UNDETECTABLE HOMELESS

A Weekly Cyberlog

The Invisible Victims of 9/11


I think that most people understand that all who perished on September 11, 2001 were not part of a
family even if those are the stories that have emerged on TV or in newspapers and magazines. Of
course, families have suffered an immense loss and their sorrow is revealed in the stories they tell;
they are an important part of the oral history of the terrorist attacks on NYC and Washington, D.C.
However, there is another aspect to this historical event: those women, usually over 50, who were
living with but not married to men who died/disappeared on 9/11. There has been no voice for them
since they were not entitled to any benefits and have simply become the invisible victims of an
episode which will always be remembered...even if they are not. I have met some of these invisible
victims, and I will relate their stories for them. It isn*t as if they haven*t tried to be recognized. I
contacted lawyers (one such firm is Trial Lawyers Care, Inc., a nonprofit of volunteer lawyers who
provide free legal services to victims who are eligible to make claims under the federal Victim Co-
mpensation Fund* and these women are not eligible for two reasons: 1) they need PROOF that their
partner died at the WTC on 9/11 (!), and 2) they must be able to prove that they were economically
dependent on the decedent); the "From the Ground Up" nonprofit advocacy group established by
Ariel Goodman, who lost not only her 87th floor businesses, but her home which was 500 feet from
the WTC; and a few of the resources listed by NYC on web sites. These resources are interested
in re-establishing small businesses; they are not participants in assisting the personal lives of
victims. They do not have the ability to do so. Even many eligible victims are "complaining" that
they are not receiving benefits due to them. Insurance companies have not come through and
many find that the most valuable items lost forever are receipts and documents necessary for
making any claims.

I am going to address this topic by sequence. That means that my first encounter with women who
were affected by the terrorist attacks was in 2001*soon after the events. I was scheduled to be in
Boston on September 7th and in NYC for several days beginning on September 10th. As fate
would have it, I decided to change my itinerary at the last moment to visit Walden Pond again...
and altered my direction. It wasn*t until early October that I was in CT:

On October 6, 2001, I was driving from Waterbury, CT toward the NY border along I-84, and as
usual, I stopped at every Rest Area not only for my own benefit (bad back), but to scout the parking
lots for hidden homeless women who use these large practical places for a variety of purposes.
One van caught my attention, for the driver, a woman over 50, was going through a pile of papers,
crying while throwing away some in the nearby trash bin. I watched for awhile, and finally, she just
tossed the entire stack into the bin and climbed back into the vehicle. She didn*t close the door,
however, and I maneuvered myself into a parking position near her. I got out, stretched, and stood,
looking around as if disinterested. She didn*t notice me, so I walked along the grassy "park" in
front of the vehicles in order to catch her attention. I could see that she was still crying, her head
back against the headrest as if she was so tired that sleep was impossible. I walked back and forth
several times and then wandered by her open door. I smiled and she returned a faint attempt. "You
look exhausted," I said, and she responded quietly that life was exhausting. I agreed and began to
draw her out. We ended up sharing food at one of the bench-tables supplied by the Rest Area. This
is the first story I heard from an invisible 9/11 victim*and I began by taking notes on a paper food
wrapper. I realized that I wanted to hear every word, so I asked if I could record her, promising that
I would never reveal her last name or locations that would jeopardize her anonymity. I showed her
my book (which she kept) and she agreed, reluctantly, to tell "all." (Remember that four elipses
means that there is a gap in material!)

