It’s been ten years since 9/11 occurred. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed, yet the wounds are still there. On 9/11/2001 I was actually working on Pennsylvania Ave in DC very close to the Capitol. My phone rang and a friend asked me if I was okay, “of course I am,” I replied, thinking why wouldn’t I be? I was completely unaware of the chaos that was taking place in NY and in my own neighborhood. When I finally realized what was going on, I couldn’t really comprehend it. I knew I wanted to get out of that building. The boss I worked for actually made us take a personal day, nice guy huh? All the phone lines were busy and I went outside to try and use a payphone, people were frantic, some running a few crying and it was all confusing and terrifying. My friend Ronnie and I walked to my house which was a few blocks away and stayed glued to the television with tears running down our face. The destruction was unbelievable. I finally did speak to my family and friends and they were all experiencing the same shock, fear and anger I was.
The next few days I read the paper, and came across a photo that has stayed etched in my heart and mind ever since, it was a picture of a woman named Mary Duff-Ortale, she was hold a picture of her husband Peter Ortale, it was their wedding picture. Her mother Kathi Adlum was holding her anguished daughter from behind. I stared at that photo and the heaviness of 9/11 hit my heart like a ton of bricks. When I read about Peter Ortale, I was deeply saddened for his loved ones and his wife. See, Peter was a guy I would’ve been friends with. He was intelligent, funny, loving, caring, well travelled, and seemed to love his family and friends. He and Mary were only married 16 months before terrorists took his life (he’s remains were never found). Every year I’ve written in his legacy book and have wondered about Mary. The sorrow in that picture resonated so deeply within me.
I”ve often wondered how do people go on when something of this magnitude happens, how do they live? How was Mary? Well, Newsweek caught up with Mary and I’m thrilled to say she has a beautiful 5 year old daughter named Kate and seems to be moving forward. She said she searched for Peter and then held out hope, after that she basically went to bed for the next two years (can you blame her?). Then she had a baby to a long time friend of hers and currently resides in New York. When I saw this article it made my day! I’ve been having a not so good day and then Mary made me think about how life does move on, even through the worst of tragedies the resiliency of the human spirit will still push through. I’m sure she still has hard days, but she’s celebrating life. When asked about this Sunday she said, she’ll cry for an hour and then take her daughter to the park. God bless you Mary Duff and the family of Peter Ortale. I pray that all of us take time not just on 9/11 but every day to cherish our seconds, our minutes, and love one another like it is our last day. Read more about Peter Ortale and Mary Duff.