Children of 9/11 Mark New Chapters of Life, Loss
By Sam Drysdale
State House News Service
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 11, 2023…..For those who lost a loved one 22 years ago on Sept. 11, the anniversary is a day to reflect on their memories of those who died in the attacks. But for a generation of young people who missed the chance to grow up with family members who died that day, there is a different kind of grief, speakers reflected Monday morning.
Mara Alvarado, whose aunt Susan was killed in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, speaks at the annual Madeline Amy Sweeney Award Ceremony in the House chamber on Monday morning. [Sam Drysdale/SHNS]
Mara Alvarado was barely three years old when her aunt, Susan, was killed in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“At three years old, I couldn’t really understand what was going on. I didn’t know why mom was so sad, why there were so many people at our house. I didn’t understand the struggle my parents were dealing with, not only coping with the loss of Susie, but also the difficulty of how they were going to tell me one of my favorite people wasn’t going to ever come back,” Alvarado said during the Madeline Amy Sweeney Award Ceremony in the House Chamber on Monday.
Alvarado said she and her family were “robbed of the future” with Susan. Nicolas Alvarado, Susan’s nephew, said in a video message played during the ceremony that he never met his aunt, but mourns that he didn’t get to have her as a presence in his life.
“There is grief that my mother, and grandmother, and sister and father — they all have that pain. But me, I don’t have the same … because I didn’t get to experience life with her. But I still mourn with them and grieve with them and feel that loss with them,” he said.
This year’s Sweeney award ceremony focused on “the children of 9/11.”
The annual ceremony honors the legacy of Madeline “Amy” Sweeney, an American Airlines flight attendant from Acton who was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first airplane hijacked by terrorists and flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Sweeney contacted the airline’s ground services crew to inform them about the hijackers in the flight’s final minutes.
This year’s award for civilian bravery in Sweeney’s honor went to four Berlin residents who helped rescue a neighbor following a house explosion in April, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said during the ceremony.
“When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found a house destroyed in a fire that required the support of 10 different towns to quell,” Driscoll said. “They also found four people digging through burning rubble, lifting portions of the roof, climbing over live wires and dodging raging fire in an effort to save their neighbors. One resident of the house was lost, but another was saved — pulled from burning rubble.”
Jonathan Golas, Brian Clemmer, Dylan Clemmer and Robert Wheeler accepted the Sweeney awards, shaking hands with Driscoll, and Anna Sweeney — Amy’s daughter.
Anna Sweeney said Monday that the annual award helps to keep her mother’s memory alive, and that she is honored that acts of bravery are recognized in her name.
“A lot can happen in 22 years,” Sweeney said. “Whether intentionally or not, much of my life has been measured in milestones she should have been there for.”
Sweeney said she is getting married at the end of this year, and her mom has been on her mind even more than usual.
“Would she like my dress? What would she say to me before I walk down the aisle? I think about my future, and the idea of having children, I grapple with the idea of becoming a mom in the future. I have found myself grieving in new ways and mourning the loss of the grandma she could have been,” she said. “With every new chapter of my life comes a new chapter of loss.”
She continued, saying that her mother’s life was also cause for celebration.
“Life is too short, if lived without love and purpose. I want to move forward through these years knowing that even in her absence, she’s taught me everything I ever needed to know,” Sweeney said.
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