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Abigail Carter touches her husband's name (Arron Dack) with her children Olivia Dack and Carter Dack during an unveiling of a plaque in Ottawa on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2002. The plaque is in honor of the Canadians who died during the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
Abigail Carter touches her husband's name (Arron Dack) with her children Olivia Dack and Carter Dack during an unveiling of a plaque in Ottawa on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2002. The plaque is in honor of the Canadians who died during the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Canada's 9/11 families spent last decade learning how to live with loss Add to ...

The pain can still ambush them at an unexpected moment, the love for those taken is ever strong, but life has gone on.

For many who lost family in the 9/11 attacks, continuing after a terrible loss is a work in progress — particularly as their grief gets dragged into the global spotlight every September — but it's one devoid of self pity.

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Rather than letting their love for those killed hold them back, they've spent the last decade distilling the positives from the pain and finding new strength in the process.

Loretta Filipov's husband Alexander was on American Airlines Flight 11 when it hit the World Trade Center. Ten years later, she's hoping people will focus on his life, rather than the tragedy of his death.

“I'm not going to go stand in public and cry; I'm not going to say, ‘Oh, poor me,“’ the 74-year-old Ms. Filipov said in an interview. “My life changed and it will never be the same. But I'm moving forward every day.”

Alexander Filipov was an electrical engineer who grew up in Canada and became a U.S. citizen in the 1960s. The 70-year-old father of three had been living with his wife in Concord, Mass., for 44 years when he was killed just days before their wedding anniversary.

“I thought my world was over,” his wife said of the first few days following the tragedy.

“But after the shock and the awe of it all, we decided two things: we weren't going to be afraid of anything and we certainly didn't want a war to start and kill more people.”

Ms. Filipov established the Al Filipov Peace and Justice Forum in her husband's memory, held around the 9/11 anniversary every year, and later joined September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization advocating non-violence.

“They were all my best friends that I never wanted to know,” she said of those she met. “You could go through life being angry and revengeful or you could do something good, and I chose the latter.”

Ten years on, Ms. Filipov wants people to know she's just like any other widow.

“When you lose a loved one, the pain is the same, no matter when or who — the only difference was that ours was very public,” she said. “I don't want to be a victim anymore.”

Abigail Carter understands. She's spent the last few years convincing people she's made peace with the loss of her husband.

“When you have a loss that happens really close to you it sort of awakens you, you sort of lose your fear of death a little bit,” said the 45-year-old widow.

“You kind of have a renewed appreciation of life.”

Ms. Carter's husband Arron Dack, a 39-year-old father of two, was attending a conference at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. He called his wife after the first plane hit the tower he was in.

“He said a bomb had gone off,” said Ms.Carter, who lived in New Jersey at the time. Mr. Dack, who was on the 105th floor, told her to call 911, which she did. Minutes later, an officer told her a plane hit the building.

“I turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit the second building and that was pretty dramatic.”

Ms. Carter remembers initially going into “calm mode,” asking for children's books on grief just hours after the towers fell. That calm then gave way to total numbness.

“It was like I was watching my own life through a pair of goggles,” she said, describing her world at the time as devoid of colour. “It was like I was an automaton.”

After eight months, Ms. Carter's numbness was replaced with panic over the arrival of summer — a period that brings back memories from when her husband was alive. She still wrestles with that panic, although she's far more adept at handling it.

“You're trying to keep yourself so busy so you don't have to think about what's not there,” she said. “That freneticism, I have to work really hard, even still, to keep that at bay.”

Ms. Carter now lives in Seattle with her two children. She quit her job soon after her husband died because she was unable to concentrate. Instead, she began to write. Putting her tangle of emotions down on paper led to a book titled “The Alchemy of Loss.” Carter is now a blogger and a speaker on grief and resiliency.

“I maybe live too much in a world of loss,” she said with a light laugh, adding that she tries to put a positive spin on life after grief.

“None of us want to close the chapter, it just becomes part of the fabric of who we are ... We've shown to ourselves our own strength.”

