Honor the memory of the 9-11 victims

You might have read the letter to the editor we published Monday from Eleanor Salter. If you haven’t please do so. It was a heartfelt and touching tribute to her daughter.

Several years ago we had the opportunity to meet and sit down with Eleanor. It was a moving interview. It’s been said that few tragedies are as gut-wrenching and soul-sapping as a parent losing a child. She knows that all too well. It was 18 years ago today that her daughter perished during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York City.

Catherine Patricia Salter — “Cathy” to those who knew her — was born and raised in Wellsville. A 1982 high school co-valedictorian, she excelled out of the classroom too. She earned varsity letters in basketball, volleyball and track. She set a Wellsville High School record in the 400 meter dash. She liked to do the moon walk. Yeah, just like Michael Jackson.

Cathy went to the University of Cincinnati, earning a bachelor’s of arts degree in history. She was a big Reds fan. After advancing her education at Cincy and the Insurance Institute of America, she began her professional career. She worked as a paralegal and later as a legal assistant in Cincinnati. She joined Aon Risk Services, Inc. as a claim administrator. Moving up the professional ladder, she was promoted to assistant vice president/claim manager. She moved to the company’s New York office in February 2000.

“Her dream was to work there,” her mother revealed.

Like so many of us, Eleanor vividly remembered the precise moments that rattled and scarred our nation. But unlike the rest of us, she carries a separate grief day in, day out and not just on the anniversary of the 9-11 tragedies. Mothers do that when they lose a child. Life doesn’t come with a pause button. But sometimes fleeting time — pages falling from the calendar — doesn’t always soften the pain.

Working then at the East Liverpool Hospital on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 Eleanor was told by a co-worker that a plane had just crashed into one of the twin towers.

“I wasn’t sure what tower Catherine was in,” she said of those agonizing moments.

Then a second plane hit the other tower.

“I knew she was dead,” Eleanor recalled. “In my heart, I knew she died the minute the plane hit the second building. She had been talking to her former boss in Cincinnati. She told him they were getting ready to evacuate and were leaving right then.”

The second plane hit the second (South) tower moments after that call. The bright and bubbly Cathy, who had so much to live for, was gone. Just days earlier, she had turned 43.

Cathy’s father, Henry, had passed away in April 2000. Some seventeen months later, Eleanor would get blindsided by the 9-11. She too, like hundreds of other families losing a child, spouse, sibling, grandparent or grandchild on that fateful day became victims themselves of terrorists. So many families were never the same. How could they be?

Following the tragedies, Eleanor traveled to New York City. She remembered walking city block after city block, alone and surrounded by silence, One of the world’s largest and most vibrant cities was muted by sorrow. She remembered that a big warehouse containing tents was set up. There priests, ministers and rabbis greeted and comforted those losing loved ones.

As we detailed in our feature, she received a package from New York City. Amazingly it contained Cathy’s clutch purse that had been retrieved from the debris. Originally red, it was blackened. On top of the purse, officials had placed Cathy’s driver’s license. “Everything in the purse was in perfect shape,” Eleanor said. She donated it to the 9-11 Memorial Museum in New York City.

Five months after the attacks, Eleanor got a call from a coroner’s office. They had recovered some of Cathy’s remains. Bill Roberts, a funeral director from Wellsville, went to New York City. He returned with essentially a “little baggie, a cup of remains.”

Eleanor went to St. Elizabeth Cemetery in Wellsville. “I buried that on top of her dad,” she said. Just a couple of weeks later came another call from New York City. They had found a leg, part of an arm and shoulder. Those remains are in an urn. “They will be buried with me,” Eleanor told us when we met.

Astoundingly, she received three more like calls. Imagine being a parent dealing with that. “I finally told them I can’t handle this,” she recalled. Additional remains of Cathy are sealed in a crypt at a 9-11 memorial in New York City along with the remains of other victims.

And isn’t it funny, maybe peculiar, strange or even frustrating to pause and realize that anniversaries of big events, good and bad, that impacted our nation seem to be remembered mostly in bands of five years? Events like Pearl Harbor, the moon landing and the assassination of President Kennedy. You know, the fifth, 10th, 15th anniversary of something. But often not as much during “off” years. Like today being the 18th anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks. That shouldn’t be.

Cathy Salter was one of 2,996 — 2,606 alone at the World Trade Center — killed by planes which became weapons of death. She was the only person from Columbiana County killed by the terrorists.

Those dying aren’t just part of a cold, stark number. Very sad it is that today many Americans won’t stop and at least ponder about what shook and galvanized our nation on Sept. 11, 2001. They should. That is our intent here. Teach about it in school. Discuss it over morning coffee at the corner diner. Say a quiet prayer. So many lost lives should always be honored and remembered. Like the memory of Cathy Salter.

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