Hawai'i dreams died one year ago
|The sun sets over Ground Zero, the day before the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. For friends and families of Hawai'i's victims, the past year has been a difficult one. Some are ready to move forward; others remain angry; at least one doesn't care if he lives or dies.
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By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer
The last dream Laura Brough remembers came before Christmas. Her mother appeared, and just as she was about to speak, Brough awoke.
The 32-year-old Hawai'i Kai woman wishes she could close her eyes, drift to sleep and catch another glimpse of her mom, Georgine Rose Corrigan, who died a year ago today when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a Pennsylvania field.
A year later, Brough can hardly sleep.
Like so many loved ones of Sept. 11 victims, distractions have kept Brough going. The letters, the lawyers, the task of settling an estate, running her own business and raising two children have been enough to keep her awake and functioning.
"I know what I'm going through is nothing compared with what she went through on that plane," said Brough, whose mom, a 55-year-old antiques dealer, was supposed to be on another flight that day but changed it so she could be on a less crowded flight heading home to Hawai'i. "I actually haven't had all the emotions that I'm going to have about it because I've had daily distractions."
The worst preoccupation has been imagining, again and again, what the last moments on Flight 93 must have been like: passengers overtaking hijackers as the plane hurtled to the ground.
"You imagine yourself trading places," Brough said, "wondering why."
Kindness at Ground Zero
|Americans remembered the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center with a candlelight vigil last night in Jersey City, N.J.
Why did one of her brothers, who took United Airlines Flight 175 weekly on business trips, not take the ill-fated flight that crashed into the World Trade Center while another brother, who was at the trade center that day for a meeting, die there?
In the early days after Sept. 11, Keane, 45, a nurse at Kuakini Medical Center, used to fantasize that Richard Keane, the brother she called Ricky, was lost somewhere, just waiting to be found.
He was an insurance executive at the Marsh & McLennan office in Hartford, Conn., and was at the New York office for a meeting when the hijacked planes hit. The Wethersfield, Conn., churchgoer and longtime coach is now the namesake of a community sports center. Ricky Keane was the kind of guy who used to crack everybody up with his sharp wit. The prayer card at his funeral said what he used to joke about himself: "I'm a helluva guy." But his sister's funny memories of him are tinged with harsh reality and lots of "what ifs."
When authorities notified her sister-in-law that her brother had been identified by DNA, the questions changed. Was he alive when the tower fell? What was his death actually like?
Not a day goes by without Sept. 11 rising somewhere in Charlotte Keane's world. It comes over her at unexpected moments. She finds herself talking to strangers about it, perhaps just to express the horror she still feels.
Keane's thoughts often return to Oct. 11, the one-month anniversary of the attacks.
Keane, who has lived in Hawai'i for 21 years, had taken four lei to the East Coast one for her brother's wife and the rest for her brother. She and 10 family members, who were given hard hats, huddled and clung to one another like children as they inched toward the wreckage, smelling the unforgettable scent of melting wires and death. It looked as if they had been transported to some faraway land devastated by bombs.
The engineer in charge of the site saw her lei. He came over to ask if the family wanted him to take the flowers up on a crane and drop them as far over as he could onto the still-burning pile of twisted steel and rubble that used to be the Twin Towers. The family agreed and thanked him.
The engineer hoisted two men up in a basketlike box, and they hung the lei for all to see. The man who threw each lei blessed himself each time and tossed the flowers far into the wreckage, one at a time. Then he saluted the family and waved.
"I felt like I was in church," Keane said. It was quiet. All of the other cranes and work trucks had come to a halt. Workers gathered around the Keanes, took off their hard hats and put their hands over their hearts. Some were crying, and others passed by to offer condolences.
Months later, Charlotte Keane is still grateful for the kindness of strangers.
Subtle things remind her that life goes on. Her nephew's family had a baby in June, a girl who would have been her brother's third grandchild. With the birth came a shred of healing.
Consumed by loss
Marisay, Georgine Corrigan's younger brother in Teaneck, N.J., had talked Corrigan into working with him in the antiques business. Corrigan's plane went down on the way back from an antiques show they had traveled to together.
Marisay said he takes no pleasure from working in the business anymore. All he can think of is loss.