Ellen Judd, who lost her partner Christine Egan, agreed.

“It's something that's never completed,” she said of processing a loss. “She's still present. I think she was a very good person and it's a good thing to have her still present in our lives.”

Ms. Egan was visiting her brother in the World Trade Center when the planes hit. Both were killed.

“It's a huge loss,” said Ms. Judd. “She lost the rest of her life and we lost everything she was giving to people around her.”

Hans Gerhardt, who lost his son Ralph, also continues to deal with the grief.

The 34-year-old younger Gerhardt was on the 105th floor of the north tower and called his parents after the first plane hit. He told them he was OK, that he loved them and that he'd call later. That call never came; his remains were never found.

“It's still hurting, there's no question about it. And you will not forget,” said Mr. Gerhardt, a retired hotelier who lives in Toronto. “You're constantly reminded.”

Those reminders aren't always memorials or media reports. They're also having his son's old furniture in his office, an old birthday message as the screen saver on his computer, the empty chair on holidays.

Mr. Gerhardt took to writing to make sense of the immense grief that engulfed him. The entries which began in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 turned into a memoir dedicated to his son which was published nine years later titled “Hotel Biz.”

“The pain was so big so you wanted to express it,” said the 69-year-old, adding that the look back on his life renewed his appreciation of the time he had with his son.

“You try to look at your glass half full, instead being depressed and saying its half empty,” he said. “At least you had 34 years.”

Kimmy Chedel also tries to think positive.

The 47-year-old Quebec native lost her husband in the attacks when her children were just one and two years old. Frank Joseph Doyle was on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center when the attacks took place. Ms. Chedel often recalls the last conversation they had.

“He said, ‘You have to promise me every day for the rest of their lives you'll tell Zoe and Garrett how much I love them,' and I didn't realize that he was saying goodbye, he was just so brave and so strong,” said Ms. Chedel. “The event still feels very raw in my mind.”

Life for Ms. Chedel and her children now goes on as normal, but the anniversary is always hard.

“The good part of Sept. 11 is that no one will ever forget how everyone died, so you've got tons of love and support,” she said. “But at the same time, the day is so horrific that it's excruciatingly painful.”

Ms. Chedel, who was living in New Jersey, moved back to Canada after 9/11. She then formed “Team Frank” in her husband's memory, made up of friends and family — including her two kids — who gather annually to run in a New Jersey road race and a Quebec triathlon Mr. Doyle took part in before his death. The team has since expanded to over 150 people, with members participating in numerous events worldwide.

“The idea was...if anyone had a Frank moment or a Frank inspiration to send us a picture to let the kids know they haven't forgotten Frank,” she said.

Ultimately, the focus on her children and keeping their lives positive keeps Ms. Chedel constantly moving forward.

“My goal, year after year, was just focus on the positive,” she said. “I kept telling the kids, ‘Daddy would want us to keep on living.“’

Canadians killed in the Sept. 11 attacks:

Michael Arczynski — The 45-year-old sports enthusiast from Vancouver was a senior vice-president of Aon Corp.’s Manhattan office. He and his wife, Lori, who was raised in Montreal, had three children after their marriage in 1990. Lori gave birth to a fourth child, named for his late father, after the attack. Mr. Arczynski, who loved to ski near Vancouver and spent a lot of time with family in Vermont, also left behind three daughters from his first marriage.

Garnet (Ace) Bailey — The 53-year-old director of pro scouting for the National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings was a native of Lloydminster, Sask. He was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center's south tower. He was a veteran of 11 NHL seasons as a player with the Boston Bruins, the Detroit Red Wings, the St. Louis Blues and the Washington Capitals. He moved to the World Hockey Association for the 1978-79 season and joined the Edmonton Oilers where he was a linemate of teenage phenomenon Wayne Gretzky. Mr. Bailey ended his playing career in 1980 after he accumulated seven Stanley Cup rings and turned to coaching. He is survived by his wife, Katherine, and son, Todd. Katherine has started the Ace Bailey Children's Fund, which supports play centres and programs at the Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston.

