Families of 9/11 Victims Prepare for 10 Year Anniversary
Some who mourn have chosen to remain within their own confines. They have turned off their telephones or chosen not to respond to email or written requests to speak about their loved ones lost. Others want the memory of their sons or daughters, husbands or wives, mothers or fathers, friends or family to cry out to the future, shouting “never forget.”
Each person lost in the tragedy of 9/11 is irreplaceable. Each life so abruptly ended tears at the fabric of humanity. The Algemeiner has added a personal profile of one young woman lost that September morning that summarizes where so many of those who mourn are – ten years after the worst attack experienced on American soil since Pearl Harbour.
Around New York, the wounds of September 11 are again reopened by the marking of time on a calendar. In the firehouses of New York from which colleagues were lost, reminders remain constant. The smiling images of young firefighters gaze at their engines. Whether at the “Pride of Midtown,” in the theater district, on East 85th Street, or in the tens of other “houses,” reminders are constant. As songstress Judy Collins reminds in her haunting melody, “the fire fighters needed a break.”
New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer, has encouraged “displaying and wearing the Flag for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.” America will never forget those we lost,” says the legislator. “EveryAmerican “can take part, whether at home, school, the office, or at a memorial ceremony. On the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, we should display the Flag proudly as a nation,” he continued.
The lessons learned from the events of that terrible sunny day ten years ago remain difficult to fathom. Ray Kelly, Commissioner of the New York Police Department will speak at the Park Avenue Synagogue service Friday evening, discussing his understanding of the events and New York’s response with an expertise available to few others. His concerns and responsibility for the security of all New Yorkers must, especially at this annual moment, weigh heavily.
The awareness of terrorist threats is high – whether from large or small, explosive packed airplanes or terrorists on the ground or from home-grown sources. Grants to “harden” possible targets have made synagogues and Jewish institutional offices more secure, and the communications ability among first responders has been significantly improved.
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Jewish Chaplain of the NYFD, told Stuart Ain of the Jewish Week that “It is important to remember in the strongest possible fashion” the events of that day. That may cause discomfort, but it pales in comparison to what happened that day. We have to feel pain on the 10th anniversary — to feel the discomfort because all of the [9/11] families feel it everyday.”
Asked by The Algemeiner what she would say to President Obama on the tenth anniversary of our American Tragedy, Fainia Zaltsman, mother of Arkady Zaltsman who lost his life in the second tower to be hit, responded without hesitation that she would ask to “make the country more secure. America was not prepared for this terrible tragedy.” Zaltsman is part of a group in the Russian Jewish community who suffered a loss on 9/11 and support one another.
Roman Gertsberg lost his only daughter. Marina, September 11, 2001. She was 25 and working on the 101st Floor of Tower 1. Marina began working as a broker with Cantor Fitzgerald only a week before the attack. Her work schedule enabled her to take evening classes in her Baruch Master’s program. Cantor, says her father “enhanced her position and accommodated her time needs. She was full of life, dating, about to buy an apartment, full of future plans. “living her life,” he says.
The offices of Cantor Fitzgerald were completely destroyed in the attack. The company immediately established an information headquarters in a Manhattan hotel to piece together personal records. “I remember the first time I went there. I couldn’t walk ten steps without crying. It was so sad.” He continued “I miss her so much – every day. I lost not only a daughter, but my best friend and my future. A part of my heart is always missing.”
“I see her every day,” he continued, “a glimpse of someone walking on the street with the same hairstyle, or of the same height, or with similar coloring. Her memory is always with me. Nothing changes, not even in 10 years’ time. One has to learn how to live with the loss.”
Gertsberg has long been involved with the creation of a memorial in Seaside Park. His support group, he says “has helped a lot. We meet occasionally and have an annual ceremony.” On this tenth year it will be Sunday, September 11, at 4 PM, at West Fifth Street and Surf Avenue in Brooklyn. The gathering will follow the main memorial at Ground Zero.”
Gertsburg, whose wife, Marina’s mother, died in 2002, has established a memorial fund in his daughter’s memory. The fund provides scholarships to be used at Binghamton or Baruch Universities. An applicant must be a female Jewish student interested in things similar to Marina’s interests. The academic committee provides three or four narratives -names unknown from which he designates the winner.”They are nice kids. I am proud of the strength of their GPA and that they are hard working.” Funds for the scholarship are personally donated.
Gertsburg asks that readers of the Algemeiner and their friends “stop by, pay respects, remember, bring a flower” to the 4 PM Sunday Memorial, “If we stop remembering, it will happen again. Only those who remember stay alert and keep elected officials and others alert. If we don’t remember, it will be as those lives never happened, as though they never existed. We must remember or it will happen again.”
Three generations of Fania Zaltsman’s family left Moldavia ( Rumania) in 1989. After close to a year in transit, they arrived in New York, dreaming of life in a free country where life rich with Yiddishkeit would be possible. Fainia, a teacher, had been threatened with dismissal simply for attending the synagogue. She who survived three years behind the barbed wire fences of a Rumanian ghetto, witnessing starvation and deprivation of the Jewish populations, including her own parents, a generation later, with her husband, twenty eight year old son, his wife and three year old daughter, came to America, seeking “a bright future in this free country.”
Arkady was 45 on September 11, 2001. He was a licensed architect- “a perfectionist” said his mother – who was about to “sign off on an extensive renovation of the Toronto Airport.” A celebratory meetings at “Windows on the World,” the extraordinary restaurant on top of the second tower hit was scheduled. His final contact, a telephone call to his wife saying “something is going on in the first building.” was his last contact.
His daughter, now an NYU graduate, was 15. She was the last to see her father who had taken her to school that morning and then proceeded to his meeting. “My father is in my heart.” Today, her work helps members of the Russian Jewish community build their lives.
The Zaltsburg family tragedy could have been even deeper. A niece who worked on the 48th Floor, survived, escaping the falling towers by running down flights of stairs cluttered with old TV sets and discarded computer equipment, then over the Brooklyn Bridge. “People broke their legs, were run over.”
“We are very proud of Arkady, our son and how we raised him. We can change nothing and must go on living. We will remember as long as we live. Who can believe how our hearts are broken? When you lose a child, it is not natural – it should be vice-versa. We are so tired of tragedy – the first months I couldn’t speak,” says Fania Zaltsburg.
Still, says the ADL, conspiracy theories accusing Jews of masterminding the attacks continue. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), says “these theories have grown and evolved over the last decade,” claiming “the Jews or Israel perpetrated the attacks instead of Al Qaeda.” Abe Foxman says “it is shocking that nearly a decade after 9/11 we are still confronted with those who continue to deny the historical record of 9/11 or who hold fast to anti-Semitic myths …anti-Semites (are) intent on creating their false version of history.
The new Freedom Tower reaches for the sky over lower Manhattan, a phoenix rising from the ruins of the destroyed World Trade Center.