," a living life to the fullest, and trying to make everyone around him happy with his wide grin.

Perhaps, because I come from a tiny town with no stoplights, and graduated with a class of 24 students, I imagine the pride and feeling of success Shannon must have experienced when he arrived in New York City. I am glad he was able to reach for that dream, and saddened that his success was cut short. I hope, as Shannon's best friend, Brad Siskavich, suggests, family and friends are able to "...remember the positives as opposed to the fact that he's just not here anymore."

I know, for me, I picture Shannon's compassion and hard work. I imagine him playing hockey with friends. I envision how he made people smile, just by sharing his life and his heart.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.


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Project 2,996: Remember Samantha Lightbourn-Allen

Image source
Samantha Lightbourn-Allen, 36, was a Budget Analyst for the Department of the Army at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. A devoted mother to John, Jr. (born in June 1985) and Samantha Brittnie (born on Christmas Day, 1988), she'd returned to work just four days earlier following a business trip and combined family vacation to Miami, Key West, and Disney World.
Samantha and her daughter. Photo source
A devout Christian, Samantha sang in her church choir, supported her children's activities such as Girl Scouts, and looked forward to retiring from the government, as her father had done.

Samantha graduated from high school in 1982 in the top five percent of her class, and went on to major in Business Administration at Prince George's Community College.

From childhood, Samantha loved Disney World and amusement parks, and was described as full of life and telling jokes. Her twin sister, Rennea, nicknamed her "Sennea."

Samantha (front) and her twin sister,
Rennea, at 7 months of age. Photo source

Family members describe Samantha as carefree; not prone to worry. "She just felt when it was your time, it was your time and worrying about it wouldn't change things anyway," her mother, Rebecca Lightbourn said.

I remember Samantha Lightbourn-Allen, and pray for peace for her loved ones.


This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.



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Project 2,996: Remember Christoffer Carstanjen

Image source
Christoffer Carstanjen boarded United Flight 175 intending to take a vacation, headed for San Diego, where he was scheduled to attend a motorcycle rally. He was 33 years old on September 11, 2001, a culinary chef and carpenter who built his own home.

A dancer from a young age, Christoffer was a member of the Country Dance and Song Society and the Marlboro Morris Men dancers, where team members nicknamed him "Mr. Wonderful." As one fellow dancer put it, "I looked forward to dancing with Chris because I knew he'd keep me laughing the whole time, and he'd swing so fast I felt like I would fly away."

Christoffer appears to have truly lived life, throwing himself into his passions, and making far-reaching goals for the future, including building a boat and learning to sail it, and establishing a live-in college for senior citizens.

A resident of Turner Falls, Massachusetts, and a computer research specialist for the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Christoffer was part of an internet motorcycle forum, where he earned the nickname "Captain Tupperware," a reference to the brightly-colored Honda motorbike he loved.

When researching Christoffer's life, I found this quote, taken from his website, which I think truly defines his outlook on life:

Best of all.....
Keep healthy, wealthy and wise. Your job is important, but don't live for just your job! Keep active and an open mind. Practice random acts of kindness. Compliment someone each day. Listen to all sides of a story before making a decision. Don't be afraid to admitting on being wrong. Learn the meaning of Life. Try, please try, to live within your means. Don't worry about saving money for your kids' college costs, it means lots more if they pay their own way. Save at least 15% of what you make for retirement. Try to meet someone new everyday. Ann Landers really means well. Plan for the future. Listen and surround yourself with positive people and speakers. Don't let the turkeys get you down. Write when you get work. :-)

Take care,
Christoffer

We should all be so lucky to know who we are, and what we want out of life. Ride on, Christoffer. You are remembered, today and always.


This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.


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Project 2,996: Remember Christian Adams

Photo source
This tribute is respectfully reposted from 2011.

Christian Adams, 37, was a resident of Biebelsheim, Germany and a well-known authority in the wine industry. Christian served as the deputy director of the German Wine Institute and director of its export department. He was father to Lukas, 7 in 2001, and Theresa, 5 in 2001, and husband to Silke.

