> www.rowanmagazine.com
subscribe feedback
> features > departments > class notes > back issues > services > resources
printer friendly version
print version

Waiting to Remember
the Good
At every turn, Diane Kracov Monahan ’84 is bombarded with memories of her husband, John: in the supermarket, at the dry cleaners and in the face of her 3-year-old son, who has his father’s hazel green eyes.

John Monahan, 47, an operations supervisor for Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center twin towers. He worked on the 101st floor and called Diane at their Ocean Township home moments after the first plane struck the North Tower at 8:49 a.m. “The Trade Center is on fire. I love you. I love the boys. I don’t think I’m going to make it out,” he told her, hanging up before she could say a word—not even goodbye or that she loved him, too.

“I don’t know if he was trying to get out or he didn’t want me to hear him die,” she said. “I just hope that it went really fast. I hope that 15 seconds after he hung up that he was dead.”

Diane watched TV coverage in horror as the building where John worked was engulfed in thick black smoke. His body was never recovered and several days later she had to break the news to their sons, Terrence, 5, and C.J., 3.

Grieving, she was soon surrounded by relatives and friends. On September 12, Diane found her college roommate, Donna Spear Wright ’83, on her doorstep. Another classmate, Sandy Dowds Giorno, also came to pay condolences, and calls came from Robyn Steinberg Brennan in Atlanta and Amy Jerman Urmansky in California.

Initially, she was worried about how the family would survive financially because John was the sole breadwinner. But support has come from Cantor Fitzgerald and life insurance.

She spends most of her time these days trying to reassure her boys. They become anxious when she leaves them—afraid that she, too, will not return. She fills their days with activities, trying to take the place of their father, who took them to the beach, bathed them at night and played tee-ball and miniature golf with them. “When you have little kids, you’ve got to just keep going. There’s no time for self-pity,” she said. “It doesn’t do you any good anyway.”

The boys frequently ask about their father. Sometimes they refer to the terrorist attack as the “big bad fire.” And when they miss their dad, they say that “they don’t want him in heaven—they want him to come home.” Although her heart aches for their loss, she holds back her tears for their sake. “I try my best to never cry when they talk about John. No matter what they say. No matter how sad,” she said. “I don’t want them to think of their father with sadness. He loved them.”

John and Diane met in 1989 at work. It was an instant attraction, although they were opposites. He was quiet; she is gregarious. He came from a large, close-knit Irish Catholic family; she is Hispanic and Jewish. “He was a great guy,” said Diane, who described John as her soul mate. They married in 1991; they had planned a Florida getaway to celebrate their 10th anniversary last October.

“I miss John every morning and every night. There’s always something to remind you that there’s someone missing,” said Diane, adding that even seeing broccoli —John’s favorite vegetable—at the grocery store brings back memories. “It’s just never going to be the same again.”

Without John, she is learning to take life one day at a time. “I didn’t think I would be alone at this stage in my life,” she said. “I’m waiting for the time when we think about it and only think about the good times. So far we’re not even close.”

—Melanie Burney ’84

related links
In memory (special section)

Expert on Afghanistan shares insight on “Unholy Alliance”
(RU Foundation release)

