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The Lives Left Behind

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Lori Kane

New Jersey mom with one son
Lori Kane never called her husband, Howard, the financial controller of Windows on the World, first thing in the morning, because it was his busiest time. But on the morning of September 11, she was washing the breakfast dishes in their home in Hazlet, New Jersey, when she suddenly felt the need to talk.

"It was a beautiful day, and it was very still," she says. "The trees weren't moving, and I thought, this is weird, it's almost as if time stopped. I looked up at the clock, it was 8:44 a.m., and I thought, I have to call Howard." It was family chit-chat, the poetry of daily life: She told her husband that she might take Jason, then 11, to the doctor, and urged him to get home early because she had a parent-teacher meeting that night. "His exact words were, 'I'll be there for you and Jason,' " she says.

"And then he began screaming my name again and again."

The first plane had hit his office building. "I thought he was having a heart attack. I heard the phone drop." She yelled his name, and another man picked up the phone. He told Kane there was a fire and that Howard was organizing an evacuation.

As she tells this story, she's sitting in the pristine living room of her redwood Colonial, which sits on a quiet street. Her wedding picture hangs over the TV. Last fall she searched hospitals, convinced her husband might still be alive. "One night I did get a call; the Red Cross said, 'You have to call this hospital right away,' " she says. "They said, 'We have a man named Kane here,' and I said, 'Is he alive?,' and they said yes. But it turned out to be a Craig Kane." Howard's remains were found in October.

Back in 1988, Lori (née Renz, the daughter of a Lyndhurst mailman) was running the computer room at Bascom Foods in Paterson, New Jersey, when Howard was hired as the controller there. On his second day of work, he crashed the system. "It took five hours to get it back up. He was so apologetic, he kept saying, 'Can I take you out to dinner?' " They married almost two years later.

Kane, who works several hours a day as an aide in the cafeteria of her son's school, says he's doing relatively well but remains very angry. He misses the Sunday fishing trips, the elaborate meals his father concocted from Windows on the World recipes.

What troubles Kane is the feeling that she's branded by the tragedy. "I just want to be treated normally," she says. "But people don't know how to speak to me. I'm the same person." She was shaken by the ground-zero memorial service in the spring. "People were standing there taking our pictures and watching us. I felt like I was onstage, like I was a movie star. No matter what we did, they wanted to capture us by camera." Nevertheless, she plans to trek back to ground zero on September 11. "My friends and family keep saying that there will be closure," she says. "When they call his name, I have to be there for him."

Kane was contacted last November by another Windows widow -- they'd never met but their husbands knew each other -- and ever since, they've talked several times a month. In June, both women were surprised to discover that on the same weekend they'd both finally ventured out for an evening with friends. "It was as if we both decided at the same time, You can't sit in the house forever."

But it is still so hard to make sense of a world in which your husband goes to the office and is killed by terrorists. "I never gave up my faith at all," says Kane, who is Protestant. "I thought God was holding up the Twin Towers, to let people get out. Am I angry at him? No. They say that everything in life has a purpose. But this one," she says with a rueful smile, "someone's got a lot of explaining to do."


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