Many of you may be surprised at finding this entry on my blog today. I'm quite surprised myself. When I first read about it on another infertility blog (I've forgotten whose, I'm sorry), I wasn't immediately tempted to get involved. It just didn't feel right, to be focusing on these 2,996 at the expense of all the other victims of similar atrocities who we could be remembering. Then one evening I clicked through to the 2,996 website and thought, "yes, everyone here should be remembered." I don't feel any special relationship to those who died. I didn't know anyone who died, or even anyone who was affected directly by someone's death. But something in me decided I should make some effort to commemorate someone who died on a Tuesday morning in 2001. To recognise that this should not have happened, just as every day, all over the world, people die from violence that they did nothing to cause, from violence that has no end. And to recognise that people who die in such acts are real people, with real impact on the world, as a person, rather than as a statistic or a political symbol.
And so I remember Catherine T. Smith.
Catherine T. Smith had recently been promoted to the role of vice president at Marsh and McLennan. They describe themselves as a global professional services firm, who after 9/11 developed a business in consulting on terrorism risks to businesses. Their offices were in the impact zone of American Airlines flight 11's hit on the North Tower, or One World Trade Center. Catherine worked on the 96th floor. As such it seems very likely that Catherine would have died on impact, or immediately thereafter. At her memorial service, her nephew Michael, who was 12 at the time, insisted that "She did not suffer, she went in peace."
Catherine was 44 when she died, and she lived with her domestic partner, Evelyn Cedeno in West Haverstraw, NY, USA. Evelyn and Catherine had both been regulars at the same bar in Rockland County for over twenty years, but had only become a couple about six years before 9/11. They had met again shortly after they'd both suffered break-ups, and took the opportunity to cry on each other's shoulder. Cathy, as she seems to have been known to her friends, pursued Evelyn until she finally gave in, leading to their description of themselves as Penelope and Pepe LePew. They planned to retire early, making sure they could enjoy the beachhouse in Manahawkin, on the Jersey Shore, which they'd recently built.
I wonder what Cathy's earlier life must have been like, coming of age just six years after Stonewall. She seems to have grown up in surburban New Jersey - what would her High School experience have been like in the early 70s? At least NYC would have been close by. By the end of her life, her sexuality seems to have become a non-issue. She had a happy relationship, she had good friends and colleagues, she had her family. She was close to her family, and spent the weekend before 9/11 shopping with her sister and mother for her mother's birthday. Michael, her nephew, said she was the aunt who was always there for him.
Reports describe Cathy as warm and loving, as well as full of smiles, with a real joy for life. I worried initially that this wasn't authentic, that that is just an easy thing to say about someone who has died so suddenly, but particularly after reading spontaneous comments from those who knew her in high school, combined with all those from family, friends and colleagues, it does seem to have been a strong characteristic. After all, she drove a canary yellow Volkswagen, so she must have had a great sense of humour. She collected baseball cards, and, according to her housemate Jill Aney, she planned to set up a business trading them. I get the impression she might have been a bit shy, even with all the smiles, which makes her pursuit of Evelyn all the more impressive.
The information has run out on me now. Catherine didn't leave any artefacts on the web during her life. The informaton that exists about her are her obituaries, comments on memorial sites about her, and a report of her memorial service. I'm sure those who loved her are finding this anniversary hard, as every day must be hard, living without someone you loved - love - so much. I wish I could give more insight, could more readily convey what she was really like, to live up to what I'm sure they are all feeling. But I can't. I'm only typing about someone I never met. I hope this is enough.
I remember Catherine T. Smith. I remember her as a person, and I remember her because her impact on the world should not go unnoticed.