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Legacy Letters: ‘Choose Happy’ and Other Sentiments of Those Who Lost

If the people who lost family members on 9/11 wrote letters to their deceased loved ones about their lives today, their sorrow and their hopes, what would they say?

A new collection titled “The Legacy Letters” contains 100 such missives. It was created by a group called “Tuesday’s Children,” that advocates on behalf of 9/11 families and others affected by global terrorism. Recently, we visited three of the letter-writers in the New York area: a son who lost his father, a wife who lost her husband and a mother who lost her daughter. You’ll see our story in the NewsHour’s special report Sunday, “America Remembers 9/11.”

Joe DiFazio was just a teenager when the Twin Towers fell and his father, Vincent, was killed. His dad loved his sports teams and, Joe says, he loved them because his dad loved them. And so it was that the last time he was with his dad was sitting on the couch watching the Giants late at night on Sept. 10, 2001.

Joe recently graduated from college and was back home with his mother and two sisters when we caught up with him. He wants to become a writer and told us how he welcomed the opportunity to write a “legacy letter” to his dad and that 9/11 “made me realize that there are relationships and friendships that I know now, because I have firsthand experience, that could be severed at the drop of a hat.”

Michele Bedigian was a graphic artist and proud newlywed wife of a Brooklyn firefighter, Carl, when 9/11 hit. The shock and anger was overwhelming, but then she found a way keep Carl in her life. She wouldn’t “move on” but “move with” Carl still in her mind and heart daily. In her words, she would “choose happy.” That led to a marriage and motherhood … and a strong sentiment that “if anything positive is to come out of this, it is that we recognize what intolerance does and how destructive it can be.”

Barbara Jackman lost her third child, Brooke, whom she called “the light of my life.” Brooke was working at the World Trade Center when the planes hit and had one of the last calls out to her parents’ home answering machine. She had just recently decided to go to graduate school for social work and to follow her passion: working with children. “There’s more to life than making money,” she told her mom. Now, a family foundation in Brooke’s name honors her love of books and passion for children by promoting literacy in schools and community centers throughout the New York City area.

View all of our 9/11 coverage and watch the PBS NewsHour’s special broadcast on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

Photo of 9/11 tribute poster courtesy of Flickr user courtney_80.

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