 
"I*ve made it to CT, hoping that an old friend will let me park for a time in her back yard. I just
don*t know what else to do....Jack has been my whole life since...well, I was a settlement
officer for so many years, and when we met, he was selling the house where he and his wife
had--oh, she died two years before*and it was such an involved settlement....It was late, and
he asked me if I*d like to have dinner with him. I had been a widow for ten, umm, no, eleven
years, ad never expected that I would even date again. That*s for the young people, isn*t it?
....I had a son who died in a car accident when he was just 19, so I*ve been alone for a long
time....A year later, Jack and I were at a crossroads. I could continue to live in my own
apartment or move into his condo*a lovely one in [ ], New Jersey. He won my heart and it
was silly to pretend anymore that we weren*t sharing a bedroom. But we were both old-
fashioned and talked a lot about marriage. It was...but we knew that one Social Security
check would have to go and one would not meet our needs, which included lots of traveling
around the United States. This is a nice van, isn*t it?....We wanted to spend as much time
as possible together, so I gave up my job and we traveled for at least 7 months every year,
for four years. I never had so much fun just being a sort of housewife and taking care of him.
And then one day he did his weekly trip into NYC to meet with his old pals for breakfast and
cards....[She was sobbing by now.] He never came home. I know that the breakfasts were
around the WTC; two of the men still worked as stockbrokers. Did I say that he had been
one too? He retired a year after his wife died. Well, I waited, hoping that he was just hurt
and in some hospital or wandering, in shock, but somehow I knew he wouldn*t be coming
back....I was just plain numb. My life was over; I didn*t really care much what happened to
me then. But, I was suddenly faced with his daughter, whom he hadn*t seen since his wife
died. Years....Uh, she blamed her death--the wife, you know--on him, screaming that he
didn*t get her to the hospital on time. I heard one telephone conversation he made to her
...and I could hear that girl, uh, woman, yelling as he moved the telephone away from his
ear. Vicious. That*s what she was: vicious....A couple of days after the attack, she called
to talk to him. She wanted her mother*s copper pots....I had to tell her that apparently he
died; he hadn*t returned to the condo after the buildings went down. Well, within a few
days, a moving van showed up and the men just wiped out the place that was our home.
I was forced to sit on a chair that was mine and defy the movers...and I refused to let them
take my mother*s china and crystal....The daughter stayed in her car, watching; she didn't
come inside. When the men were finished taking the furniture and his antiques, she sent
a man in with an official paper saying that I had to be out of there at the end of the month.
She inherits everything that was in his name and was putting the condo up for sale. Jack
had never thought about dying. He didn*t get around to putting everything in both our
names. We had separate accounts, but he always made extra deposits into mine from
his Social Security checks and his stock dividends. It was so easy that I never thought of
anything going wrong....When we bought this traveling home, he traded in an older one
and this is in both of our names. The daughter couldn't take this, but she took his Lexus
which was in his name alone....I talked to a lawyer. I don't have any rights. Just because
we didn*t get married....On September 30th, I took the few things that weren't sold at a
yard sale and piled them into this...home. I*m too old now to try for another job, and
anyway, I can*t seem to focus on anything. My mind is filled with memories of Jack....I
guess I'll just hope to park at my friend*s place and pray that I can find some peace....
All I have is a bank account with enough to get me through one year of living...if I*m
very careful and nothing unusual comes up. I can't afford to pay for motor home
insurance. Maybe I'll just be arrested and put in jail." (Sharon, age 66, 2001 in CT)
She kept in touch with me for a year, and then nothing. I forgot to write down the name and
address of her friend in CT and I can*t find the envelopes to her letters. I must have removed
them as I wrote back to her. She did stay with her friend, though, for at least a year. These are
the kinds of errors that I feel guilty about.

As I passed through a Rest Area just north of White Plains, NY, I made a wrong turn and entered
the part where RVs and trucks park. I saw a woman getting out of the back of her large truck,
revealing what appeared to be a living room! Curious, I pulled up nearby and wandered around
until I had the opportunity to be near enough to talk to her. She was, by then, moving some furniture
around, and I smiled and told her how lovely a chair was. She sat down on the edge of the truck
and sighed. She looked so sad that I made idle conversation until she said that she had just made
a delivery of a desk and hated to sell it. Our chat lasted all afternoon. She also had lost a fiancee
on 9/11, and this had been his delivery truck. I "edited/retouched" the truck since it has
personalized lettering on it!

