9/11 widow: Don't judge
Says Father's Day is toughest for family



Eileen Cirri with her daughter, Francesca, at their Nutley, N.J., home.

I am not a "harpy." I am not a "witch." I have never taken a moment's pleasure from my husband's death on Sept. 11, 2001.

What I am is a "9/11 widow." I am a mother of three, and I dread today - Father's Day - more than any other.

For four straight years, Father's Day has been a raw reminder of what I - and thousands of women like me - lost on that cloudless Tuesday morning almost five years ago.

Today, I will watch my three beautiful daughters and be amazed at their resiliency - and how their lives honor their father every single day. Of course, I will also think about what we might have been doing today as a family - what we should be doing today. A barbecue, probably, or maybe a day at the beach with Dad. Today, the hole in my heart will grow a bit bigger.

So I will seek comfort in being with other 9/11 families, people who know what it's like to be forced to mourn so very publicly. Whether I want to or not, I still live in a 9/11 fishbowl. Complete strangers feel free to judge how I choose to grieve, how I should channel my energy. Through activism over safety and security? Into concerns about the Ground Zero memorials? Or simply by raising my children quietly in the shadows of those fallen towers?

Everyone seems to have an opinion. And to have no compunction in expressing it. I am all for free speech. But still, it feels different when it's you - and your deepest pain - they're talking about.

Yes, I still grieve. The loss of my husband is ever present; the scar will never completely heal. Yet, I, like many of my friends, am in a very different place emotionally than I was four years ago. I'm stronger. I'm healing. But for every two steps forward I take, something creeps from those shadows to set me back - sometimes just half a step.

Each day's newspaper brings a fresh reminder of that day: a story about the fight over federal Homeland Security funding, something about the endless Ground Zero controversies, and I can't see a movie without fear of being confronted with a trailer for a 9/11 movie. On a bad day, even hearing the radio announcer say that the time is 9:11 a.m. can jolt me.

This is my fourth Father's Day of being angry because thousands of kids have no father, thousands of women have no husband. But this year I'm also angry about being judged. Angry that people are telling me how, and how not, to grieve. I want people - especially those who think it's okay to reduce our situation to an unflattering one-word stereotype - to know that our families still struggle to get by. That some days are harder than others. That there is no single, easy or "right" way to get through what we must endure.

So before you pass judgment, again, I ask: Does anyone want to trade places with me today?

Eileen Cirri is a member of Tuesday's Children, a 9/11 family support organization. Her husband, Lt. Robert Cirri of the Port Authority Police Department, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001.