The weather today is very much like it was that dark day 11 years ago. Bright blue sky, comfortable temperatures. I had dropped my car off for service and a friend picked me up to take me to work. Walking into my office and turning on the radio in my office was the last "normal" thing I did that day.
I moved from the New York area less than a year after 9/11. But on this day - I will always be a New Yorker. Here are my previous posts on 9/11.
- September 11, 2006
- September 11, 2007
- September 11, 2008
- September 11, 2009
- September 11, 2010
- September 11, 2011
|Maria Rose Abad|
Residence: Syosset, NY,
Occupation: Senior Vice President, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Location: World Trade Center, Tower 2, 86th floor
Marie Abad loved her job as a senior vice president at Keefe Bruyette Woods, where she was one of the highest-ranking women in the firm. But it was equally important to her to find an escape from work, said her husband, Rudy, and she found that through the hundreds of books she went through each year.
Ms. Abad, 49, read on the train commuting from Long Island to the World Trade Center, and she read on vacation. Each October, she and her husband would spend three weeks in Hawaii — a tradition that started on their honeymoon and continued over the next two decades — and every year she would make sure she had plenty to read. Hawaii meant down time: days on end when the biggest decision was where to have dinner, and the passage of time was marked by the leisurely flutter of turned pages — novels, biographies, celebrity tell-alls.
"She'd go through eight books in three weeks, and these were not little books," Mr. Abad said. "I know because I did the packing."
Ms. Abad, who was born and raised in Queens, did not plan on a career in business. She studied sociology at Queens College and dreamed of being a teacher. She and her husband had plotted out the lives they would lead when the workaday world could be left behind: six months of the year traveling was their plan. And of course, a world of books to explore.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on April 7, 2002. From Legacy.com
Rudy Abad's world collapsed when the Twin Towers fell, burying his wife, Marie Rose, and the couple's plans to retire early and travel the world.
"I could feel the slabs of concrete hitting her, crushing her body," Abad said at his Woodbury home.
It took a while for Abad to face the reality of his devastating loss. Feeling like he "was getting paid for her death," he held out until the 11th hour to claim his share of the $7-billion victim's compensation fund after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
But Abad found a way to channel his grief by helping others in hardship and keeping the spirit of his wife alive by partnering with a nonprofit to build housing for homeless families in his native country, the Philippines. So, in one of the Philippines' most poverty-stricken areas, today rises The Maria Rose Abad Village, named for his late wife.
Abad's is just one of the most visible charitable efforts undertaken by many bereaved relatives of 9/11 victims. Other families have launched similar charitable ventures ranging from full-fledged foundations to scholarships and donations to the victims of natural disasters such as the Southeast Asia tsunami.
"The grief they have experienced has made them more empathetic to the grief of others," said Bill Doyle, a 9/11 family advocate and co-president of the 9/11 Charitable Health Insurance Group, which provides group health insurance to more than 1,500 individuals and family members affected by the attacks. "So many families are now calling me to find out how they can do something for the hurricane victims." Doyle, a retired Lehman Brothers stockbroker from Staten Island, lost his son, Joseph, a government bond supervisor for Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center.
Marie Rose Abad was 49 when her life was cut short in the south tower. She was born in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn and raised in Richmond Hill, Queens.
"She was a very bright, very pleasant, giving person whom was always willing to lend an ear," Abad said of his wife, who was memorialized Oct. 13, 2001, at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Woodbury. "We were really best friends."
The Maria Rose Abad Village in Tondo, in metropolitan Manila, comprises three clusters of 46 brightly colored row houses and a two-unit school house for preschoolers. Except for the school, all the houses have been completed and are already occupied.
One of the residents is Marites Espinosa, 39, a mother of seven, the youngest of whom is only 3.
She lives with husband Romulo, who works hauling vegetables delivered at a nearby market. After their humble shelter burned down in 2001, her family was awarded, one year later, one of the new homes that Abad financed.
"I am happy that we now have a home," she said.
Especially with the onset of the rainy season last month, Marites is thankful that there are no roof leaks to contend with anymore. The only hitch now is the lack of electricity because residents have yet to apply for meters with the utility company.
Rey Campanera, a two-term councilman in Baseco since 1998, is grateful as well for the work being done by nonprofit groups like Gawad Kalinga and Habitat for Humanity. "Finally, legitimate residents are being provided their right to decent housing," he said.
His wife would have been extremely happy about that, said Abad, 59, adding that theirs was a "Cinderella marriage." They met in 1970 during a Merrill Lynch training program, he said, and married, in 1974.
She landed a job in Manhattan in 1978 with investment bankers Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. She rose to senior vice president at the firm, which moved into the south tower in 1985.
When a truck loaded with explosives tore a hole in the underground garage of the north tower in 1993, Abad said his wife walked down 90 floors and was covered in soot. "At first, we were fearful about her going back," he said, "but, like with everything, time makes you forget."
Still, Abad said, he won't forget the images of Sept. 11.
He was on his daily treadmill run when the phone rang that morning. "Don't worry," Abad said his wife assured him from her office on the 89th floor. "I'm OK. I said, 'What are you talking about?' She said, 'Turn on the TV.'"
Video of the burning tower played on television, prompting Abad to call his wife. As they talked, he watched horrified as the second jetliner slammed into her tower. "Your building just got hit," he told her. She cut the call short. Then around 9:25 a.m. she called again to say the heat was getting unbearable and people were trying to leave.
"Pray, please pray," she told him. "Call me as soon as you can," he said.
In the aftermath of his wife's death, Abad said he searched for a purpose - something "meaningful."
He sponsored a couple of young Filipino girls whose photos adorn his fridge, and even made donations to American Indian causes.
But when former schoolmate Mike Goco told him about the work a Philippines-based nonprofit was doing to provide housing for residents in metropolitan Manila, he had an epiphany.
Abad recalled how, heartbroken by the street urchins his wife saw, some as young as 4-years-old selling lottery tickets on one of several trips to his homeland, she spent two days handing out one-peso coins to every kid she crossed paths with.
Abad partnered with Gawad Kalinga, taking a portion of the victim compensation he received to finance the construction of the village that now bears his wife's name and picture on a plaque at the gateway.
"The lives of 50 families will improve dramatically because my wife died," Abad said shortly before leaving Long Island last week on a five-week trip to the Philippines where he plans to break ground on a second housing project. "This time, I want to get my hands dirty." - Collin Nash From Newsday