ÒThe term Sept. 11, to most people, is pretty generic. But to me, thatÕs the day my mother was murdered,Ó says Carie Lemack, pictured in her Washington, D.C. home on July 21. ÒAnd people forget the realities of momÕs not there for me to call up. SheÕs not there for my birthday. She never got to meet her grandsons, my nephews. ItÕs very real, and itÕs there every day, not just on the day of the commemoration.Ó (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)
LemackÕs mom, Judith Camilla LaRoque, was the chief executive officer of a small market research firm in Framingham, Mass. ÒMore important,Ó Carie wrote later, Òshe was my best friend and confidante.Ó After bidding farewell to her daughters, LaRoque set off for a California vacation aboard American Airlines Flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001. She was among 87 passengers and crew members who died when al-Qaida suicide hijackers slammed the jetliner into the World Trade Center. (Family photo courtesy of Carie Lemack).
Soon after her mom died, Carie vowed to her sister, Danielle, Òto make sure this never happens againÓ and launched a career fighting terrorism. She co-founded Families of September 11 and helped lead the push for creation of the Sept. 11 Commission to investigate the counjter-terrorism failures that led to the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. After earning two graduate degrees, she co-founded the Global Survivors Network in 2009. Pictured are Ross Bremen (DanielleÕs boyfriend at the time and now her husband, Danielle, Judy Larocque and Carie Lemack at Christmas 2000. (MCT) (Family photo courtesy of Carie Lemack).
In shock after the attack that killed their mother, sisters Carie and Danielle Lemack discovered that they'd both developed a bizarre problem dialing telephone numbers. Here Carie, Danielle (center) and Judy ham it up in February 2000 while on a cruise celebrating their grandmother's 80th birthday. (Family photo courtesy of Carie Lemack)
Judy Laroque went on an African safari with daughters Danielle and Carie in December 1997. Caught in flooding from El Nino, they got stuck in the mud on the Serengeti in northern Tanzania. Her mother "thought it was a hoot." Carie recalled. "True to form, she got out a shovel and started digging." (Family photo from Jan. 5, 1998, courtesy of Carie Lemack).
Back on the trail, Laroque and daughters Danielle and Carie (Family photo, courtesy of Carie Lemack).
Judy Laroque with the family dog, Champagne, the day they brought her home in November 1986. (Family photo courtesy of Carie Lemack).
Meeting other terrorism survivors at a 2009 United Nations symposium supporting victims of terrorism, Carie Lemack recalled, they realized Òthat while it was powerful to tell our stories and share our experiences at the UN, it would be more important to share our stories and experiences with those who may be sympathetic to the grievances expressed by terrorists. So we recognized that we needed to start our own organization.Ó (Family photo of Carie and her mother after climbing New HampshireÕs Mount Manadnok in November 2000).
Judy trained for months in the winter and spring of 2001 to participate in the Avon 3-day Breast Cancer Walk, taking her dog, Naboo, on long treks. Here in May 2001, she's shown (far right) with friends after walking 60 miles. "She was so proud not even to get a blister," recalled daughter Carie. (Family photo courtesy of Carie Lemack).
Last year, Carie and her new group won an Oscar nomination for her film, ÒKilling in the Name,Ó which examines terrorismÕs global impact. Carie said sheÕs Òtrying to find unique ways to use the moral authority of survivors of terrorismÓ to prevent future attacks. Her mom, Judy Laroque, is pictured at a Jimmy Buffett luau concert weeks before her death. (Family photo courtesy of Carie Lemack).
Of all the 2,972 fatality victims on Sept. 11, 1001, 2 1/2-year-old Christine Hanson was the youngest. She and her parents were aboard United Airlines Flight 175 when terrorists crashed it into the World Trade Center. Her father, Peter Hanson, was on the phone at the time, saying goodbye to his dad, C. Lee Hanson of Easton, Conn. (Family photo courtesy of C. Lee Hanson).
