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Mothers Share Their Sept. 11 Stories

Moms Face 9/11
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

I must admit I cringed when my editor first asked me to write profiles of mothers who had lost a husband or a child in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. How could I find out how these moms were doing without aggravating their sorrow? Plus, weren't they sick of the media microscope?

The answers to my questions came shortly after I sent out an email to some victims' rights and family groups, asking if there were mothers interested in sharing how they've picked up the pieces after 9/11. The story is meant to be a positive one, I said, hopefully something that will be helpful to other grievers.

My phone rang, and then it rang again, and again over the next few days. Several women -- even those that weren't mothers -- volunteered some of the most intimate and painful details of their lives.

They weren't looking for pity or the media spotlight, however, as critics have suggested of some survivors. These women said they were willing to talk if their experiences could comfort others.

Almost all of them did choke up at some point during the interview, but instead of merely displaying their vulnerability, the tears seemed to bolster their resolve. For their fallen loved one's sake, they weren't taking this lying down. Each of them had a mission -- whether it was to lobby for a thorough investigation of the World Trade Center collapse, to start a support group, to pursue a dream of their loved one's, or to get the rest of the family through the crisis.

Their collective voices resonated with strength and supported the idea that something positive can come out of tragedy. Yet they all dismissed suggestions that they were doing anything remarkable. Each day, they say they just get up like everyone else, and do their best.

Here are some of their amazing stories.

Facing the Challenge

Life was demanding enough when Laura Weinberg Aronow and her husband, Richard, worked together as a team to care for their 4-year-old autistic child, Willie. But when Rich died while working as a Port Authority lawyer in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center, the full responsibility of Willie's care fell on Laura.

"I knew the most important thing I could possibly do was to get Willie into a school," Laura said, noting that the constant sympathy calls and random visits to the house bothered her son. Willie had still hoped that his daddy was alive, and resented any suggestions to the contrary.

He went back to diapers and stopped going to the bathroom on his own because he associated toilet training with his dad. Because Willie had also not developed verbal skills yet, he was only able to sign the word "sad" over and over again.

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