It's the stupid, ordinary, day-to-day stuff that is still so brutal. Upper West Sider Emily Terry recently took her daughter Lucy to the doctor to discuss whether the 4-year-old's ear problems would require minor surgery. "The doctor told me, 'So go home and have a family meeting and decide what you want to do.' "
These would be innocuous words, except that Terry's husband, Andrew Kates, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and perished on September 11. "I thought, This is it, I am the family meeting," says Terry.
For the spouses of those who died in the Twin Towers, a simple encounter can turn into a trap-door moment that hurls them unexpectedly into bottomless grief. And yet, while the pain and loss remain excruciating, there is also a small sense of relief, a sad triumph in merely having survived.
"In one night, I was turned into a mother and a father, a banker and a carpenter," says Lori Kane, a stay-at-home New Jersey mom whose husband, Howard Kane, worked at Windows on the World. Her first six months were a blur, as the shock and constant sobbing turned to bleak recognition and numbness. But on an August vacation to Puerto Rico with her 12-year-old son, Jason, Kane found herself musing about how far she'd come. "I've never been good at being alone, my whole life. I didn't think I could do this. I can."
Anna Mojica, whose husband, Manny, was a firefighter based in Greenwich Village, has received dozens of condolence letters and gifts from strangers, but the note that really got to her came from a 9-year-old Colorado boy. "He wrote that the real heroes were the wives and the families left behind," she says.
If their husbands had died of cancer or in a car wreck, their loss would be equally agonizing, but what's disorienting for these women is all the public attention being focused on them. It's weird to have cars cruise slowly by their homes, to have people in the health club whisper and stare, to hear strangers making judgments about how they should live their lives.
Yet it's worse when people don't know. LaChanze Sapp-Gooding, an actress who was married to Cantor Fitzgerald trader Calvin Gooding and gave birth to their second child in October, says she doesn't want to spend her life wearing a sign saying 9/11 widow and explaining her situation. "The saddest thing about all of this is that my little girl will never meet her father," she says. "Most people won't know what happened, and they're going to see me as yet another African-American single mother in America -- and this wasn't my plan or choice."
Now, at the one-year mark, these four women have all been time-warped to the past, replaying again and again the last moments with their husbands, the things they said or didn't say, the final, irrevocable image before everything changed. They are saying good-bye all over again. But they're also looking to the future, beginning to think about the "What next?" chapter.