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The Kids They Left Behind

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"I got so scared," says Weinberg, a pretty, sporty seventh-grader with a heart-shaped face and a curly mop she subdues with goop. "I called my mother during lunch. She said she talked to Daddy after the first plane hit and he was trying to get out, but . . . um . . . " Her eyes fill up. She can't finish the sentence. Her mother, Laurie, walks over to her daughter's bed and rubs her shoulders, waiting to see if she'll say something. She has yet to coax a long discussion out of her daughter about her father's death.

"I didn't eat anything," Lindsay finally says. "At lunch. That day. I was really, like, not in school." That evening, Lindsay went to a friend's house. "When I came back, there were billions of cars. My mom came down the driveway and said she hadn't heard from him. So . . . " She can't finish that sentence either. She looks at me imploringly and starts to cry.

Steven Weinberg worked as an accounting manager for Baseline Financial Services. He and his daughter were very close. Last year, he coached her basketball team, though he wasn't much of an athlete. ("I'd always pull him aside and say, 'Daddy, calm down!' ")

Lindsay has two siblings: Sam, who's 8, and Jason, who's 6. "My 8-year-old is acting out a little bit," says Laurie Weinberg, an attractive, articulate brunette who works part-time as a medical biller. "He's louder than usual, and he needs to be told to do something five times instead of the normal three. And the first week or so, every little thing made my 6-year-old cry. But in the last few days, he's changed. I think the memorial service helped him gain closure. I think it helped all of us gain closure."

Lindsay's reticence, though, still makes her fret. "When I try to get her to talk," says Laurie, "she just cries. I think she just can't find the words. But her friends have been very supportive. They've enveloped her into a social life. Amazing. They're only 11 and 12."

That first week, in fact, Lindsay's friends kept slipping out of class to phone her while she stayed at home with her mother. Since then, they've called or stopped by almost every day.

"It's hardest when I'm by myself," she says. "That's when I start to cry."

She looks around her room. There are sports trophies on the bookshelf, memory candles at the foot of the bed, photo collages of camp pals covering the walls.

"After the service, I got a letter from my friend," she suddenly says. "It said all these things. It said so many things. Like . . . um . . . You want to see?"

I nod; she takes a seat at her computer and logs on to AOL. "My dad was really into the computer," she says. "He'd be on it all night. He used to e-mail me when I was at camp." She wipes her nose with a tissue and points, points, clicks.

There are probably a dozen or so messages dated 9/11/01. One: i am so sorry for the worrying and frustration that you are going through right now . . . Another: dont know u all too well but im in c wing and i hear ur dad is missing im very sorry to hear that and give u all my sympathy . . . A third: we know that ur dad is in some hospital somewhere trying to contact u and tell him that hes all ryte! im so sorry that ur dad can not be w/u 2day but u know by 2morrow u will be in his arms.

"I also got a phone call from this girl I had an argument with in fifth grade and haven't really spoken to since," says Lindsay. "She gave me a hug the next day."

She stands up. Lindsay is a full inch taller than her mother, though she just turned 12 years old. I ask if there's any message she'd like to impart about her father for this story. She shrugs, apologizes, and blinks back tears.

Standing over the keyboard, she finds the e-mail she was looking for. It's dated 9/29/01, the day after her father's memorial service.

hey linz! what's up. . . . i can't describe to u and tell u how sorry i am . . . when i was at the service yesterday i didn't know how u survived . . . i mean i'm just one of ur best friends and i knew ur dad farely well and i was hesterical crying . . . linz what i want to say to u is that u have all my sympathy and i will ALWAYS ALWAYS be here for u!! if u EVER need to talk to someone please come to me . . .

Love always and forever,

Kathryn

She looks up. Tears are rolling down her pink cheeks. "What I miss about him most," she says, "is, I guess, um, everything. How about everything?"


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