The women who gathered with their babies for a photo
session in New York this summer looked just like any other
group of new mothers.
But as they chatted, their small talk told a different
story: "What did your husband do?" ... "His mom called me
right away"... "They found a lot of Frank, right?" ... "I
think the hardest part is going to be explaining it to my
The women all lost their husbands on Sept. 11 and gave
birth to their children in the months afterward. Primetime
had met many of the women in the course of the year, and
wanted to bring them together for a photograph to
commemorate what for them has been a harrowing year, the
joy of their babies' births tempered by the sorrow of their
Sixty-one women ended up participating, with two sets of
twins making a total of 63 babies — roughly half of the
babies known to have been born to Sept. 11 widows. The
group turned the elegant conservatory at the Brooklyn
Botanic Garden into happy chaos, the younger babies crying
and gurgling (if they weren't sleeping or munching on their
blankets), the older ones crawling out of position again
and again, mothers and producers running around to catch
them. How do you wrangle 36 baby boys and 27 baby girls —
ranging in age from three weeks to nearly a year — all into
one place and get them to sit still for a photograph?
Going Through Pregnancy Alone
The 63 babies were a happy sight, but the loss that
unites their mothers, of course, was not. In a similar way,
while the mothers said their babies had brought them joy,
many said that having to go through a pregnancy alone had
made their grieving even harder.
"I think he's a gift," said Haven Fyfe of her 1-month-
old Parker, "but I did not think being pregnant and being a
widow was a gift. I thought it was very cruel." Fyfe had
told her husband Karleton that she was pregnant just two
days before he died on board American Airlines Flight 11.
She went through a long and painful natural childbirth, but
said the pain was "a cathartic release for me about the
anger that I have about my husband's death."
Katy Soulas said she wishes her husband Tim, who worked
for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the World Trade
Center, was present at the birth of their sixth child,
Daniel, so she could have thanked him for making her a
mother. But she said she sensed his presence: "I felt Tim
holding my hand. So he was with me."
Many of the women said the single hardest moment of the
past year was coming home with their baby, to a home
without a father, and then facing the prospect of raising
their children alone.
"It would be very easy to just stop," said Patti
Quigley, as her baby Leigh gurgled on her lap. "She wakes
up at 6, like clockwork, every day, and I can't just let
her lie there.... Once I'm up, I'm all right."
The widows, many of whom were meeting each other for the
first time, found some solace in coming together. "It's
incredible to take in, that so many people are going
through the same thing," said Barbara Atwood, whose husband
Gerald was a firefighter. "There's some comfort,
unfortunately, in that — and there's strength in it."
Oldest Baby, Youngest Baby
The oldest baby in the group was Farqad Chowdhury, who
was born on Sept. 13. His father, Mohammad Chowdhury, was a
physicist who had a master's degree from his native
Bangladesh, but took a job as a waiter at the Windows on
the World restaurant to provide for his family. Since his
death, his widow, Baraheen Ashrafi, a devout Muslim from a
traditional home who married him in a match arranged by
their families, has learned to drive, as a first step to
greater independence. She got a temporary license in April —
something she said would have made her husband proud.
The youngest of the babies was Francesca Liriano, just
three weeks old. Her father Francisco did not work at the
World Trade Center but was giving a presentation there on
the morning of Sept. 11. He and his wife Shirley had been
trying to have a baby for six months, and the weekend
before the attacks he had been sure she was pregnant. She
did not think she was, and they agreed that she would take
a pregnancy test the following weekend, so he could be with
her to see the result. But, his wife told Primetime, "Next
weekend never came."
Instead, Shirley Liriano spent the days after Sept. 11
desperately searching for her husband. When she finally
took the pregnancy test weeks later and it was positive,
she was more determined than ever to find him. "You wanted
this, so you have to be here," she would tell him in her
mind. When Francesca was born in May, she immediately
started playing a role in the search for her father,
providing DNA from inside her cheek to help identify his
Grieving Without a Body
Identification of remains was another frequent topic
among the widows. At the New York City medical examiner's
DNA laboratory on the East River, there are still 20,000
body parts in storage, waiting to be identified. Each
sample is labeled "DM," for "Disaster Manhattan." Every
piece has been tested once, and around half of them have
enough DNA material — flesh, bone and ligament — to make
identification feasible. Those that showed no DNA in the
first test are undergoing a second round of testing.
It will take another six to eight months to complete the
work. In the meantime, dozens of victims' families show up
every week to ask whether their loved ones' remains have
Some of the widows have had to wrestle with the question
of whether to hold a funeral without remains. Barbara
Atwood held out hope for months that her firefighter
husband's remains would be identified. His company's truck,
Ladder 21, was left ghost-like on the street, but no trace
of its crew was found.
Atwood, who gave birth to a baby boy in March, was
reluctant to hold a memorial service for her husband,
worried that if his remains were later found she would have
to hold a second service. "That I just can't imagine doing
twice," she told Primetime at the time. Finally, after the
search at Ground Zero was declared over, she decided to go
ahead with a memorial service in June.
Kindness of Strangers
Another issue facing the women is finances. The mothers
who attended the photo session ranged in age from 25 to 40.
For some, the babies were their first; for one, her sixth.
But for all the women, the babies were children they never
expected to be raising on their own.
Charities have collected more than $2 billion for the
victims' families so far. The widows were shy about
discussing money, but Primetime calculated that each family
has likely received about $175,000 from the charities to
date. Families of police officers and firefighters have
received an average of about $1 million each from funds set
up specially for them.
In addition, the federal government is offering payouts —
an average of $1.4 million — to families who forfeit the
right to sue the airlines, security firms or any government
agency, but only one-fifth of all victims' families have
applied so far.
But rather than money, the widows said that what meant
the most were the small, simple kindnesses strangers had
"A 7-year-old boy in California wrote this cute note,"
said Kellie Lee, who gave birth to a daughter after her
husband Danny died on board Flight 11. "He wanted to make
sure that if I didn't breastfeed Allison, I had enough
money for formula and diapers. He raised $400 by standing
out in front of his church and asking."
Jenna Jacobs' neighbors organized a food chain and made
sure she and her newborn son Gabriel had home-cooked meals
every night for two months.
Some felt their husbands' employers could have done
more. While a few companies have offered to give lifetime
health benefits to surviving families, the firm Pat
Wotton's husband Rod worked for, Franklin Templeton, one of
the largest mutual fund managers in the world, plans to cut
off her health insurance in less than two years. The
company, which lost 87 employees in all, said its total
financial package for each family was "substantial and
Rings for Remembrance
For many of the widows, their wedding rings have taken
on a special importance. Jenna Jacobs, whose husband Ariel
was at a breakfast meeting in Windows on the World,
followed the tradition of moving her ring to her right
finger. "I want people to notice that it's on my right
hand, that something is wrong in my life. It's the sign of
a widow," she said.
Terilyn Patrick had celebrated her first wedding
anniversary with her husband Jim on Sept. 9. Searchers
found his wedding ring lying amid all the destruction at
Ground Zero. Patrick plans to give it to her newborn son
Jack, who she says already has his father's smile.