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Karen Renda

September 11, 2009

Years ago a friend told me that in his country, people believe no one really ever dies as long as there is someone to remember them. This may not always be as soothing as we would want it to be and it certainly doesn’t bring the person back, but it is my hope that by participating in the wonderful Project 2,996, I can be a part of cultivating the memory of someone whose life will be honored by everyone who reads the entries. In all that we owe to the dear souls who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, this small gesture can help bring to life such elements of their lives as their hopes, dreams, values, what they loved and didn’t love, struggled with or found great joy in, what their favorite foods or hobbies were, what they liked to do at the holidays. We may or may not know what happened in their last moments or learn that their families didn’t know for many agonizing hours or even days their final fate. It can be a struggle to read the details, but they, coupled with the ordinary and extraordinary other details of their lives, give them the voice and recognition they are owed. These are the people who deserve to be memorialized. Please join us in honoring those who on September 11, 2009 sacrificed their lives so that our children and we may continue to live in freedom and prosperity.


Karen Renda: “Love never comes to an end”

When Karen Gargano met her future husband, Charles Renda, on a blind date, he learned something that other folks in Bethpage on Long Island already knew: “She was full of class and everything she did was ladylike.” Three years earlier she had been chosen queen of the Snowball Winter Dance and Ann Marie Anderson, who has known Karen since junior high school said, “She just made everybody feel special.”

Karen’s engaging personality, compassion, friendliness and special way of reaching out to others not only continued after high school, but expanded in ways great and small—and we all know how in so many instances when we feel the worst, it is the small acts of kindness that often matter the most. Karen demonstrated the power in such acts when she visited Mrs. Anderson during an illness, painting her nails and arranging her hair nicely. Though it may seem only a small but nice gesture to some, Karen was intuitive enough to recognize its power to refresh or affect the psyche in a positive way—in this and other contexts, such as when she created bows for Mrs. Anderson’s daughter to wear in her hair. For an ill woman or a little girl, Karen knew how to make someone feel cared for.

She gave this kind of attention and more to her own boys, Danny and Matthew, and her husband. Married to Charles in 1975 and a mother soon after, Mrs. Renda in 1982 left her job at Merrill Lynch to be a full-time mom. Those boys were her first priority and she was a hands-on parent. She kept after them to do their homework, but she also helped the boys in their endeavors. Holidays such as Thanksgiving were special in the Renda home and Karen’s personal touch was evident, from her stunning Christmas trees to the dishes the extended family gathered to share.

Life, of course, is not always perfect; troubles or difficult moments occur and the Rendas were no exception. For the boys this meant the difficulties of adolescence, a time that can create discord for many families. Danny Renda remembers how his mom used to say, “This too shall pass,” providing for him a balance of perspective along with the support a child in this time of life needs. “No matter how dark and cloudy my life seemed to me, and sometimes felt like a storm inside of me, my mom would always be the beautiful bright shining beam of sunlight that would shine through the darkness clouding up my mind.”

Three years before that fateful day, with her sons almost grown, Karen Renda returned to the workforce and had been with American Express Travel for one year prior. Arranging itineraries for business executives, she worked on the 94th floor at 1 World Trade Center. It’s easy to imagine that Karen put her all into making travel and scheduling as pleasant as possible for the executives she worked with; her caring and detail-oriented nature, along with her energy, fits such an occupation well. She continued to apply it to her family life also: in preparation for her younger son’s Valentine’s Day school dance she was in charge of decorating soft toys with hearts and bows and arrows. Charles, her husband, came home one day to see a herd of bunnies staring at him from the table. “There were about 100 of them.”

After the attacks Karen was missing; her family later held a memorial service for her at Our Lady of Pity Church. Various tributes to Karen there and elsewhere highlight her joyful manner and how she affected people in positive ways. It’s a tribute to this brilliant light in her heart that Karen’s son Danny speaks of a spark that never loses its illumination:

“I will always love her forever and keep her locked in my heart. Love never comes to an end.”