David Barkway — The 34-year-old executive with BMO Nesbitt Burns in Toronto was in the office of Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the north tower. He sent an electronic message to his Toronto colleagues, saying, “We need help ... This is not a joke.” Mr. Barkway was in New York with his wife, Cindy, for a three-day business trip just days after celebrating his birthday. After his death, the avid golfer nicknamed Barky was remembered by friends in Toronto as a bright and thoughtful leader who loved fine cigars, high-tech stereos and trips to the cottage. The couple has two young sons, one who was born in January 2002 and named David after his father. The David Barkway Memorial Scholarship in Economics was set up by the Department of Economics at Carleton University to honour his memory and life and is awarded to a high-achieving fourth year economics student.

Ken Basnicki — The 48-year-old father of two was in the north tower attending a conference for BEA Systems, the software firm he worked for in Toronto. He was last heard from at 8:55 a.m. in a cellphone call to his mother from an office on the 106th floor. His wife, Maureen, a former flight attendant grounded in Germany at the time, said he had a boundless passion for golf, skiing, snowboarding and his Harley Davidson motorcycle. In the five years since her husband's death, Maureen has started the Canadian Coalition Against Terror and is lobbying for legislation that would allow Canadians to sue countries or groups that support terrorism.

Jane Beatty — A native of Britain, Ms. Beatty, 53, lived in Ontario for more than 20 years before moving to the United States to work as a technical supervisor at Marsh and McLennan Cos. Inc. in the World Trade Center's north tower. She worked on the 96th floor of the north tower and phoned her husband Bob just before the plane hit. Three weeks before she died, she celebrated her fifth anniversary of surviving breast cancer. She had two grown sons.

Joseph Collison — Mr. Collison was born in Toronto in 1951 and moved to New York City more than 15 years ago. He was on the 102nd floor of the north tower, where he worked in the mail room of Kidder, Peabody & Co., according to his sister-in-law, Janet Collison. He was buried in Mississauga next to his parents. At the time of his death, Mr. Collison, who was not married, was hoping to adopt a young boy in New York whom he cared for.

Cynthia Connolly — Ms. Connolly, 40, transferred from insurance firm Aon Corp.’s Montreal offices to New York in 1999. She and her husband, Donald Poissant, married in 1998 and lived in Metuchen, N.J., with their Airedale-German shepherd, Shadow, and pet cat, Obi. People in her neighbourhood fondly remembered Ms. Connolly, four-foot-three, struggling to control her dog as they walked through the area. Her mother recalled her as “loving and caring,” always showing a soft spot for stray animals who she would bring home when she was a child.

Arron Dack — The 39-year-old father of two was known to his family and friends for his ability to succeed in anything he tried. Mr. Dack was born in England, but moved to Canada with his parents in 1970. The senior executive with Encompys was attending a conference in the north tower of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. He called his wife Abigail Carter and calmly asked her to call 911 since he thought a small bomb had gone off. Ms. Carter, who lived in New Jersey at the time but has since moved to Seattle, started two support groups for widows. He is survived by two children, Olivia and Carter.

Frank Joseph Doyle — The 39-year-old Detroit native was married to Kimmy Chedel of St. Adele, Que. He was an American citizen whose parents were from the Ottawa valley, and he had a home in Canada. The executive vice-president of Keefe, Bruyette and Woods left two children, Zoe and Garrett. Mr. Doyle, a gifted athlete who did a triathlon the summer before he died, was living in New Jersey and working on the 89th floor of the second tower. “He said, ‘You have to promise me every day for the rest of their lives you'll tell Zoe and Garrett how much I love them, and I didn't realize that he was saying goodbye, he was just so brave and so strong,”’ said Ms. Chedel. She created “Team Frank” in her husband's honour — a collection of family and friends who participate in athletic events worldwide. Mr. Doyle's friends from Bowdoin College also established a memorial scholarship in his name for outstanding athletes.