Other features
Alums Abroad
Generation X-cellent

Life After Loss
by Chip Turner ’96

One of the difficulties in discussing how September 11, 2001 has changed our lives is that you simply run out of superlatives and synonyms for the words bad and pain. The English language seems to lack the proper terminology to describe the emotions that surface. If there was a word that combined sorrow, rage, fear, pride and apprehension, that might do…
   On the afternoon of September 11, I managed to get on one of the trains leaving Manhattan. Shortly after the train exited the tunnel on the New Jersey side, everyone became silent as the huge black plumes of smoke came into view, marking where the World Trade Center had stood just a few hours before. Amid the gasps and murmurs, an older gentleman several seats in front of me quietly said, “This changes everything.”
   He’s absolutely correct. A way of thinking ended that day, before we had to take into account that terrorists would turn airplanes into missiles and intentionally aim them at civilians or that lunatics would send biological weapons through the U.S. mail. We have had to change our way of life, tighten our security, watch out for suspicious things and take every precaution to keep this type of thing from ever happening again.
   Rowan alums, like everyone, have adapted to a “new” normal. The alumni family lost Daphne Pouletsos ’76 and Lance Tumulty ’92 in New York on September 11. To say that loss affects people profoundly again proves the failure of language to express the depths of human experience.
   Surviving the attack on World Trade Tower Two, Tom Dwyer ’83 remembers his escape from the 80th floor. He had already descended 28 flights of stairs when his building was hit. “My mind started to wander and I became a bit scared. Was this the end?” he recalled thinking. “It couldn’t be, I told myself. I hadn’t finished the chapter book that I was reading with my son, Timothy. Stephen’s fall baseball season was just beginning and the vacation home that Gail and I were renovating was only half done.”
   Dwyer and a co-worker coaxed a frightened and fatigued former colleague down the last 30 flights to escape the collapse. Nightmares about the day linger after several months, but now back at work in a makeshift office, he says the tragedy has convinced him of the important things in life and he asks the inevitable questions, “Why was I spared? What is God’s master plan for me?” His parish priest asked him to reflect on the experience at a December mass. “I thank God for giving me the chance to see years of my kids’ baseball games, graduations and, hopefully, someday their weddings, and to retire with my wife, who kept it all together during the whole ordeal.”
   Indeed, in the wake of September 11 many have found gratitude for the simplest things and fortitude where they never knew it existed. Brian Kass ’85, a mail carrier in northern New Jersey, has faced the complications and fears brought on by the anthrax attacks. “You just have to decide that you’re not going to let this ruin your life,” he said. “You can either let yourself become paralyzed by fear or move on with life and be proud of doing your job as best you can in the face of adversity.”
   Glenn Tarsi ’77, a pilot of Boeing 777s for American Airlines, and his wife, Candie, had just left on a vacation to celebrate their anniversary when they heard the news. They immediately returned home. “Our phone rang off the hook for two days straight with people checking to see if we were okay,” he said. “We heard from people we hadn’t spoken to in years.”
   Two of the hijacked planes were American Airlines Boeing 767s, the same planes that Tarsi had flown for six years. He could not eat or sleep for three days. “Those were my airplanes,” he said. “I knew them inside and out, and I knew some of the crew on board those flights.”
   Like most of the airlines, American announced job cuts shortly after the attack. The Tarsis both had long tenures at American, so their jobs were safe. Still, Candie decided to take six months off, saving the job of a junior flight attendant.
   Flying, however, has not been the same “Everyone is far more security conscious and we’re watching passengers very closely to see if anyone is acting unusually,” Tarsi said. “Our main focus has always been safety, but now we’re equally concerned about what’s going on inside the plane as we are about what’s going on outside the plane. The tiniest incident will come to our attention immediately.”
   Regardless of the changes, Tarsi loves flying. “Being a pilot is still one of the greatest jobs in the world,” he said. “I’ve always taken my job very seriously, but there’s a whole new dimension now that’s far more serious. Now you’re worried about circumstances that are not completely in your control as a pilot.”
   Dealing with a heightened state of security is now a part of everyday life for Steve Shapiro ’93, a producer for “The News With Brian Williams” on MSNBC. Shapiro was at Ground Zero for three days after September 11, helping to cover events as they unfolded. Now, whether driving through Manhattan or traveling to a news event, he knows that security measures are going to be more prevalent.
   Despite the threat of further attacks, he doesn’t feel less safe. “There’s only so much that can be done,” he said. “There’s always going to be a certain amount of risk, but you deal with it. What’s comforting is knowing that when I go to cover something, there are security people and police officers who know what’s going on and they’re doing everything they can.”
   What has been turned completely upside-down is the way the news industry operates. Shapiro noted, “Overnight, covering the war on terrorism was the number one story—and the amount of time, effort and money that has been allocated to that end is astounding.”
News organizations, Shapiro also observed, toned down their use of disturbing images.
    “Viewers didn’t want to be bombarded by images of human suffering or watch planes crashing into the Twin Towers from every possible angle. You can talk about September 11 and the ramifications of that day’s event without over-dramatizing or sensationalizing them,” he said. “The news industry quickly developed a responsibility to be thoughtful and selective of the images shown, so they are not unnecessarily offensive or traumatizing.”