Peter Hanson, 32, and his wife, Sue Kim, the daughter of Korean immigrants, had met at a party while in graduate school in Boston. They married in 1996. PeterÕs mother, Eunice Hanson, said their deaths left her with Òno more dreams. My dreams are gone. I donÕt think of tomorrow. I just get through today. IÕve learned to live with the pain, and thatÕs how it is.Ó Peter, she said, Òwas the carrier of the family name É the last Hanson. With his murder, the Hanson name is gone.Ó (Family photo courtesy of C. Lee Hanson).
Sue Kim Hanson, the daughter of Korean immigrants, was working toward her doctorate degree at Boston University's medical school when she, her husband and their daughter were killed on Sept. 11, one of the only entire families to die that day. Sue is shown here with baby daughter Christine. (Family photo courtesy of C. Lee Hanson).
Reeling in shock for weeks after the deaths of their son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, C. Lee Hanson and his wife, Eunice, found themselves drawn to the cause of Sept. 11 survivors. At first, they joined the campaign to ensure that all the body parts were recovered from the World Trade Center site. MCT (Photo of the Hansons on July 28, 2011 at their Easton, Conn., home, courtesy of C. Lee Hanson).
Assuming that the bodies of their loved ones were vaporized, they were surprised to get a call from a New York police detective advising them that a bone of Peter’s (pictured here with infant Christine) had been recovered – a six- to seven-inch piece of his leg. “I was really happy,” Lee Hanson said. “I got one of the policemen to go with me to tell my wife. I thought it might have the same effect, and it did.” But Hanson said he is angered that victims’ remains are still buried in a waste dump in Fresh Kills, N.Y. (Family photo courtesy of C. Lee Hanson).
In the years since the attacks, Lee Hanson has become a quiet crusader for the victims of terrorism. He testified at the death-penalty trial of convicted a-Qaida co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, tearfully describing his last call from his son. He joined other survivors in flying to Cuba to tour the terrorist detention camp at Guantanamo Bay and at meetings with Attorney General Eric Holder to oppose a New York trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind. “One of the things that upset an awful lot of us was the fact that the United States government doesn’t have any policy, even today, for what they’re going to do when they capture terrorists,” Hanson said. (Family photo of Lee and Christine courtesy of C. Lee Hanson).
Lee Hanson also visited members of Congress to push his positions. And he went to Lower Manhattan to protest construction of a mosque near Ground Zero, recalling that Òthe wheels of my sonÕs airplane crashed through that building.Ó Hanson likened the mosque to Òwhat some invading islamists have done throughout history to show conquest, domination and humiliation of their enemiesÓ and told the imam behind the project that it went Òway beyond sensitivies.Ó Looking back over the last decade, Hanson said: ÒLife changes. YouÕre doing things you never thought youÕd be doing.Ó (Photo of the Hansons at their home on July 28, 2011 (Michelle McLoughlin/MCT).
In memory of their son and his family, the Hansons started several memorials, including the Peter Hanson Justice Award, a scholarship to the student at the high school where Peter graduated who most resembles Peter inb his views of life. Peter, said his mother, "who really believed in justice and civil rights." The couple also bought the building materials for a playground where Christine liked to play. Even before they knew of the Hansons' contribution, volunteers who did the work had decided on a new name: "Christine's Playground." (Family photo of Christine, courtesy of C. Lee Hanson).
"The only thing that hasn't changed is that I'm still the mom of three kids," says Christie Coombs, widow of Jeffrey Coombs, who was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 when hijackers crashed it into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. "Other than that, everything has changed. Even being a mom has changed, because now I'm a mother and a father." MCT
In the weeks after Jeff's death, the Coombs family was showered with generosity from friends and strangers. Even a paperboy gave his collection money to the family. Christie, shown here dining with Jeff, decided she needed to convert "all of that negative energy into something positive." She told her kids -- 13-year-old Matthew, 11-year-old Meaghan and 7-year-old Julia -- they needed to find a way to "pay it forward." Forming the Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation, the family organized a huge auction and yard sale that November and raised $50,000. (Family photo courtesy of Christie Coombs).
