Susan Baer Published December 2002:
Where Pearl Harbor, 9/11 Entwine
Published Dec. 7, 2002
STANLEY, N.D. -- As he had done hundreds of times before -- year after year in this small prairie town of cold winds and rugged sensibilities -- Floyd "Happy" Graff stopped in at the Scandia American bank and exchanged pleasantries with its affable,blue-jeaned owner, Gary Nelson.
While a generation apart, the two men had known each other for decades. Their families had been intertwined -- Graff's wife, Joyce, for instance, taught acrobatics and "song and dance personality" to Nelson's daughter, Ann. And as is the case in many a small town, there is little they did not know about one another.
In the last year, the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11 have been endlessly compared and contrasted,studied in academia and analyzed by experts. But here, in this rural town of1,200 people in the northwest part of the state, both events live on -- side by side and crossing paths every day.
Graff is a man of few words. But this time, a few days after the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks,banker Nelson tried to draw out his 86-year-old friend into telling him about apart of his life he almost never spoke of.
Nelson, for his part, had spent the last year researching every detail of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, where his only daughter worked as a bond trader and was killed at age30.
So much information. But the silver-haired father sought more. He thought Graff might have some meaningful thoughts about 9/11, about a day that would rattle America to its core. A day like no other.
Except, perhaps, one.
Sixty-one years ago, Marine Sgt.Graff was at Pearl Harbor.
'It hurt so much'
Few outside Happy Graff's family knew that beneath his long-sleeved undershirt, sprawled across his upper right arm, was a large Pearl Harbor tattoo in blurred and faded tones of blue, a memento he proudly acquired days after the surprise attack on America when the date 12/7/41 was etched above an impressive 15 1/2-inch biceps.
Although he is among only about a dozen Pearl Harbor survivors left in North Dakota, and roughly 7,000 in the country, few here ever knew that this retired electrician, a man who has installed the wiring or fixed an outlet in nearly everyone's house, had been present when the Japanese attacked the military base on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, killing nearly 2,400 Americans.
He never attended reunions or made a pilgrimage back to Hawaii. Like many of his generation, he never compared notes with the other World War II veterans in town.
"It hurt so much for many, many years," says Graff. "I just hated to think about it, and I didn't want to talk about it. I just wanted to get it out of my mind."
"You think things don't happen in a small town," says Steve Springan, the town funeral director and furniture dealer, "but there's a little bit of everybody's history here."
Graff never imagined he would have a brush with history.
He had grown up on a farm near Donnybrook, N.D., the 10th of 15 children. He was a smiling baby -- hence, the nickname "Happy."
His mother, pregnant with her 16thchild, died when he was 11. Altha Graff had meant so much to young Happy that he promised her he would never drink or smoke, and to this day, he says, hen ever has.
At 14, after two years of high school, Happy left home and picked up work wherever he could. At 18, he jumped a freight train headed west, making his way to Snohomish, Wash., where he worked for several years for a logging company.
"Boy, did I get muscle,"he says. "You earned every penny you got."
In November 1939, he headed to San Diego to join the Marines. Thanks to his work on the farm and in the woods, the strapping private proved to be handy with machinery. As part of the Second Marine Division assigned to the Second Engineer Battalion, he was put in charge of heavy equipment, operating bulldozers, maintainers for leveling the ground and over-head loaders.
His battalion, which later would become the 18th Marines, was sent to Pearl Harbor a month before the attack to construct a Marine camp.Graff, who built roads there, loved his life in the service -- it was the first real home he'd had since he was a child.
In the early hours of Dec. 7, a strangely still Sunday morning, he was walking out of the mess hall after breakfast when he heard a screeching roar. He and his buddies looked up and froze. They could see the red circles, the Rising Sun insignia, on the planes.Japanese dive bombers and fighter planes were headed their way.
Like so many at Pearl Harbor,Graff's company had rifles but no ammunition.
"We didn't know what to do with ourselves," he says. "I never had any fear going into the service. At Pearl Harbor, I had fear."
He saw bombs dropped, explosions,black smoke everywhere, even the faces of the Japanese pilots as they flew low across the water and airfields. "They were so low and so close you could just about touch them. They'd drive by and they'd look out at you. I could even see, I think, they were smiling. We were just plain scared."
Of all the memories, though, the most vivid and horrifying were the bodies floating in the oily water. "You can't believe the bodies I saw ... charred, sickening. That was the hardest part. After I got home, I wouldn't talk to anybody about this. I still don't like to talk about it."
Graff stayed on at Pearl Harbor for some time, and spent more than three years in the Pacific, participating in the battles on Guadalcanal, Tarawa and finally, Iwo Jima, losing good friends along the way.
