Thursday, September 10, 2009

september 11, 2009

when i first participated in dc roe's 2996 challenge, i got to learn about a brave firefighter named sal calabro. it was truly my pleasure to honor him, get to know him, and write about him. i was grateful for the project because it introduced me to someone i wouldn't have known otherwise. on that day when so many of our lives were changed forever, he was a hero. and he paid the ultimate price. i can't believe his family has had to live these past 8 years without him. it breaks my heart.

when dc sent out the email that he was doing the project again, i signed up without hesitation. and this time, i got Leah E. Oliver.

the first thing i noticed about leah was that we shared the same birthday. september 12th... the day after "the day." i stopped for a moment before i read any further about her to just kind of appreciate the randomness (and not so randomness) of it all. what was the likelihood that the person i would get to write about would share the same birthday as me?

the more i read about leah, the more i found myself smiling and thinking that we would have totally been friends. everyone said the same things about her. how warm she was... her amazing smile.. she made everyone feel welcome.. she was always positive and smiling and happy. everyone who knew her talked about how much they loved her and her laugh. what a great way to be remembered.... always happy. i can only hope to be so lucky.

Leah Oliver

i don't think you'd guess by this gorgeous picture of her, but she loved to go on motorcycle rides with her dad. a passion that they shared with one another. there is a memorial page up for leah where her father has written the sweetest most heartbreaking letter to his only daughter. the following is part of what he wrote:

"Life is about not knowing. Surely the last few weeks have proved that to all of us. But bringing Leah into this world is one thing I know for certain I’ve done absolutely right in my life. I love all my children equally, and I’m equally proud of each of them. Leah was just that little bit special because she was my first. As oldest children often do, Leah marched through life with a sense of purpose, determined to be successful. And she exceeded my expectations all along the way."

leah grew up in dartmouth, massachusetts and went to college at columbia university. it seems like leah's life was just getting started. she had a new boyfriend (in an old friend) and had recently started working at marsh & mclennan in the world trade center. she couldn't wait to show her mom the view from the 96th floor. the 96th floor. i guess you can only imagine how and why she didn't make it out that day. she loved her co-workers and felt like she had the job of her dreams. things were falling into place for this 24 year old.


never to turn 25 because the following day would not come for her.

she left behind so many family members who miss her. a boyfriend who has had to move on without her when he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with her. it's hard for me to write about someone who was so young and whose life was just getting started. because you read about the person they were and you want so much more for them. you know how much they could have had and then you get angry that all of that was taken away. imagine how i'd feel if i had the pleasure to actually know leah in real life??

september 11th still hurts. sometimes i think i'm ready to deal with certain aspects of it. like a tv special about 9/11 will be on and i'll record it so that i can watch it later at my own pace. but then i'll go to turn it on, and within the first 30 seconds, i'm already in tears and i can't take it. i'm not ready. it's still too raw. and it's been 8 years. and i didn't even know anyone who lost their life that day personally. (i know people who knew people) it wasn't right. it wasn't fair. and it breaks my heart to know how much my life has changed since that day, and i wasn't even directly affected. so many other people have had to live each day since without their loved ones in their life. and all i can say is that i'm sorry. i'm so sorry that sal's boys have had to grow up with only a memory for a father. i'm so sorry that leah's family has to go on without her. i'm sorry she never got to have her 25th birthday. but i can promise you that i will forever think of her on our day from here on out.

there is a scholarship set up in her name.. there are tributes to her where you can read more about her. i wish i could have known her.. but i'm glad this project introduced me to her. and now to you.


becks said...

thanks for writing this. it seems like leah was a great person and its not fair that she was taken so soon.

matt just brought up the other day how obsessive i am with 911 specials. i record all that i can and watch them all. i dunno why but i feel like i can't get enough knowledge of what happened that day. like i will never know enough. maybe because we'll never really know everything. i dunno. i cry everytime too. the day feels like it just happened.

jennster said...

i can't get through them. i record them to watch them, but i can't get past the first image they put onscreen.

CAT said...

wow....that was beautiful yet sad all rolled into something that was written so well. I too will never forget....ever. I don't think that it matters that most Americans didn't know someone that was there. It still shattered us all in some way. It definitely showed me that anything can happen, anywhere at anytime.

Heather said...

RIP Leah. You are a beautiful woman.

I, too, still feel every bit of that tragic day. My heart aches for the thousands that suffered that day, and those to follow. Thanks for writing this and serving as a reminder to pay tribute to everyone impacted.

Grand Pooba said...

Oh my gosh, that was such an amazing tribute. Are you sure you didn't know her in real life? My family always remembers september 11th because it is my mom in law's birthday. It just seems so weird that it has already been 8 years. Do you watch Rescue Me? I just barely started watching the first season and the affects that the tragedy had on those left over is just so sad.

J from Ireland said...

Lovely tribute for the lovely Leah. May she rest in peace.
I watch everything about 9/11 this time of year. It is just heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

I worked for one of the Marsh & McLennan companies at the time of 9/11. They set up a tribute page on the intranet site for the MMC employees who died that day. I remember painfully reading through it, and I remember seeing Leah and thinking about how young she was. It's strange to see her picture again in a different setting...and to hear more about who she was.

Thank you for the wonderful tribute.

Kelly said...

I agree with Leah's dad, she seems like a gift. Thank you for introducing me both to her and to this project.

Anonymous said...

Lisa is gorgeous, what a tragedy to have lost such a wonderful person. I can't watch 9/11 specials either. It's hard to believe that it was 8 years ago.

Katie said...

beautifully written jen!

Alicia said...

What a lovely tribute: Thank you.

I honor Christopher Paul Slattery.

Alison said...

Well said, Jenn. I read her dad's tribute and it breaks my heart. So young and so unfair.

Today is 9/12, so I must wish you a very happy birthday, and I'm thinking of Leah too, as I'm sure you are. Celebrate double. :)

Anonymous said...