I, as your wife, have searched for sane answers to what happened on that beautiful, sunny, warm Tuesday, September 11, 2001. You, Neil, were so tanned and fit, happy to be leaving with me before dawn for Boston’s Logan Airport. You and I were traveling on separate planes to the California wedding of my daughter, Gina, your step-daughter. You decided to go out for the wedding at the very last minute, and to help pay for the ticket, we held garage sales together.
Neil, I will never forget when we said goodbye at Boston Airport. Neil, you as a gentleman were always carrying heavy items for me, and that morning, you carried inside the terminal two large boxes full of toys for our grand-kids that were to be there for the wedding as flower girl and ring bearer.
You kissed me at the curb and said goodbye. Then you kissed me again inside and said “See you, Ellen. I’ll arrive three minutes after your plane lands,” and walked away. But suddenly, you came back, gave me a third kiss and a big hug. It was then I noticed you seemed nervous. I thought it was because you were not used to flying. You then said goodbye for the third time, then left. I looked back to catch a last glance at you, Neil, but you were gone and out of sight.
Neil, you never made it to California for Gina’s wedding that September 15, 2001. I left two hours before you and had a scheduled layover in Chicago. It was there that I found out what had happened to you. Your plane, United Airlines Flight 175, had crashed into the second tower of the World Trade Center. You, my husband, were gone in a ball fire. The September 15th wedding of Gina’s went on in defiance of what had happened on September 11th.
Now as I stood as a new widow of four days, Gina asked me to give her away to be married. I wore two yellow roses, and made a toast in remembrance of you.
Neil, my life as a widow is now very still and has an eerie feeling. I can not hear your voice, or see your handsome face. Many reminders make it hard, like your birthday two days before Christmas. Also, I remember July 30th, which would have been our 14th wedding anniversary.
There is nothing left of you, no resting place or gravesite to visit, just an empty hole in my heart, and the heartache of life without you, Neil. I realize that the sun has shone once again as it did on September 11, 2001, when we parted for the last time, you as my husband, but it does not seem the same. I have wanted to be with you, Neil, so many times since that day and had wished I was with you on that plane, giving each other comfort, like we had done so many times throughout our marriage. This was not to be in the plans God had for us.
Now it is my job to go on without you, Neil. I will always have the memories that we shared together, and I thank God for you being my husband for 13 years. Now, I walk all alone for with death did we part. My hope and prayer to God is that we all find peace and comfort and support one another, as we go on living without our loved ones.
Peace and God Bless Us All,
Ellen M. Mariani
Submitted by Ellen Mariani
His Town and His Pictures
Wherever Louis Mariani went, he was sure to have his trusty Minolta camera with him. "He just loved taking pictures," recalled his daughter, Lauren Peters.
In addition to working at the Blue Ribbon dairy farm in Bedford, Mass., Mr. Mariani shot pictures for his local paper, The Bedford Minuteman. He spent his whole life in Bedford, and he was very proud of the town, Mrs. Peters said. Even as he climbed into middle age, he wore pins supporting the high school football team. Mr. Mariani did not travel much, said his daughter, but he certainly got about town. "Everyone knew him," she said. On Sept. 11, he was on Flight 175, going to his stepsister's wedding.
Everyone also knew his photography. His daughter recalled when Mr. Mariani, 58, first set up a darkroom in the bathroom in their house and taught her how to develop film. "I loved going in there with him," she said.
Mrs. Peters said one of the few things that competed with her father's love of photography was his passion for dessert. "He always wanted peanut butter pie," she said.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 10, 2002.
The last thing Louis Neal Mariani said to his wife before putting her on a plane to Los Angeles was, "I'll be there three minutes after you." With that, the 59-year-old retired dairy worker gave her a kiss. The two booked their flights at different times, and ended up on different planes flying to his stepdaughter's wedding on Saturday.
Two hours later, Ellen Mariani still waited at Chicago's Midway Airport as the nation's air system shut down. When she told fellow travelers that her husband was behind her on a United flight from Boston to Los Angeles, "They just looked at me--and the looks on their faces. It was awful," she said.
Without friends in Chicago, she was welcomed into a stranger's home through a Mormon charity late Tuesday. Her daughter will be married Saturday in Los Angeles. Mariani said she hoped to fly to there Thursday. "Just get me to my kids," she said.
Profile courtesy of THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.