   As adults learned to cope, children also struggled to make sense of their lives. Child neuro-psychiatrist Frances Jamerson ’72 of the Crownsville Hospital Center just east of Washington, D.C. has found noticeable changes in kids. “Separation anxiety in children has become far more prevalent,” she said. “A whole new set of behaviors has been triggered by that day. Children are so concerned to be away from their parents that they don’t want to go to school. It’s magnified even more if a parent is traveling to another city or has to travel on an airplane.”
   Jamerson still treats children the same way but the intensity of the behavioral disorders makes her take additional steps. “What I do now is take more time to educate parents and children about their fears, as well as refer them to someone who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy to work through their fear,” she said.
   Kids aren’t the only ones with increased anxiety since the anthrax attacks, Jamerson noted. “We have parents bringing lethargic children in with various rashes, fearing the worst, when in fact the rash is just that: a rash.”
   Anthrax and the attack on the Pentagon radically changed the role of the special services in the U.S. and the first move was the creation of the Homeland Security Department. At the FBI office in Trenton, Ken Shuey ’75 heads the anthrax mailing investigation as supervisory special agent. For FBI Special Agent Donald Brasco ’89, that meant a switch from a drug trafficking squad to something unimaginable before the attacks. He is serving on the bio-terrorism investigation squad and has reported in Washington, DC on the bio-terrorism investigations. “I started with the FBI before September 11. It was the ‘old’ FBI. Crime was pretty much ‘traditional.’ Terrorism hadn’t come home,” he said. “Now the FBI’s role has changed and we’re part of homeland security. We coordinate with local and state law enforcement agencies and rely on the eyes and ears of every citizen to fight the war.”
   In New York City, businesses and the tourism industry have suffered. Michael Stengel ’78, the general manager of the Marriott Marquis at 46th and Broadway, has adapted to heightened security. Gone are the days when you could park at the hotel without the vehicle’s trunk being searched. “Security questions from associates and guests have been a daily point that we address, so we listen to their questions and thoughts and try to ease their concerns,” he said. “We make sure all of our emergency procedures are revisited and do frequent drills.”
   Until November, the New York Marriott Financial Center Hotel served as a Red Cross Respite Center to aid recovery workers. Now, it has been reopened to tourists, which has helped Stengel find work for his employees. “Part of what we’ve been dealing with has been our obligation to find work for over 1,000 employees who were displaced by September 11,” he said.
   As New York and Washington, DC are recovering, so, it seems, are our spirits. And the unparalleled acts of heroism and kindness altered how New Yorkers behaved. “It changed our sense of values for a while,” said attorney Jodi Mintz ’95, who was on the street outside the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. “When something comes that close to ending your life, the daily grind isn’t important. You realize that your loved ones and human life are what’s important. People became much more lenient with each other for a while.” She added, “I wish the change that I saw could be more lasting.”
   Many people have chosen to give financial support for the victims’ families. Tarsi and his wife participated in Flagrun USA, in which American Airlines and United Airlines employees, military personnel, policemen and firemen ran the U.S. flag from Boston to Philadelphia to raise funds for the victims of September 11.
   For Bill Beatty ’87, a CPA at Goldman Sachs near the World Trade Center, giving has helped soothe the memories of that day. “The second plane shook our building as it went by,” he said. “Afterward, I had a full day of not knowing what exactly was going on.” He was concerned about his brother-in-law at the Pentagon and his brother who worked at Salomon Smith Barney, less than two blocks away from Ground Zero.
   While his brother and brother-in-law turned up safe, Beatty has lost his close friend, Todd Beamer. Beamer was one of the passengers who confronted the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93, helping to prevent the plane from striking a presumed target in Washington, DC“Todd and I played on the church softball team,” Beatty said. “It will be difficult to get back on the field without him.”
   Todd’s widow, Lisa Beamer, was left with two young sons and expecting a third child. In her husband’s memory, she founded the Todd M. Beamer Foundation and Beatty, who is taking a one-year leave of absence from Goldman Sachs, is serving as treasurer. The position has brought some comfort to Beatty. “Focusing on the foundation has helped me deal with the situation and the loss of life,” he said. “If it had happened to my family, Todd is the kind of guy who would have been involved in something like this, and it makes me feel better to be involved in such a giving organization.”
   The foundation, which provides a wide range of services to the children who lost parents on Flight 93, has received amazing support. Goldman Sachs is helping manage the funds and donations have come from hundreds of sources ranging from a $100,000 corporate contribution to a gift of $42 from a boy who sold soda at a yard sale. “The spirit of giving that I have encountered through this foundation has been very therapeutic,” said Beatty. “The Foundation has provided an outlet for me to focus some positive energy.” Purpose and promise for those close to the Beamers have also arrived in the form of Morgan Kay Beamer, who was born on January 9.
   Perhaps this is where language can be sufficient to express ourselves in the “new” normal. We’ve shown that our patriotism and love of democracy were only strengthened by what happened that day, that we were not cowed by terrorism and that in the face of tragedy, our best qualities can emerge. In pain, words failed us, but now we know that there is life after loss, proven in nothing more than courage and hope.

Chip Turner ’96, a public relations account supervisor in New York, lives in Bloomfield.

> in memory