I never met Karen Renda, nor did I lose anybody in the attacks on America on September 11, 2001. And it’s now been eight years since this terrible day but still I cannot read about the victims of these attacks without weeping; I probably never will be able to do. So I can only grasp at what it must be like for Karen’s family and all the others whose lives were shattered that day. And while it is “easy” for me to speak of people who never really die if someone remembers them, I don’t live with the losses the Rendas faced after Karen’s death. It is my sincere hope that Karen and her family would consider this tribute worthy of the person she was and the loved one she will always be. I am so grateful for this opportunity to remember a wonderful human being whose life brought such joy and happiness to others. If it is possible for my tiny bit of anguish to take away some of their pain, please dear God let it be so.

Dear Karen, I hope and pray I have done justice to you, and that you are at peace. As a mother myself, I strive to show my child the same love, compassion and honor you showed to your boys, and your example now has become a living part of my heart. May that flame burn brightly in the hearts of others as you and all who lost their lives on September 11 remain in our memories forever. We shall never forget.


In Memory Of Ana Centeno

September 11, 2009

  Ana was born in Puerto Rico and was the fourth of eight children, she moved to New Jersey while in elementary school. Always an athlete and a high achiever but reluctant to continue her education she worked as a secretary for several years before attending New Jersey University. She went on to get a degree in business and passed her CPA on her first try.

   She loved to sketch portrait’s and always close with her family she loved spending time with her nieces and nephews. She ran for children’s causes dedicated to raising money for childrens groups. Everyone she knew loved her, she always had a smile or a kind word.

  She spent alot of time at the gym and the track, she was always helpful and supportive to those around her. I wish I could have known her. She was 38 years old, an accountant on the 101st floor of One World Trade Center till that horrible day she was taken too soon. Her family said she made them strong but she learned to be strong from them I am sure she is proud of all of them too. She is truely missed by all.

In Memory of Daniel Laurence Smith

September 11, 2009

Danny Smith was 47 years old when his life was tragically taken from him on the morning of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.  He was orphaned by age 15 and despite what must have been enormous difficulties for him and his three siblings, Susan, Mc Carthy, and Sean, he went on to build a loving family and successful career.  He met his future wife, Mary Harkin, while they were students at Fordham University in the Bronx.  The love for his wife was expressed through things large and small.  Together they had two children, Elizabeth, and Michael, who were 14 and 12, at the time of their father’s death.  Every year, Danny carried on a tradition of baking a homemade birthday cake for this wife.

In May of 2001, Danny underwent heart bypass surgery and had given his wife Mary written notes to his children in case he did not survive. But there had been no need to do so: he emerged a healthy man, no doubt through the love and support of his family.  But Mary had kept the notes, even after Danny had gone to work for Euro Brokers at the World Trade Center in July 2001.  After Danny’s death, Mary gave her children the notes, which expressed his fatherly love and let them know that he would always be with them.

This evening, 9/11/09 at 8PM, in East Northport, NY, Danny and other local residents will be remembered along with all of the victims of 9/11 at a Commemoration Ceremony at the East Northport Fire Department and the East Northport Chamber of Commerce.

Lt. Robert Dominick Cirri

September 11, 2009

Lieutenant Robert Cirri was a hero and was killed while attempting to rescue the victims trapped in the World Trade Center.

The lieutenant was an instructor at the Port Authority Police Academy and had responded to the scene from Jersey City, New Jersey. He and four other officers were attempting to carry a woman to safety when the North Tower collapsed.

Lieutenant Cirri was 39 and is survived by his wife, six children and stepchildren, and his parents. He was an extremely caring and loving husband, son, and father. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family. He will always be remembered and greatly appreciated for his service on that day.

Christopher Orgielewicz

September 11, 2009

Chris, from Larchmont, NY, was 35 years old and worked in the WTC as a research analyst for Sandler O’Neil & Parterns. He was remembered by many to be accepting, loving, and full of smiles. He was active with soccer, basketball, and jogging. His compassion for others will never be forgotten as well as his dedication to his family.  He is survived by his wife, Olga, and their three children and our thoughts and prayers go out to you always. We will always remember you.