Colleagues described Christian as quiet and thoughtful; a man who thought no job was beneath him. He'd worked his way up in the wine industry, and he was known for doing whatever job needed to be done, without hesitation - whether it was hefting cases of wine or uncorking bottles. Carol Sullivan, friend and colleague, said, "One of the things that impressed us most was his depth of knowledge."

Indeed, Christian was revered as an authority on wine, and he'd worked hard to gain his knowledge, obtaining a degree in winemaking and grape-growing from a German university and going on to earn a degree in marketing at University of California, Davis. It was at a German Wine Society convention in Los Angeles that Sullivan, director of the German Wine Information Bureau in New York, met Christian in 1989. Wine Institute officials were so impressed with him, they asked him to help with a symposium on Riesling grapes later that year. He met the director of the Institute at that event, who hired Christian to work in the export division. Christian worked his way up to deputy director in 1995.

Dedicated to keeping fit, Christian enjoyed playing and watching volleyball and basketball and - while known for his quiet demeanor - he enjoyed a good laugh or joke with friends.

Photo source

Christian also ran a winery owned by his wife's family, and September was a busy time for winemaking. Still, the calendar of holidays allowed him to break away from his obligations to attend two wine events in the United States in 2001 - one in New York, which ended September 10, and the other in San Francisco, scheduled to begin on the 13th. It was the second event Christian was headed for when he boarded United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.

Flight 93 was hijacked by terrorists and crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after an attempt by crew and passengers to reclaim control of the plane.

Today, I'm asking you join me in remembering the quiet, motivated young husband and father who was Christian Adams. Please say a prayer for his family and loved ones. Christian, you are not forgotten.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.

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We Need to Remember, Not Relive

Image from Project 2,996
I wasn’t anywhere near New York City or Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. In fact, I was in Snohomish County, Washington State, the morning of the great tragedy. When I woke up, Mr. Wright had the news on.

The south tower had just collapsed and, as I watched, speechless, the north tower began to fall. When I finally found my voice, all I could say was, “Why? Why is this happening?” I desperately wanted to believe it was all a hideous dream, and that I would wake up soon.

My friend, Jewel Cripe, was working in Washington, D.C. that day at Courtesy Associates, a meeting planning firm on 20th and L, eight blocks from the White House. As she walked into work late with a co-worker, her colleagues were in a stir, saying the area was being evacuated. Jewel was quickly briefed on the crashes at the World Trade Center, and informed that more flights had been hijacked, believed to be headed for the White House.

Minutes later, American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.

It was two miles to Jewel’s home. Traffic was gridlocked, no taxis were available, and the lines at the Metro backed up for blocks. She began walking.

On the way, she called her brother, who lived and worked in New York City. She was able to confirm he was on the Brooklyn Bridge, trying to get home, though he had friends in the World Trade Center. She called her parents to let them know she was safe.

When Jewel arrived home, she watched events unfold on television. She again called her brother, who was home with his then-fiancée. They were both tuned in, hoping for news about their friends in the World Trade Center.

For days, and even months, D.C. remained on high alert. The tours of school children from across the country halted.

In fact, it was a year before Jewel heard a child laugh on the Metro. At the time, she thought, “Aha—that’s what’s been missing… Laughter.” It was a sign that time had passed, and parents had eased their anxiety enough to allow their children to see the city.

Today, Jewel says, “We need to remember, but not relive; be prepared, but not fearful. We need to pray for peace, no matter our religion—whether for world peace, or peace in our own hearts.

We never know who we’re meeting, or who is next to us… and we don’t know how the peace in our own heart, or the joy we give others, can affect their history, or their community’s history.”

I agree.

That’s why Project 2,996 is so important to me. By writing a tribute to a victim of 9/11, we remember, but not relive.

Fellow bloggers, there is still time to join in, and remember a life—not a death—by writing a tribute post. Go to Project 2,996’s website, select a name, and remember.

Never forget.

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