"I have absolutely nothing to hang onto," said Marisay, 52, who has been having panic attacks lately. "Someone said I'm suicidal. I said, 'No, I just don't care if I live.' "
He's in Pennsylvania this week, along with Brough and other family members, for a memorial service in the field where his sister's plane crashed. After that, Marisay is heading to an antiques show to try to make a living. Then he's escaping to Las Vegas.
"Out there, they don't know me," he said. "No one will ask me how I feel or 'How was the ceremony?' "
No time to be bitter
Hale was the 26-year-old chief operating officer and vice president of Boston Investor Services. She was ambitious since her days as valedictorian of the Kaiser High School class of 1993. On Sept. 11, she was attending a conference at Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center's north tower.
Her family doesn't want her to be lost in the numbers of the thousands who died that day.
"We keep her alive," said her mother, CarolAnn Hale of Hawai'i Kai. "We talk about her all the time."
The young woman with the passion for dancing and the ocean is present in small details of life the Dove chocolate bars that remind friends of her sweet tooth, the silver bracelets her former teachers at Kaiser wear engraved with her name, the kukui nut tree and boulder from Hanauma Bay placed at Kaiser to honor her, and the memorial built in Mystic Seaport, Conn., where she was part of a maritime studies program.
Her loss has changed the way her family looks at life but not their desire to keep living.
"What happened was an aberration," her mother said. "The world is populated by caring people. You cannot be bitter if you're going to survive it."
One happy moment came when CarolAnn Hale opened her mail to find a letter from a couple in South Carolina the Hales had never met who had decided to name their new baby Rachel Maile Hale's middle name.
And on Feb. 14, what would have been Maile Hale's 27th birthday, firemen in Hawai'i Kai raised a flag from the World Trade Center in her honor.
Life measured in extremes
On April 24, what would have been her mother's 56th birthday, her family celebrated with a cake and all the fixings.
But the next day, when her son Dylan had a bad day at preschool, Brough worried about whether celebrating his dead grandma's birthday was the right thing to do. She felt like she was turning into a terrible parent.
Her life is measured in extremes these days.
"Everything's greener. Everything's bluer. Everything's harder. It's harder to trust," Brough said. "I'm thankful I work at home and not in a building somebody's going to want to blow up. You love better. You appreciate what you have."
But the bright glimmer of being alive sometimes is swallowed by a dark shadow. When Brough goes to drive her pickup, she checks in the back to make sure no one's hiding.
"I'm cautious of things I never would have been cautious of before."
Bringing aloha to New Jersey
|Rich Y.C. Lee|
In Montclair, N.J., this week, Henry and Rose Lee of Wahiawa have come with armloads of lei.
The Lees are there to be with their daughter, Lissa Jean Collins, for today's memorial service at Ground Zero. Collins, a fashion designer and 1977 Leilehua High School graduate, lost her husband, Michael Collins, in the World Trade Center attack. He was a 38-year-old manager with Cantor Fitzgerald's eSpeed division.
It's been the most trying year the family has ever endured, but the Lees also say they've been blessed with support. So instead of marking the year anniversary with only sadness, they are set on bringing some aloha to their daughter's New Jersey cul-de-sac, where neighbors have rallied this year with snow shovels, lawn mowers, casseroles and comfort.
"Rose is throwing a Korean barbeque for the neighbors," Henry Lee said. "She wants to make a big block party for them. It's kind of a Hawaiian-Korean lu'au kind of thing."
Michael Collins was a solid Mainlander from Irvington, N.Y., who fell in love with an island girl. The avid snowboarder grew to love mountain biking in Hawai'i and learned what it meant to be part of an 'ohana. His wife's niece even performed the hula at his memorial service last October. When people in Hawai'i learned of his death, they reached out to the Lees.
"Even Michael's family in New York, they're so happy Michael had a connection in Hawai'i," Henry Lee said. "People in Hawai'i treated him just like an island boy."
He was one of about 700 Cantor Fitzgerald employees who died when the towers collapsed. Back here in Hawai'i, there's a plaque in the Punahou end zone for him.
For former island girl Laurie Miller Laychak, the years since she graduated from Hawaii Baptist Academy in 1980 seemed to fade when friends reached out to her upon the death of her husband. Laychak, who had settled in Manassas, Va., was working as a substitute teacher Sept. 11 when a note was delivered to her second-grade class alerting her that there had been an attack on the Pentagon.
She met her husband, David, at the Pentagon, where he worked as a civilian budget analyst for the Army. The place where they met is where he died Sept. 11. Laychak's former classmates in Hawai'i prayed for her and sent money.