"We lived on a small farm and rented what used to be a barn but became a guest house at one
time. Dan worked the heavy stuff for an older couple and I was in charge of the small vegetable
garden and greenhouse. Dan was a carpenter by hobby and he was making the most fabulous
ergonomic chairs and desks. He had a knack for marquetry and parquetry and delicate wood
carving, so all of his creations were just stunning. He had made a couple of sales in Manhattan
for advertising firms, and his ambition was to do that full-time. He got this truck at an auction
and did his own lettering. He was so proud! He had a friend who dealt in rare woods, and
most of his furniture was in black walnut and rosewood...with inlays of lighter woods....Of
course, this truck was too big for his first sales, but he kept saying that someday it would be
full of his furniture bound for NYC and a really good life for us....We were engaged, but decided
not to get married until my father approved of Dan. He had a minor*s record--for theft--and my
dad didn*t think he*d amount to anything but a bum, and while I didn*t really have much contact
with dad, I wanted to prove that my husband would be SOMETHING....Well, Dan had just
finished a large lounge chair with carved arms and a pull-out carved foot rest, two desk chairs,
and three desks that were breath-taking. Curved in just the right way to sit and work without
having to move the chair more than a fraction on its wheels....He made an appointment to take
photos of all of his furniture, ummm, by then he had quite an inventory, to a company on Wall St.
on September11th and left early, saying that he*d have something to eat in a restaurant after
his appointment. He was really nervous since this was his big break....He*d been in NYC
before, and sometimes he got tired and took a nap in the park before the ride home in our old
Buick, so I wasn*t worried when he didn*t show up for dinner. I had been working in the garden
all day and didn*t even turn on the news until dinner time....I can*t even tell you how I felt when I
saw the news. It was unbelievable. And Dan was in NYC....I couldn*t breathe, I was shaking so
badly that I knocked a plant off of a table and didn*t even pick it up, and I just sat and stared at
the TV....He didn*t come home.....I was told that I*d have to leave so that the couple could rent
to a man for the heavy work, so I just put everything into the truck and I*ve just been going from
place to place, selling his stock when I can for money to live on....I haven*t really gotten my act
together yet. I can park at truck stops and the Rest Areas, and I just eat my way through grocery
stores in every city....I can*t seem to think clearly....I wish I could find someone to use his
patterns and continue making his ergonomic furniture. But it would have to be someone as
talented as Dan. (Shirley, age 38, 2001 in NY)

I*M MEETING WITH SHIRLEY THIS SUMMER FOR AN UPDATE! YOU*LL BE HEARING
ABOUT HOW SHE IS DOING....
 

I met Adele in the A&P in Kenilworth, NJ, on Oct. 10th, 2001 at the deli counter. There were several
people in front of us, so we passed the time by discussing the fat and water content of the processed
deli meats which we both we going to buy to make sandwiches. As I left the store, I saw her open the
side of her minivan, and it was filled with boxes. A blanket and pillow were piled on top of a heap of
clothing right in back of the driver*s seat. She sat in the front seat and made her sandwich, poured a
soda from a can into a mug, and slowly began her meal. I moved my car to the empty spot beside
hers and asked if she wanted any company for dinner. I usually take my food back to the Inn next door
and enjoy the fact that they have nice tables and chairs and small refrigerators for leftovers. But this
time I figured I might have found a woman who was living out of her vehicle. I was right, and after we
chatted about "nothing" for awhile, I brought her my book and showed her my card. I asked if she
understood the topic. She had no hesitation in telling me what had happened to her.
 
