Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Every day is Sept. 11 for victims' families

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."

Story continues below advertisement

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."

Story continues below advertisement

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."

Story continues below advertisement

Karl Ludvigsen still remembers his son Mark as a small boy, when they lived in the tiny New Brunswick town of Rothesay. By the time of his death in the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11 at the age of 32, Mark had achieved considerable success. He had graduated from Virginia's prestigious College of William & Mary and worked as a bond trader with Keefe, Bruyette and Woods on the 89th floor of the south tower. He had been married for three years.

On Sept. 11, he called his parents after the first plane hit. He told them that the south tower was fine, and that they should not worry.

His father remembers watching the TV as the north tower burned and suddenly spotting what he thought was a fly on the screen only to realize that it was a jetliner heading for the south tower.

Mr. Ludvigsen says it is hard to convey what it means to lose someone such as his son.

"You can hardly put it into words," he said. "It is instantaneously final. Everything is gone. Everything that you saw and loved in that boy is gone."

Lori Arczynski also finds it difficult to explain what loss has done to her. She remembers the morning of Sept. 11, and how it seemed like any other as her husband, Michael, prepared to leave for work. She was tired and cranky. It was 6:15, she had three small children to take care of and she was four months pregnant.

"He left the house with my nagging voice ringing in his ears," she recalled. Fortunately, Michael came back to do their goodbye over again. They kissed, and he went off to work at the World Trade Center.

"I'm so glad he did that," she said. "You can't imagine how many times I've given thanks."

Ms. Arczynski was raised in Montreal. Her husband was from Vancouver. They met on a summer job, married in 1990 and moved to the United States in October, 2000, because of Michael's new position as senior vice-president with Aon Corp's Manhattan office.

The past 12 months have been a gruelling lesson in the nature of loss, and in the relentless nature of modern media. She has been forced to cope with the demands of single motherhood while enduring grief that sometimes hits her so hard that her legs literally stop working, and she has been called by reporters so many times that she loses track.

She heard one of them refer to her as a "G.W." She later learned that it stood for "grieving widow."

"That's what it's like," she said. "You have a category."

This year, Ms. Arczynski was asked to attend an event called The Independent Women's Forum, organized for the widows of Sept. 11. Moments after she arrived with her children, including the baby who was born after her husband's death, she found herself surrounded by camera crews. The cameras zoomed in on the children, the lenses just inches from their faces.

Ms. Arczynski gathered up her children and left. "I just thought, you aren't allowed to just use our babies to sell a show," she said. "They're not there for you to use."

Even now, she is repelled by the commercial use of Sept. 11. She is appalled, for example, at the approach of Lisa Beamer, the widow of Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer. Ms. Beamer has set up a marketing operation that includes books, records and a "Let's Roll" clothing line.

"You aren't supposed to use this to sell things," Ms. Arczynski said. "To me, it all seems like prostitution." Remembering the Canadian victims
Michael Arczynski,
45, of Vancouver was a VP with Aon Corp. in the World Trade Center. His wife gave birth to their fourth child after his death. Garnet (Ace) Bailey, 53, of Lloydminster, Sask., was the director of scouting for the L.A. Kings and was on a plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. David Barkway, 34, of Toronto, was a BMO Nesbitt-Burns executive who was visiting a client in the trade centre. His wife has since given birth to their second child. Ken Basnicki, 48, of Toronto was a father of two who was in the North Tower attending a conference for his firm, BEA Systems. Joseph Collison, 50, was born in Toronto. He worked in the mailroom of Kidder, Peabody & Co., on the 102nd floor of the North Tower. Cynthia Connolly, 40, of Montreal worked in Aon Corp's office in the South Tower. She and her husband, Donald Poissant, lived in Metuchen, N.J. Arron Dack, 39, was born in England and moved to Canada in 1970. He was attending a conference in the North Tower and leaves a wife and two young children. Michael Egan, 51, of Montreal, worked at Aon Corp., in the South Tower. He was the father of two boys including Matthew, who has Downs syndrome. Christine Egan, 55, of Winnipeg was visiting her brother Michael. She was a nurse epidemiologist with Health Canada and held a PhD in community health services. Albert Elmarry, 30, of Toronto worked in computer support for Cantor Fitzgerald's office in the North Tower. His wife was expecting their first child. Meredith Ewart and Peter Feidelberg of Montreal moved to the United States in 1997. They both worked for Aon Corp. on the 104th floor of the South Tower. Alexander Filipov, 70, was born in Regina and lived in Concord, Mass. He was on American Airlines Flight 11 when it hit the North Tower. Ralph Gerhardt, 34, of Toronto was a VP with Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower. His girlfriend was also killed when the building collapsed. Stuart Lee, 30, of Vancouver was a married VP with a financial technology firm and was attending a conference in the World Trade Center. Mark Ludvigsen, 32, of Rothesay, N.B., moved to the U.S. when he was seven. He was a bond trader in the South Tower. He leaves behind his wife, Maureen. Bernard Mascarenhas, 54, of Newmarket, Ont., was in New York on a business trip. He leaves his wife and two children. Colin McArthur, 52, moved to Canada from Scotland in 1977. He was a managing director at Aon Corp. His widow says he was "the life of the party." Michael Pelletier, 36, of Vancouver was a top commodities broker in the North Tower. He leaves behind his wife and two young children. Donald Robson, 52, of Toronto had lived in the States for 20 years. He was a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower and leaves a wife and two sons. Ruffino (Roy) Santos, 37 was a native of Manila who moved to B.C. in the 1980s then on to New York. He was to leave his job in the trade centre the week after he died. Vladimir Tomasevic, 36, of Toronto was a VP with an e-business firm who was attending a conference in the North Tower. He leaves his wife Tanja. Chantal (Chanti) Vincelli, 38, of Montreal was setting up a kiosk for a trade show in the North Tower. She had moved to New York five years ago. Debbie Williams, 35, of Montreal. Ms. Robinson had been transferred to New York by Aon Corp. She leaves her husband and one child.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
National driving columnist

Peter Cheney launched his driving column after 25 years as an award-winning feature writer, investigative reporter and news correspondent. His writing steers clear of industry jargon to focus on human experience and the passion of driving. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