For nine months, Tanja Tomasevic managed to believe that her husband, Vladimir, had somehow walked away from the World Trade Center. In her mind, she constructed survival scenarios: In one he got out before the building fell; in another he surfed down in the cascading wreckage, only to find himself lost in Manhattan, his memory erased.
In June, it all came to an end when searchers at ground zero discovered what remained of the man she loved: a decomposed section of right hip, a piece of knee and the shredded fragments of a pair of slacks she remembered him buying at a Grafton's store in Toronto.
"Until then, I was allowed to have faith," she said. "After that, everything was taken away."
Ms. Tomasevic's husband was one of 24 Canadians who died in last September's terror attacks on the United States.
The stories of those Canadians are a compressed version of the greater narrative of Sept. 11, a heartbreaking litany of lost promise, shattered families and cruel luck.
Ms. Tomasevic has spent months trying to iron out banking and estate details. Her husband, who had never been to New York before, was attending a business conference. She has reflected countless times on the statistical improbability that he would be in the World Trade Center on the day it was attacked.
"You keep asking yourself why it had to happen that day," she said. "It's destructive to think that way, but you can't help yourself."
Until last Sept. 11, the Tomasevics' life was a parable of New Canadian success. They came from Yugoslavia together in 1994 hoping for a better life. They got it. She was a senior business analyst with BMO Nesbitt Burns. He was vice-president of software development for Optus e-Business Solutions.
They spoke by phone for the last time on the night of Sept. 10. On the morning of Sept. 11, Ms. Tomasevic watched the tragedy unfold live on television. A few weeks later, in a state of shock, she went to New York. In the back of her mind was the impossible hope that she would find Vladimir wandering the streets.
Not an hour passes without some remembrance of her husband. "It never stops," she said. "Sept. 11 is every day."
Abigail Carter is also a widow. On the morning of Sept. 11, her husband, Arron Dack, went to a trade show in the north tower. At 8:47 a.m., he called Ms. Carter and said there was an emergency. There were no special goodbyes; they assumed they would be speaking again soon.
Sept. 11 was the end of a life that had followed a near-perfect arc of happiness and success. Ms. Carter and Mr. Dack met in Toronto, where she had been born and raised. He had come to Canada from England with his parents when he was 7. They were married in 1990. Seven years later they moved to the United States when Mr. Dack landed a job in New York.
Mr. Dack was a vice-president with Encompys, a financial-technology firm. Ms. Carter worked as a project manager with a dot-com firm. They lived in a quiet New Jersey suburb, and had two children: a daughter, 7, and a son, 3.
Asked to describe the past 12 months, Ms. Carter lapsed into silence, then said: "There are no words for that. Let's just say that it's been hard. Really hard."
Every day, she encounters a new reminder of the day her husband died. Once it was a licence plate on the car ahead of her that read: "Sept. 11 -- Never Forget." At her favorite restaurant, she waits until she can get a table that allows her to face the front because a photograph of the Manhattan skyline hangs on the back wall.
"You can't get away from it," she said. "It's impossible."