They also posted messages on a Web site, including Cheryl Bain's note: "Laurie, I read about your loss in the paper where I found you had graduated from HBA eight years before me," Bain wrote. "May God Bless you and your family."
For former Hawai'i composer Dean Pitchford, the premiere of his musical, "Footloose," in March at his alma mater, St. Louis School, became an emotional tribute to his sister. Patricia "Patti" Pitchford Colodner, a 39-year-old executive secretary at Marsh & McLennan, was at her desk on the 96th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower when it collapsed.
Colodner, who was born in Hawai'i, attended Star of the Sea School, graduated from Our Redeemer Lutheran High School in 1979 and moved to New York shortly after that. She married in 1990 and had two children.
Colodner and her brother Dean shared a love of theater. He wrote the title songs for "Footloose" and "Fame," and she helped him bring a few productions to New York. His tribute to her is a song he composed with Tom Snow, called "Closer," with lyrics that say:
I see your face in firelight
I hold you close in memory
And even though I know you're gone, I know you're here
In Marisay's life, grief remains raw, and there's really no such thing as closure.
"I haven't found anything to take comfort in," he said. "There's just nothing yet."
'Till We Meet Again'
For Ian Pescaia, the Kailua man who became a widower three months after his marriage to Christine Snyder, imagining the way she would have handled things forces him to take a more positive attitude.
His wife was on United Airlines Flight 93 with Georgine Corrigan. Snyder was returning home after attending the American Forestry Conference in Washington, D.C., and visiting New York City for the first time.
Pescaia, a race car hobbyist, has been touched by the trees planted in honor of Snyder, who was a 32-year-old landscape and planting project manager for The Outdoor Circle environmental group.
"The nature, the beauty of Hawai'i was everything she lived for," said Snyder's stepmother, Jan Snyder, of 'Aiea, who plans to go with family members tonight to the tree planted for Christine at Magic Island and maybe have a glass of wine or champagne to celebrate Christine's life.
Jan Snyder said she's not ready to sit at the public ceremony at Punchbowl and hear the leader of the Muslim Association of Hawai'i speak.
"I hope I can forgive at some point," she said, "but it's not going to be right now." This week, she said, has reduced her to being angry at everything.
Family members say they're just hoping to get to Sept. 12 and move on. They want to smile at the small things, like the stickers Pescaia's friends at Hawai'i Raceway Park have placed on their car windows in memory of his late wife.
Pescaia's own imprint can be seen around the raceway and other places where he carves the letters "TWMA." It stands for: "Till We Meet Again."
He is determined to move forward with his life and not dwell on his heartache. It's the way Chris would have wanted it, he said. And even strangers back him up on that.
"Living here we're kind of sheltered in Hawai'i," he said. "When people from halfway across the world start sending letters telling you they hope you get through this, it's kind of neat."
In another circle of friends, Heather Ho's first college roommate had a baby girl and named her Malia, Ho's middle name.
Ho, 32, was an up-and-coming pastry chef at Windows on the World. She grew up in Honolulu and graduated from Boston University and the Culinary Institute of America. She worked at high-profile New York restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, Bouley, Clementine and the Screening Room, and in San Francisco at the Boulevard. She was known for her lemon icebox cake, her coconut rice pudding, her devil's food cake with caramelized bananas and her secret love of unsnooty snacks like Combos.
At the Punahou School class of 1987's 15th reunion over the summer, her picture flashed up periodically on a running slide show.
Most of the other pictures were from high school. But Ho's was more recent, a more poignant reminder of her absence.
Her recipes are still being circulated among her chef friends, and her death has brought a worldwide network of people together. But like others dealing with grief, the healing comes in shreds.
"There have been beautiful things," said Malia Boyd, 33, who grew up with Ho and remained close even after Boyd moved to New Orleans. "But it's hard to think of them because it's still so painful. In a few more years, when we have some distance, ask me then."
Some day, a good night's rest
There are times when Brough would like to lash out at the television for selecting only certain people as heroes in the aftermath of Sept. 11. There are times when she stands in the kitchen and stares at the empty space where her mom used to cook dinner. She longs to have even the mundane moments back.
She wants to get on with her life, but she doesn't know if she can catch up with her dreams anymore. She wants to try, if she can just slow down and get away from the distractions.
A good night's rest is all she really wants. That would be a start.
Reach Tanya Bricking at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8026.