I can't imagine 2996 people. I can't see their faces, can't know their lives. But I can see one person, remember her. I wrote this six years ago, for a blog project that remembered each and every victim of 9/11.
Christina Donovan Flannery started as a name I drew at random. Now she's real to me, and it hurts that she was stolen from this world and the people that loved her. Every year on 9/11, I read her story again, and I pray for her family.
We live lives of magic and wizardry. We spend our days consumed with concerns that generations before would find strange and unreal. We worry about getting a clear cell phone signal, or traffic tie ups, we obsess over interest rates and the price of a precious oily yellow-green liquid that you can’t drink, can’t wash with, can’t use to cook. The hardships we confront on a daily basis are those of a pampered, spoiled people, with the attendant majesty and pique of a pea disturbing the royal slumber.
Yet this is the great gift that our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers toiled and sweated and died to give us. This moment where we have the freedom to be petty or preoccupied or profound. Where the only worry we have about eating is which of a hundred thousand boxes we will choose at the market.
It is easy for us to forget the soil below, which we cover in buildings and concrete and plantings and parking structures, and yet, there it is–- still. Hidden, obscured, forgotten, but eternally beneath. If it is bedrock, it supports everything we wish to do. If it is sandy or soft or undercut by hidden water, despite our elaborate plans and aspirations cracks will form in even the most ambitious and well-designed of our edifices.
So we wake up on a September morning, and watch evil remind us in no uncertain terms that though it can be covered, graded, trenched and forgotten, it will not be denied.
* * *
Christina Donovan Flannery worked on the 104th floor of Tower Two, at Sandler O’Neill and Partners. She was 26, newly married, and a fixed income sales associate for the firm, where she had worked for two years.
As usual, she spent the morning riding the subway into work with her husband, Brian. At the moment, they lived in Middle Village, Queens. But the contracts for the home they were purchasing-– their first-– were with their attorney. They would be signing soon. “We talked about it non- stop,” her husband said.
It was a dream address: 10 Cranberry Lane in Plainsville, on Long Island. A three bedroom split-level ranch. There would finally be enough room for their beloved dog Tye, an Akita German shepherd, to romp around. He was their “kid for now”, but they were looking forward to starting a family soon.
The move to the Long Island home, just around the corner from her in-laws, would be the first move out of Middle Village for Christina. Born August 10, 1975, the daughter of William and Catherine Donovan, she grew up with brother Billy and sister Kathleen. She attended Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Elementary School and Christ the King High School, where she was a star basketball and softball player.
“Everyone who knew Christina, loved Christina. Her smile and laughter [were] contagious,” said her brother. “She loved children, she loved family, she loved life.”
Even more than career, marriage had always been a dream for Christina. Her best friend Nicole Lagnese recalled how crashing weddings was a favorite hobby. “We used to drive around from church to church on Saturdays to see how other people had done it and get ideas for our own.”
Still, it was probably not the first thing on her mind when she went to Jones Beach on a first date with Brian Flannery, whom she had met on the trading floor of HSBC Bank USA. But just a few years later, in July 2000, she would be standing in the same spot as the sun was setting, when he asked her to marry him.
“She got joy out of helping others and seeing them happy,” her husband said. “Making other people happy was her happiness.”
The June wedding in 2001 was followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii.
By September, the couple had settled into the happy routine of commuting into work together. They split up each day near the end of their commute, when he went to his office in midtown– she to lower Manhattan and her job on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
After the first jet plunged into Tower One, Christina spoke to her husband Brian twice more by phone.
And then came 9:02:59 a.m., Sept 11, 2001.
United Airlines Flight 175 struck Tower Two.
* * *
“I don’t have my sister anymore, don’t have anyone to talk to. I talked to her about things I wouldn’t talk to my husband about.” Kathleen Fontana, Sister.
“We all miss Christina terribly, each one in a different way. I miss the phone calls and talks on the front stairs of the house the most.” Bill Donovan, brother.
“The world will never be the same without you. Your caring heart and your tender smile will forever be missed.” Rick Taiano, old friend
“If you had a down day, you’d just talk to her for five minutes, and she’d pick you up. Everybody who knew her just felt the same way.” William Donovan, Father.
“She made you believe anything was possible. She wasn’t afraid to dream because she made dreams come true.” Brian Flannery, Husband.
[If you knew Christina, and would like to add or correct anything in this remembrance, please leave a comment. My apologies if I have gotten anything wrong. Published reports vary on certain details and dates, including Ms. Flannery’s birth date and the spelling of Kathleen Fontana/ Fontona.]