Monday, May 2, 2011

A Moment of Remembrance for Marni

Osama Bin Ladin is dead.

As I sit here at this moment, all I can think about is my friend Marni Pont O'Doherty, who died on 9/11. Everyone loved Marni. I'd met her through a message board for Rick Springfield fans, and we corresponded casually every now and then. We never met face to face, but from her photo, she was a dark-eyed beauty. You could see the drive and ambition in those eyes. She was smart and sassy, bright and luminous... and her posts to the RS Yahoo  message board reflected all of that. Her quirky, off-hand remarks made everyone laugh, and often the highlight of my day was checking the RS newsgroup to see what Marni had to say over my morning coffee. The love of Rick Springfield we shared made us both into goofy 16-year olds again at a time when neither of us would have ever dreamed of what life would hold for us. Okay, maybe just me. I suspect Marni always knew her course in life.

Everyone has their own 911 moment; mine was while I was sitting in my office. I'd heard about the first tower being hit by a jet on my way to work, but the radio broadcast I'd been listening to as I ate my breakfast at Govadas' Restaurant was downplaying the damage from what was assumed to be an unfortunate accident. Forty minutes later,as I walked by the security desk, both World Trade Center towers were down, and  9/11 was in full swing. I was the Coordinator of Disaster Services Volunteers for the local Red Cross, and I had been to virtually every major disaster in the country in the past 20 years at that time. I was in the National Disaster Reserve Database because I was a regional emergency management instructor, one of the few in the country at the time with dual certification from FEMA and the Red Cross. I could be in downtown Manhattan in 90 minutes from my home.( NYU is my undergrad alma mater, something else Marni and I shared.)

The unthinkable had just happened: the mainland United States had been attacked in three places.Commercial airliners had been hijacked and intentionally aimed at American iconoclasts. One had hit the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Another had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The World Trade Center had been destroyed and lay in smoldering ruin in the streets of New York City. Could there be more suicide attack planes? All of this horror had occurred little more than a hundred miles in three different directions of where I lived at the time. Suddenly, I had become kin with those who witness terrorist attacks in the street daily, and all I wanted to do was grab my beloved cat and hide in the back of my nice, dark basement.

But I knew I wasn't going to do that because I was either going to be enroute to DC or Manhattan very soon. For the first time in my life I didn't want to go to a disaster scene...but I knew I could not go. Before I could clear my head enough to call the Disaster Registry-where the hell were my friends Leanne and Marni? Both of them lived and worked in NYC-my friend Kevin called. We had trained as instructors and were assigned to the region and Kevin wanted to know when he could pick me up. I don't remember the conversation but it took me a long time to reach over and pick up the telephone receiver. There was a spare EMS uniform in a garment bag hanging on the back of the restroom door in my office, just in case; and I don't know why, but I needed to know if all the insignia was placed properly on the uniform, particularly my chaplain's pin. I checked, and it was there.

Before Kevin came by to scoop me up, I had the presence of mind to check my email, thinking that I'd hear from Leanne-there was nothing. I flipped the browser into the RS newsgroup: there was a post from Marni not more than a few minutes before the second plane flew into the South tower. There had been no other post from her since then, and I knew that wasn't good news.

Several hours later, when I arrived at Ground Zero, I knew why. Everything was gone. Marni was gone. Borders was damaged, but the building was still standing and it turned out that Leanne wasn't at work that day. It was one of the few times I genuinely felt sick while on duty.

Ten years later, Rick Springfield wrote his autobiography, Late, Late at Night. The title is a line from his Grammy winning song Jessie's Girl. Like a lot of what he writes, there is a double meaning to the phrase- It meant more than just the lateness of the hour: it was the darkness of the soul. On page 259, for the very first time, I saw the carefully chosen words which chillingly described the scene I had managed to deny and didn't want to think about: the last thing Marni did was post a message to the RS news group because she died a few minutes later as a 300 ton commercial aircraft plowed through the window of her office in downtown Manhattan at the beginning of 9/11.

They can kill Osama Bin Laden 10,000 times over, and it will never bring Marni back. His death is little consolation to anyone who lost a loved one on September 11, 2001. Too many people died that day because of a man who placed his religious beliefs above the sacredness of Life....and too many have died on the battlefield since to keep terrorism in check.



  1. Thank you for this. It literally gave me goosebumps. My cousin was killed in Afghanistan when diffusing an EOD. He thought he had finished but a hidden bomb was triggered and detonated. He left behind a wife and 3 children not to mention many family members. He was supposed to come home in a few weeks. Bin Laden's death is no consolation to me. Shane is still dead.

  2. I too was accquainted with Marni through the Rick Springfield group. I was a member of that group for 10 years or so. Every year around the middle of August I start to think about Marni. I try to smile when I think about her, but I feel so much sadness. The world lost an amazing soul that day. She just sparkled. Her personality was amazing. I used to love to read the stories she posted about the dreams she would have. I started another group on yahoo called Marni for President one time as a joke-she thought it was hilarious. She made me laugh so many times. I too looked forward to checking my email to see what crazy thing she'd had to say on any particular day. I'll never forget her. Thank you for memorializing her this way. She would have appreciated it. ~Tami Haney, Silsbee, Texas

  3. I jusr wanted to send my heart out to those who survived 9/11 and to Marni's family and friends. I was sitting here in Oz when this terrible terrible incident occured and also felt the pain of a beautiful soul of marn's passing. Its been 10 years now and I still wish to wake up from the nightmare. Marni mate I miss you, Micki xox

  4. Here is a new site dedicated to Marni, that holds many of her infamous posts to the RS email lists 'back in the day'


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