Christine Egan — The 55-year-old Health Canada nurse epidemiologist from Winnipeg was visiting her younger brother's office on the 105th floor in the second tower of the World Trade Center. Friends and family said the woman with a beaming smile was one of the most energetic, fun-loving people they knew. Ms. Egan was raised in England and moved to Canada in the late 60s. She taught at the University of Manitoba and received a PhD in community health services. Ms. Egan also had a love of Canada's North, where she had practised as a nurse. A memorial scholarship was set up in her name at the University of Manitoba for promising Nunavut nursing students. Ms. Egan's partner Ellen Judd said she was “good, generous person who was full of vitality.”

Michael Egan — The 51-year-old lived in New Jersey and worked on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center at the insurance firm Aon Corp. The father of two boys moved to the New York area from Montreal in 1991 after immigrating to Canada to follow his sister Christine. She happened to be visiting him on Sept. 11 and was also killed in the attack. Michael spent much of his time introducing his son Matthew, who has Down syndrome, to various sports. His passion, his wife Anna has said, “was to make Matthew as happy as he could be.”

Albert Elmarry — The 30-year-old moved from Toronto to the United States in 1999 to work in computer support for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of one of the towers. He had worked for IBM Canada when in Toronto. Elmarry, a devoutly religious man who started each day with a prayer, met his wife, Irinie, on a visit to his native Egypt. Irinie gave birth to a daughter nearly six months after her husband was killed.

Meredith Ewart and Peter Feidelberg — The Montreal couple moved to the United States in 1997 and married in March 2000. One month before they died, they returned to Montreal for a second wedding reception with family and friends. Ewart, 29, and Feidelberg, 34, lived in Hoboken, N.J., and both had offices on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower, where they worked at Aon Corp. At the time of the attacks, Meredith's father, Robert Ewart, frantically called hospitals and the police in New York and at one point thought Mr. Feidelberg had survived based on a false Internet report. Friends remembered Mr. Feidelberg for his adventurous and competitive spirit, and his athletic interests, which included basketball, mountain biking, scuba diving and running the 1998 New York City Marathon. Friends and coworkers say Ms. Ewart shared her husband's athletic pursuits and was always rife with stories of their outdoor adventures. They said they were in awe of Ms. Ewart's beauty and intelligence.

Alexander Filipov — Mr. Filipov, 70, was born in Regina and lived in Concord, Mass. He was on American Airlines Flight 11 when it hit the World Trade Center, just days before his 44th anniversary. An electrical engineer with three sons, Mr. Filipov became a U.S. citizen in 1962. His widow, Loretta, said he never slowed down, trying bungee jumping at age 60 and carrying on with his favourite pastimes — golf, skiing and music.

Ralph Gerhardt — The 34-year-old vice-president with Cantor Fitzgerald called his parents in Toronto, just after the first plane hit the north tower. “Something just happened at the WTC. We either got hit by a bomb or plane. I am OK. We are OK. I love you, but I have to go now. We are evacuating. Call you later,” Mr. Gerhardt said in a message to his father, Hans. But no more calls came after his son said he was going to look for his girlfriend, who was also killed. His father described him as a very family-oriented man who was very close to his parents.

Stuart Lee — Mr. Lee had returned a day before the attacks from his Korean homeland where he had taken his wife, Lynn Udbjorg, to show off his roots. He was vice-president of integrated services for DataSynapse, a technology company that serves the financial industry. The 30-year-old spent the last hour of his life e-mailing his company, trying to figure out how to get out of the building where he was attending a conference on the 106th floor. Mr. Lee, who grew up in Vancouver, loved travelling the globe with his wife, who described him as a romantic and someone known for his generosity to his friends and family.

Mark Ludvigsen — The 32-year-old native of Rothesay, N.B., moved to the United States with his family at age seven. The avid rugby player graduated from Virginia's College of William & Mary and worked as a bond broker at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. He and his wife of three years, Maureen, lived in Manhattan. Mr. Ludvigsen was working on the 89th floor of the south tower, but managed to leave a message for his mother at 9 a.m. “Mother, now don't you worry. I'm in the other tower. I'm fine and I'll call you later,” he said.

