, Salem, MA

September 6, 2011

For North Shore families, Sept. 11 a 'deeply personal' day

By Tom Dalton
Staff writer

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks claimed nearly 3,000 victims, including 10 from the North Shore. As the 10th anniversary of the tragedy approaches, The Salem News talked to families who lost loved ones that day and asked how they will spend the anniversary. Here are a few of their stories.

Erik Isbrandtsen

A year ago, Dirk Isbrandtsen wrote to officials in New York City asking if he could be a reader at the 10th anniversary memorial ceremony for 9/11, which will be held Sunday morning at the World Trade Center.

Last month, he got an answer.

"I'm going to have the privilege of doing that," said Isbrandtsen, a Marblehead resident whose 30-year-old son, Erik, an industrial sales trader at the financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew a plane into one of the twin towers.

"I get to read Erik's name," said Isbrandtsen, his eyes filling with tears. "And I get to read my best friend's name."

On the morning of the terrorist attacks, Erik Isbrandtsen, a handsome former college soccer star, was working on the 104th floor of One World Trade Center. He was killed along with Chuck Zion, a senior vice president and his father's former college roommate. They were among 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees to die that day.

As painful as the memory is, and as difficult as it has been at times to go on after the death of his only child, Isbrandtsen wants to be in New York City on Sunday.

"It's kind of like a final public goodbye," he said, seated at Capt's Waterfront Grill & Pub, the restaurant he owns and operates on the Salem waterfront.

Isbrandtsen understands it will be difficult, maybe impossible for some families who lost loved ones to be in New York. But he feels he has to go.

"Erik worked there," he said. "Erik lived there. That was his home."

Robert Jalbert

Mike Jalbert, a high school history teacher, is also going to New York.

His father, Robert Jalbert, 61, of Swampscott, who was married with three grown children, was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175, one of the two planes terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center.

"I haven't been to ground zero," Jalbert said. "It never had any pull for me before. ... It's not like I avoided it. It's just that he died there; he didn't live there."

On Sunday, however, Jalbert will be at ground zero, where a memorial will be dedicated, inscribed with his father's name and the names of nearly 3,000 victims of the terrorist attacks.

"The memorial means something to me," he said. "And I want the day to be remembered, not in any kind of crusading type of way, but I definitely want the day to be remembered. ... It's about remembering him and everybody else who died that day and honoring their memory."

It's also a day, Jalbert said, to think of all the friends, neighbors and even strangers who have reached out, come to their house, called on the phone, sent a card, or offered love and support in some other way.

"It's very important to express how thankful we were then and will always be to everybody who was there for us," he said.

Karen Martin

Karen Martin, 40, the head flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, was one of the first victims of 9/11. She was stabbed struggling with terrorists, according to news reports.

Martin was raised in Danvers, graduated from Danvers High, lived in Danvers as an adult, and is memorialized at her favorite place, the Danvers Public Library, where a bench is inscribed "In Our Hearts Forever."

On Sunday, the town will hold a memorial parade that will pass near her home. Several of Martin's relatives will be there. That's where they want to be on this 10th anniversary.

"I feel like she is home," said Joan Greener, an aunt from Salem, who became almost a surrogate parent after Martin's mother and father died years earlier. "I feel like she's here," she said, trying to hold back sobs. "She just loved Danvers."

Karen's brothers, John and Paul, will be in New York on Sunday. Paul, in fact, is one of the people reading victims' names, according to Greener.

"That was his hope, to be able to do that one year," she said.

In different ways, and at different places, Martin's family will honor her on Sunday, just as they have for the past decade through the Karen A. Martin Memorial Fund, which has donated more than $40,000 to a number of children's causes, including the Danvers Public Library's children's room.

"I'm at a point where I'm not grieving," Greener said. "I'm celebrating her life. When you look at a blue sky, we call that a Karen Martin day."

Dr. Frederick Rimmele

Kim Trudel doesn't know where she will be on Sunday — either at home in Marblehead or way up in Maine.

"Maine was a special place for my late husband and I," said the widow of Dr. Frederick Rimmele, a 32-year-old Marblehead physician who was aboard United Airlines Flight 175.

"9/11 is a deeply private matter," Trudel said. "How we remember our loved ones is a deeply private and deeply personal decision. And, for me, it's a time of reflection and a time to think back on all the wonderful times we had together."

For Trudel, who has remarried and has two young sons, it is also a time to reflect on the world around her, and how she and the world have changed.

"It's a time to think back on all that has transpired in the last 10 years," she said. "I remember an outpouring of support for the U.S. after 9/11, and I can't help but wonder whether we have really taken advantage of that opportunity. I wonder whether we should be doing more to try to reach out to other people and try to resolve conflicts by diplomacy rather than other means, and whether we should be doing more to promote tolerance and understanding through education, particularly in developing countries."

While saying that, Trudel also praised the men and women in the armed forces who have made huge sacrifices for their country.

After her husband's death, Trudel donated his medical books to a university in Afghanistan. She also got involved with Greg Mortenson's foundation and other nonprofit organizations promoting education for girls and women in Afghanistan and other countries. She has traveled to West Africa on volunteer work, and earned a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

"I have tried to take that horrible event and turn it into something positive and tremendously powerful," she said.