Jewish World Review Sept. 15, 2003 / 18 Elul, 5763

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Consumer Reports

An open letter from Rick Detorie, creator of "One Big Happy" | Friends,

I've just returned home to Venice, CA, from a very emotional 4-day trip to NYC where I attended the 9/11 memorial service at Ground Zero with the family of Angel Juarbe (one of the five fallen firefighters honored in the November 22, 2001 "One Big Happy"), and met with the Mullan Family and the Pettis, wonderful, loving people all. I have visited with them twice, and I regularly keep in touch with all three families. ( ) During this most recent trip, I met with family members/friends/loved ones of some of the 9/11 victims mentioned in the comic strip that ran last year and again on Thursday on JWR.

One was Billy, a 25-year-old architectural engineer who had been e-mailed a funny story by his best friend Jimmy at Cantor Fitzgerald just moments before the first plane struck. For days afterwards, Jimmy's friends and family held out hope that Jimmy would come walking out of the rubble because he was such a charming guy, he could talk his way into and out of anything.

No trace of Jimmy was ever found.

Billy is looking to change careers, to find something more meaningful to do with his life.

Another was Doug, a 30-something mortgage broker whose fiancée Beth was due to fly to Kansas City that morning, but stopped into her office that morning for just a few minutes.

Her office was on the 105th floor of the North Tower.

When he realized where the plane had struck in proximity to her office, he said it was as if someone had injected something into his shoulders causing an intense heat to move down through his body.

He called her cell phone 26 times that day, and left messages that grew angrier and angrier, cursing and pleading with her to return his calls because "This is serious. I need to know you're all right."

Beth's remains were never found; there was no funeral.

Doug and her parents placed a plaque in her honor on a park bench in Tudor City where the couple was furnishing an apartment together with her grandparents' antiques. Doug gave the keys to that place to her parents, and walked away from it, leaving all of his/her/their belongings.

He's working less now - at about 25% capacity-than before 9/11, and sublets a small apartment in Midtown, where he spends a lot of time alone, sitting on the roof and looking up at the sky.

And then there's Kevin, whose wife Patricia wanted to spend more time at home with their three young children, so she job-shared at a brokerage firm in the WTC with another mother. Patricia worked Mondays and Tuesdays.

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday.

Kevin is a transit worker who needs help raising the children, so the family moved in with Patricia's parents. They also receive help from two of the children's teachers who volunteer many long hours helping with the kids at home. Three-year-old Dylan, the youngest, doesn't have a memory of his mother, but he knows her from the photographs on the little memorial table which he visits every morning in the living room.

There were no remains found of Patricia, but her mother Eleanor received permission to take a small bit of earth from Ground Zero, and sprinkled it onto the casket of Patricia's father, who died suddenly this past winter.


One beautiful thing that I saw: on Hylan Avenue on Staten Island, there's a traffic island on which a local florist planted about 3,000 flowers, and created a memorial to all the 9/11 victims from Staten Island.

Their pictures began appearing along the winding cobblestone path, and a local jeweler, at cost, had all the pictures etched in order to preserve and protect them from the elements. Three local ironworks companies joined forces to construct a fence around the memorial, and they erected a flagpole.

When a bad downpour wiped out all the young plants, the florist replaced all 3,000 with new ones.

You might expect the local residents to complain about the additional parking and traffic in the vicinity, but no, instead they volunteered to light all the candles at the memorial every evening, and that's what they do.

It gives one hope.

Anyway, the purpose in my writing to you is to let you know that I have received your request for a signed copy of the 9/11/02 "One Big Happy," and, yes, you may have one even though you didn't lose a love one on that day.

Some of you requested a copy, but did not include a mailing address. Please check your original message to me, and if you did not include a street or PO box address, resend it with the address.

If you requested that I e-mail you the cartoon, I'd rather not. If I send it to you in an attachment, I'll have to reduce it by more than half because it's too large a file. If it's reduced by that much, the quality will diminish. Please send me a mailing address.

There's NO CHARGE for any of this, so don't give me money. Just give me your patience, because the requests are so numerous that it took me over an hour to read them all.

Bless you all,
Rick Detorie

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© 2003, Rick Detorie