Juliana Valentine McCourt

September 11, 2009

Juliana Valentine McCourt was a 4-year-old en route to Disneyland

As the names of the victims scrolled across our television screen on the surreal night of September 11, 2001, one name leapt off the screen and has been embedded since in my mind and heart.  “Juliana Valentine McCourt, age 4, New London, CT, UA Flight 175″.  I had my own little Julianna, 6 months old at the time.

Juliana McCourt was traveling with her mom, Ruth McCourt.  Mrs. McCourt’s own brother, Ronnie Clifford, was working at the WTC but escaped just as the plane carrying his sister and niece struck the South Tower.

Juliana McCourt was born on May 4, 1997.  She attended dance school, which still honors her to this day.  She had no siblings.  Juliana adored her fluffy white terrier, Phoebe.  She was described as smart, sensitive, beautiful, nurturing like her mom.  She never had a first day of Kindergarten.  She never made it to Disneyland.  The only consolation is that she was comforted by her loving mother during those last awful moments.

This is an excerpt of a tribute to Juliana I read on a 9/11 website:

“What I remember most about that terrible day is you … 

my wife and I watched the TV coverage in a dumbstruck stupor. But when CNN scrolled the names and ages of the passengers on the two planes that terrorists turned into bombs, we saw JULIANA VALENTINE McCOURT and both broke down and cried and cried and cried … that day we made a promise to the universe that, if we were ever blessed with a daughter, we would name her after you. In July 2004, our JULIANA VALENTINE T. was born …”
Scott T. 2009-03-31

I’d bet that it was not just Scott T. and myself who were forever touched by Juliana Valentine McCourt, a little girl we never met, yet an angel we mourn and will not forget.

Jenny Seu Kueng Low Wong – Remembering the 9/11 fallen

September 11, 2009

Only time will heal this pain that we are going through. I lost a sister in this terrible tragedy, but I know that she will always be in our heart, she will always be remembered. She tried so many new things and enjoyed her life fully. Wherever she is, I hope she is happy with a smile always on her face. Mary Low Wong, sister

Jenny was only 25 years old in September of 2001. 25 years old and an Assistant Vice President, of the Market Information Group for Marsh & McLennan. Bright, funny, caring and energetic have all been used to describe Jenny.

Jenny’s life is literally an international tapestry. She was born in Venezuela to her Chinese parents and moved to the United States at the age of 12 to continue her education.

Jenny was an active volunteer – working on community projects to better the lives of those who surrounded her. Be it painting the apartment of an elderly woman in Harlem or introducing her friends to the flavors of sangria or paella, Jenny was a gracious friend with a ready smile. She was always ready to help people and made time to tutor high school students. As busy as she was, Jenny always wanted to be close to her family.

Fluent in Cantonese, Spanish and English, Jenny was a valuable asset to Marsh & McLennan. Her language and business skills were a mere speck of her value to the company. Jenny was the key that opened the communication lines in the office. She created the company newsletter and arranged social outings to encourage camaraderie .

Jenny loved to travel and explore. She relished in trying new things, riding roller coasters and such. Nothing seemed to scare her, well, that’s not quite true. The world traveler with a sense of adventure was inexplicably afraid of butterflies.

I think of Jenny and I am struck by the similarities between her life and the life of butterflies.

From egg, to larvae, to pupa and from the cocoon the butterfly emerges in all her incredibly glory. The butterfly spreads its wings, soaring beautifully enriching the lives of those who see it flutter. Yet for all the changes a butterfly goes through, the butterfly lives for just one month.

Jenny was born in South America, moved to New York, ensconced herself in her studies and emerged from university a beautiful young woman. She spread her wings and flew, traveling the world, touching the lives of all those around her. She brought joy and enlightenment to the many people in her very short life.

Jenny was the most beautiful of butterflies.

We love you. It still hurts everyday as we remember the wonderful memories and the amazing unconditional friendship that we had. We comfort ourselves in knowing that you have gone to a better place. Thank you for everything. Ray & Therese, Friends.