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For 9/11 victim's only child, memories are still painful

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"In some ways, it feels like it's been longer than 10 years and then in some ways, it seems like it was just yesterday."

For ReNee Troy-Mebane, 38, the loss of her father on 9/11 is a wound that's still healing. In her case, she said in a phone interview Wednesday evening, time didn't necessarily heal her wounds, but they are "a little less raw."

In September 2001, Staff Sgt. Willie Troy had been living in Aberdeen for nine months with his wife Judy Troy and working as a program analyst at the Pentagon. The military environment wasn't new to Sgt. Troy, who was drafted into the Army at 19-years-old during the Vietnam War, as previously reported by The Aegis.

But when a hijacked airliner hit a section of the Pentagon on 9/11, Sgt. Troy, 51 at the time, was one of 125 people who died.

"I just remember kind of sitting there all night, just kind of waiting and expecting to hear from my mom and from him," Troy-Mebane said, "and I just never heard from them."

Her and her then-boyfriend, who is now her husband, made the decision that if they hadn't heard anything by the next morning, on Sept. 12, they would make the drive from North Carolina to Maryland.

Once they got toAberdeen, she said, the waiting game began.

The family didn't know about the Pentagon Family Assistance Center that was set up until about a week after the attack, and when they did finally make it there, officials announced that everyone who had survived had been identified.

"That's basically how we found out that he was definitely one of the casualties," Troy-Mebane said.

Even then, however, because her father's remains hadn't been identified, the family still waited, and part of her held out hope.

All the waiting, Troy-Mebane added, was "awful."

"You wake up in the morning after a couple hours of sleep," she said. "You sleep by the TV, you keep waiting for the phone to ring, you keep waiting for someone to show up by the door."

As an only child, Troy-Mebane said the waiting was especially hard, as her boyfriend was unable to take time off of work and it was just she and her mother going through it.

On Sept. 30, 2001, Sgt. Troy's remains were finally identified, his daughter said, and on Oct. 16, the family held a funeral.

With the discovery of her father came a feeling of relief because the waiting was over, but on some level, Troy-Mebane said, there was a part of her that didn't want to give up on him.

"It was the end of the waiting, that's what was good about it, that the uncertainty was gone out of it," she said, "but at the same time, my dad is dead. It was not good in that sense. It was very painful."

After the October funeral in North Carolina, Sgt. Troy's hometown, Troy-Mebane said the family received another call about a second funeral service in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia for those who died in the Pentagon attacks.

Moving on

Since then, Troy-Mebane has kept true to her beliefs, living her life as best as she can and not wasting any time.

"To me, it's a dishonor to waste the time that you have here not doing anything when those people who were lost can't be here by no choice of their own," she said.

Regardless of whether their only immediate plan was to go home for dinner, she added, the people who died on 9/11 "had plans," and it is the family's job to carry on and honor their lives.

In the past 10 years, Troy-Mebane has done just that. She married her husband, Terry Mebane, in 2003, and has had two more children, in addition to her daughter Jasmyn, who was 8 years old when the Pentagon was attacked.

Troy-Mebane started a business with her husband and mother in the past few years, Blueprints for Successful Events, and has "tried to get right with the Lord."

Her husband and father were "really good friends," she added, making the wedding hard for both of them.

"I didn't have anyone walk me down the aisle because I didn't feel like anyone could take his place," she said.

As for her daughter, Troy-Mebane said Jasmyn is the only one of her children who will ever know her father.

Jasmyn, now 18, was a "granddaddy's girl," her mother said, and still remembers Sgt. Troy, but "she's never been one to really talk about it."

Memories stay in family

Troy-Mebane said she doesn't typically tell new people about her father because of all of the people who used 9/11 as an excuse for everything after the attacks.

"I never wanted to be seen as one of those people that was taking advantage of their situation," she said, "so I don't tell a lot of people about what happened."

The family will be keeping to themselves this Sunday as well. Troy-Mebane said they originally planned on attending commemoration events in Washington D. C. or Maryland, but decided to stay home instead.

Her other two children are at the age now where they can sit with the family and look at pictures and listens to stories about Sgt. Troy, who she remembers as a happy man.

"He was a really fun loving guy," Troy-Mebane said. "He was always cracking jokes."

Her father was always willing to take chances, she added, and when she pictures him in her head, he is either smiling or telling a joke.

It's remembering this about her father that helps her to cope, and to comfort her mother, who Troy-Mebane said still has ups and downs.

"I miss him, but when I think about him, I always try to think about the way he lived rather than the way he died," she said.

Hard time of year

This time of year is especially hard, she added later, when all of the TV programs start to air and Facebook and e-mail messages start pouring in. But in reality, 9/11 isn't just one day for them.

Troy-Mebane said she finds herself repeating her father's sayings to her children now and the family often talks about what he would do in certain situations, if he were still around.

"For me and my family, Sept. 11 is every day," she said. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him."

The attacks on 9/11 bear a special significance for two other families with connections to Harford County as well.

In 2001, Joseph Maggitti, 47, lived in Abingdon with his wife, Pam, and two children, Christopher and Lauren. On 9/11, he took his monthly visit to the World Trade Center office for the company he worked for, Marsh & McLennan, as previously reported by The Aegis.

Mr. Maggitti was on the 94th floor in the north tower when the first plane hit and is one of 315 people in his company who died, along with thousands in both buildings. He was vice president of Marsh & McLennan at the time.

His wife, Pam, was not available for comment this week, but longtime family friend Sen. Nancy Jacobs spoke in a phone interview Thursday. She had not been in contact with Pam for some time, Jacobs said, adding that this time of year is always difficult.

"Even for those people who are not closely related to the situation I'm sure that this is a difficult time," she said. "This horrible event changed our lives, everybody."

It changed the lives of the Welsh family as well. Deborah Welsh, 49 at the time, was a flight attendant on the United Airlines plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, filling in for a crew member who couldn't make it, according to a past article in The Aegis.

Mrs. Welsh was married to Patrick Welsh, a 1976 graduate of the John Carroll School and Harford County native. Her sister-in-law, Rosemary Welsh, still lives in Jarrettsville with her family.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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