Besides holding an annual fundraising race that's gained a reputation among serious runners, the Coombs began four years ago to host annual Christmas parties for families of troops facing overseas deployment during the holidays. "I was sitting around thinking, 'Another Christmas about Jeff. This really stinks. I hate this.' I started thinking, 'What about those military families that are going through the same thing, either permanently or just for a year? I want to do something for them.'" Here, the Coombs sit with Santa Claus at one of those parties. From left: Julia, Meaghan, Christie and Matthew. (Family photo courtesy of Christie Coombs).
Memories of Jeff are everywhere in the Coombs' home. When the family renovated their kitchen, they built a pantry cubbard around a bulletin board filled with pictures of Jeff that the kids had put up after he died. "I would be disrespecting Jeff and the way the kids honor their dad if I were to disrupt any of that," Christie said. Here Jeff clutches Julia in high waters. (Family photo courtesy of Christie Coombs).
When she learned that Navy Seals had killed Osama bin Laden last spring, Christie started to shake. "I didn't know how I was supposed to feel," she said. When her sister told her, "You feel whatever you need to feel," Christie broke into sobs. "I could barely speak," she recalled. "It was just this weird feeling ... partly relief, but it was also fear and it was also just shock." And also came a realization, perhaps best expressed by 16-year-old Julia when she said, "But this doesn't really change anything for us, does it?" Here, the late Jeff Coombs is with the family on a skiing trip: From left, Julia, Jeff, Meaghan, Christie and Matthew. (Family photo courtesy of Christie Coombs).
"I don't mind talking about it," Christie said. "It's cathartic for me." A freelance reporter, she is working on a memoir. "One of the things I say in my book," she said, is if I could be a fly on the wall on Flight 11 and survive for the sake of my kids, I would have wanted to be there. I want to know everything. I want to know what did my husbund find out? When did he know? ... He had to have known something was going on. And then to look out the window to see the buildings were close enough tthat he could have reached out and touched them. I realize that it all happened very fast. ... There had to be time to reflect and think, 'Is this a hijacking? Or is this the last time I'm ever going to see my family again?'" Here Jeff is pictured with young Julia and Meaghan. (Family photo courtesy of Christie Coombs).
Since Jeff's death, Christie has been on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she was the featured mom on a Mother's Day special and sat stunned when her kids were paraded onstage as a surprise. She also appeared twice on Oprah Winfrey's show. She's also emerged from social isolation to find a new love over the last 2 1/2 years. "Sept. 11 is something that happened to me," she said, "but I can still have my life in spite of it." Nonetheless, her house is adorned with pictures of her late husband, an avid outdoorsman pictured fishing here. (Family photo courtesy of Christie Coombs).
Christie and Jeff began dating when she was a freshman at the University of Arizona and were together for 25 years, nearly 18 in marriage. (Photo of Jeff and Christie courtesy of Christie Coombs).
People who don't go through it just don't understand that a year later, 10 years later, you're still feeling the incredible hurt," Christie said. "I always tell people it doesn't get better. It just gets different." Five years after Jeff's death, she said, she got a call alerting her that some of Jeff's body parts had been recovered. "It was like taking me back to 1 o'clock on 9/11." (Family portrait courtesy of Christie Coombs, showing from left: Meaghan, Jeff, Christie, Julia and Matthew).
After Osama bin Laden was killed, President Obama met with some of the Sept. 11 victims' families at Ground Zero. Christie was among them, got to chat with the president and even coaxed him to flash a peace sign for a photo for a friend.The photo of Christie and the president mugging for the camera now adorns her Facebook page. That morning, she said, "I woke up to go to New York and I thought, 'Oh my God, whose life am I living?' I thought, my husband Jeff would have just been cracking up and saying, 'How did you get yourself to meet the president of the United States?'" Jeff, she said, "is still the love of my life, and he always will be. Nothing will ever change that." (MCT)
A quilt made from pictures of victims of the terrorist attack is on display inside the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, July 26, 2011. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)