"Al was going to an appointment at the World Trade Center. He had been with Cantor Fitz
before, had changed brokerages a couple of years ago, and was dissatisfied with his present employer....He left very early so that he would be there before opening bell, and I expected him
home around late afternoon. I didn*t even hear the news until about 1 p.m. when I turned on the
TV. I don*t think that I took it in; I just stared at the TV. I couldn*t believe what I was seeing. And
then I collapsed--fell off of the sofa!  Al was there! I didn*t know what to do, so I tried to call the
police stations in NYC and all of the lines were busy. I tried to call hospitals, but they didn*t
answer either. I just sat there, waiting, feeling my heart trying to beat itself out of my chest. I*ve
never felt fear like that before....I waited until late that night, and I knew he wouldn*t be coming
back....I thought about trying to drive into the city, but the news....What could I do? I*m 65 and
I*ve been living with this wonderful man for ten years.. We talked about getting married, but
his children were so against it that we just enjoyed ourselves. At our ages, what difference
could a piece of paper mean? We were both healthy, had so many things planned to do, like
go to England, Scotland, and Wales next year...and it never occurred to us that anything awful
would happen....Our finances were okay since we both had checks coming in, and Al wanted
to keep on working for another year at least....But I never asked for anything of ours to be put
in both of our names. It just wasn*t necessary....Too soon, I realized that I had no access to
his accounts. His children came down immediately and went to his bank, and as his PODs,
arranged to take everything. All I had was what was in my checking account and a CD and
some savings in a money market account. I could figure on a Social Security check every
month, but it wasn*t nearly enough to live on for long....I called his children to say that they
could come and get his belongings, and his son said that he was already planning on that,
so I knew I wouldn*t end up with much in our apartment....I didn*t want to live there anymore
anyway, and I really couldn*t afford the rent in that area by myself. In fact, after checking all
of the rentals near there, I realized that I couldn*t afford to live anywhere at all!....The minivan
is in my name only because he had his own car and when we decided on this, I went alone
and signed the sale. I didn*t realize that it was just in my name. It didn*t matter...and Al never
said anything about it....So at least I have this to live in....I guess I*m lucky not to have gone
crazy with grief so far, but I think it*s going to happen. I can feel it coming on as it all sinks
in....I*ve just been driving like a zombie, and I don*t even know what the date is. Am I in
shock?" (Adele, age 65, 2001 in NJ)


Of course she was, and I asked about friends and where she would like to go for the future. She had
no answers, but told me about another woman she met at the Welcome Center on I-84. She had
taken the woman*s name and had a description of her SUV. The woman had told her to meet her
there any Thursday, with a "plan" to help each other. The other woman had been married to a man
who died on 9/11, and she didn*t want to live alone for awhile. I drove back up to the Welcome
Center the next day, and although I waited all day, I couldn*t find her SUV. I had left my card with
Adele, and am sorry to say I haven*t heard from her. I put my card on the bulletin board and perhaps
some other women will respond. I saw it still there in 2003, so I retain "hope."

I have received several letters, emails, and telephone calls from women who have seen my cards
on bulletin boards, in temp offices, and just about anywhere I can put them. Every once in awhile, I
am lucky enough to actually meet one or more by pre-arrangement. I have recently met with Fran,
who is living in her camper. She had the back door open and was hanging a wet blouse out to dry
on a railing. I parked nearby and walked over to say "hello." She is acting as if she is just another
traveler. I am remaining in this area for a week because it is a treasure chest of pleasurable living
for any homeless woman. It is a very fancy "outlet town," although I notice that most of the upscale
stores are retail! The factory outlets are few and are mainly off on a side road. I have been inside
and I see a lot of tacky T-shirts and shorts, etc., and some obvious "seconds."
 