Bernard Mascarenhas — The 54-year-old native of Newmarket, Ont., worked for Marsh Canada, whose parent company, Marsh and McLennan Cos. Inc., had offices at the World Trade Center. The chief information officer for the company was on the 97th floor of the north tower as part of a five-day business trip to New York. Mr. Marsh had about 1,900 employees in the two towers; 295 were killed. Mr. Mascarenhas left behind his wife, Raynette, a son, Sven, and a daughter, Jaclyn.

Colin McArthur — The 52-year-old Glasgow native moved to Toronto in 1977 to work as an insurance broker. He moved to Montreal in 1986 after marrying his wife, Brenda. Mr. McArthur became a Canadian citizen and worked as a deputy managing director at Aon Corp. The couple relocated to New York in 1997 where Mr. McArthur continued to work for the same company on the 104th floor of the South Tower. He was a keen golfer who loved the game, despite his dubious achievements on the course, according to his wife. She set up the Colin McArthur Postgraduate Scholarship at his alma mater, the University of Glasgow.

Michael Pelletier — The 36-year-old commodities broker for TradeSpark, a division of trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald, was on the 105th floor of the north tower. He called his wife, Sophie, and told her he was trapped in the building and that he loved her. Mr. Pelletier's Vancouver-based father refused to believe at first that his son, a strikingly handsome natural athlete who excelled at hockey, wouldn't get out. “We were saying there's gotta be a way, we know Mike, he's a survivor, he'll find some way out.” At the time of his death, he had a three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son.

Donald Robson — A Toronto native, Mr. Robson, 52, had lived in the United States for 20 years. He was a partner and bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. He and his wife, Kathy, had two sons, Geoff and Scott. He had been planning 24th wedding anniversary celebrations with his wife. “Then bang, it's all over just like that,” she said from her Long Island home a year after the attacks. The friends Mr. Robson left behind described him as a “fun-loving guy who lit up every room that he entered.”

Ruffino (Roy) Santos — Mr. Santos, 37, a native of Manila, moved to British Columbia with his family in the 1980s. He moved to New York in the late 1990s, where he worked for Guy Carpenter as a computer consultant. He was supposed to leave the 94th floor of the World Trade Center the week after he died to work for Accenture. His mother, Aurora, and her two other sons went to New York for the first anniversary. “I want to see Ground Zero to pray and bring some flowers and candles,” she said.

Vladimir Tomasevic — A native of Yugoslavia, Mr. Tomasevic, 36, moved to Canada in 1994. He lived in Toronto with his wife, Tanja, and was vice-president of software development for Optus E-Business Solutions. He was on his first visit to New York and was attending a financial conference on 106th floor of World Trade Center's north tower. “He was always there for anyone — that's what we miss about him the most,” his wife has said. Tanja, who received a small amount of remains and a piece of shredded material from his pants, had urged the Canadian government to provide more support for the families of 9/11 victims.

Chantal (Chanti) Vincelli — The 38-year-old former Montrealer worked as a marketing assistant at DataSynapse Inc. Ms. Vincelli moved to New York in the late 1990s and lived in Harlem with her cats. She was setting up a kiosk for a trade show on the 106th floor of the north tower. Her brother Anthony said the woman who dreamed of becoming a talk-show host “had charisma, she had wit.” The local grocer named her the Harlem Princess and the name stuck.

Debbie Williams — Ms. Williams, 35, worked for international insurance company Aon Corp. for 15 years. She and her husband, Darren, moved to Hoboken, N.J., after being transferred to New York City by their employer. Ms. Williams, a Montreal native, gave birth to their only child six months after settling in Hoboken. A friend and neighbour set up the Debbie Williams Memorial Park Fund to install a new playground named after Ms. Williams at a Hudson County park.

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