"Perry was an employee of a small company that was in Tower One. He had worked there as a
salesman*for computer parts*for many years, and we hooked up about six years ago after a few
dates at some dance contests. You know, the ballroom type....I gave up my apartment and moved
into his rent-controlled one, and I guess we might have gotten married someday. We had a lot in
common and planned to go to some of the out-of-town contests and win. We were really good!....
It didn*t seem to be a needed marriage thing since we both were happy with the arrangement,
and I had my money and he had his and it just wasn*t ever a problem. Ha ha. NOW it is! If I was
running short, he would just hand me money and now I*m all alone....I have one cousin*not far from
here in "the big city"*and when I finally told her what had happened on that awful day, she said I
should come and help her run her B&B....I bought an old car and made it up here and did the
cleaning bit and all of the stuff she didn*t want to do. I guess you*d just say I was a maid, and she
treated me like one. I was already depressed. I knew that. I had a prescription for depression after
Perry died but it didn*t make the horror of it all go away and I had terrible nightmares every night....
Finally, my cousin said I was just to "down" to be in her B&B and she might as well have just said
that she fired me. She couldn*t understand how I felt at all....I started back toward NY where I
figured I*d just be lucky to get some temp job in an office which didn*t need much of a computer
expert, and I was foolish enough to think I could find an apartment to share with someone. I don*t
think my mind was working right. Every time I heard the word dance, I cried....I saw your card on
the board of a temp office and you gave me hope. It was great to hear that you*d come and meet
with me....Isn*t this a great little town to roam in*maybe forever*during the tourist months, anyway.
I walk around town with all of the tourists and can sit in the shade in all of the pretty little nooks
and read or just watch people. No one even notices anyone and the population keeps changing,
so no one would think I*m anything more than a shopaholic....
 
 

There are loads of parking lots in town, all free, and I just move from one to another*but I really don*t
need to. There isn*t anyone watching the lots and some people stay for a spell and come back
again....There is such a mix of kinds of vehicles that I can fit in just about anywhere, but I usually
park where other campers and motor homes are. No one even talks to anyone, so it*s like being a
ghost*like people just look through you.....Do you know, there are two other women around here
that I*m guessing are homeless too. I see them do the same things as I do, and we*ve been here
for about a month now. We don*t seem to want to get together or anything. It*s like we are pretend-
ing to be just tourists who like to shop and I certainly don*t want anyone to know what I*m doing....I
get a disability check now since I hurt my leg when I fell down the stairs at the B&B and I am sup-
posed to have surgery for it, but I can*t afford that until I get Medicare. At least I have enough money
for some food and gas, and for now that*s enough. I read your book and I really got a lot of inform-
ation from it, so I may just try to live the winters in a big city with a huge enclosed mall where I can
do this but inside....There*s a good hotdog place up the hill. You treating? (I took her to a good
seafood restaurant instead!) (Fran, age 57, 2003 in Maine)

It is important for people to know that if disabled (with a physician*s documentation and a handi-
capped placard), anyone from 50 to 59 can apply for Disability and it moves quite smoothly into
Social Security and then Medicare at the appropriate age. I*m always surprised that so many people
are not aware of this. I bought the Social Security Handbook many years ago and keep it updated.
It*s expensive, and it isn*t a "read" on the internet as far as I can tell, but it is sold by the federal
government on its web site. I haven*t found it in a library yet, either.

I will travel the northeast for another 4 months, and I*m looking forward to meeting three other women
who found me by "word of mouth" or correspondence. They all have different backgrounds and are
surviving by truly innovative strategies. This an experience that is not new to me since I*ve been
active in the field of interviewing and assisting undetectable homeless women for so many years.
But this year I*m going to meet the women of 9/11 with whom I*ve already corresponded (as well as
any other undetectable homeless women who catch my eye!), and for me, this is a sad but exciting
adventure.
 

CLICK ON THE CYBERLOG SOON FOR MORE STORIES BY UNDETECTABLE HOMELESS
WOMEN! YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW MAY NEED THEIR SURVIVAL TACTICS...EVEN
THOUGH YOU THINK  "IT CAN'T HAPPEN TO ME!"

 


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© 2003 Marjorie Bard.  All Rights Reserved.
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