After the war, he settled in Stanley, where his wife, the granddaughter of town founder George W. Wilson,had grown up at the family's Wilson Hotel. Graff built the robin's egg-bluehouse the couple still lives in, raised six children, worked as an electrician,coached baseball, taught his kids to hunt and to swim and fish on Lake Sakakawea.
Even now, thinner and slower with wisps of soft white hair atop his head, he still repairs his roof, clears his yard, climbs trees to prune them.
Like much of the World War II generation, he lived a modest but productive life, keeping his war stories to himself.
"I don't think we realized all these years what he went through,"says his daughter, Jean Swenson, 47, who lives in town. "He didn't think of himself as a hero or anyone special. He just wondered, 'Why?' Why some people had to go and he was allowed to come outscot-free."
It was at the 50-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor, after Graff and the state's other remaining survivors were given a medal by the governor, that he allowed himself to start thinking back to the war. Still, he made sure he was otherwise occupied when a newspaper reporter from nearby Minot wanted to interview him.
Then came Sept. 11. Like everyone else, he thought about the thousands of innocent young lives lost, the sneak attack, the United States unprepared, the fear and grief that gripped the nation. There were many differences with Pearl Harbor, he thought, especially since the victims of 9/11 were civilians. But in the breadth of the death and destruction and tragedy, and the questions afterward about missed signals,there were similarities.
Friends and family started asking him about Dec. 7, 1941, stirring his memories. And finally, he found, with the whole town grieving and waving its flags -- and with 60 years of distance -- he could talk a little more easily about what he had experienced in Hawaii so long ago when his hair was thick and brown and his light blue eyes were seared by scenes of death.
Soon, he would share with Gary Nelson a peek at his Pearl Harbor 50-year medal, his few souvenirs from the war and his memories. He told him what he knew to be true -- and what he imagined would be even truer for someone who lost a child in such a horrific attack.
"Eventually, it might get a little easier," Graff said. "But it's going to be hard for a longtime."
Among the hundreds of photos that crowd the walls, doors and table tops in the Graff home are several of young Annie Nelson when, at five years old with long blond hair and a vivacious smile, she was one of Joyce Graff's star dance pupils.
"She was just like one of my own," says Happy's 80-year-old wife, as loquacious as he is reserved.
By all accounts, Ann Nicole Nelson was an extraordinary young woman. She excelled at everything she did. She skiied, played tennis, basketball and soccer, shot billiards, swam and fished,water-skiied, hunted, ran track, taught herself about wine, studied languages and traveled extensively.
At 15, convinced she wasn't getting as good an education in Stanley as she might somewhere else, she persuaded her parents to let her go 850 miles away to an academy in Beaver Dam, Wis., to finish high school. After studying political science and economics at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. -- including semesters in England and China -- she worked in the financial world in Minneapolis and Chicago.
In the fall of 2000, she embarked on a five-week backpacking tour of Peru by herself.
In January 2001, soon after her return and four months shy of her 30th birthday, the independent, green-eyed girl from the plains of North Dakota was hired as a bond trader by Cantor Fitzgerald, headquartered on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center -- Tower One.
She was the only North Dakotan killed in the Sept. 11 attack.
A year and several months later,Gary Nelson, 61, surrounds himself with reminders of his daughter. It seems to be his oxygen.
He wears a button with her photo every waking moment. He wears a silver MIA-POW-style bracelet with her name on it. He has photos of his daughter propped up against his computer screen, anetching of her on his wall, a poster with the names of the 9/11 victims in the lobby of his bank.
He talks frequently to the families of the other Cantor employees killed and to his daughter's friends, searching for information about Ann's last conversations and her life in New York. Among the boxes and boxes of facts he's collected is the seating arrangement for Cantor Fitzgerald's trading floor,where Ann worked.
His purple Ford pick-up truck is unmistakable -- its license plate is 091101.
"I think I try to keep Ann pretty much in the forefront in everything I do," he acknowledges,"no matter where I go."
His wife, Jenette, 62, a teacher at Stanley's middle and high school, seems to deal with her grief in a more introspective way. She says that something happened to her on Sept. 11, 2001,sitting on the edge of her bed and seeing the gaping black hole in the building her daughter worked in. She went numb. All over.
When a dentist recently worked on a tooth she had broken, she says that, although she once had sensitive teeth, she felt no pain, nothing. "I just don't have much feeling," she says softly, on the brink of tears as she often appears, "except sometimes I just feel an aching all over."
Both Nelsons find much comfort in their son's five young children. "They remind me of her so much,"Jenette Nelson says, as 7-year-old Brooke falls asleep in her arms.
Perhaps more than anything, they say that putting their daughter's death in a larger, historic context -- viewing it as another sort of Pearl Harbor, for instance, or as part of destiny, a plan that will eventually lead to a more peaceful world -- helps ease the pain.
"By taking the big view of it-- somehow that calms me," says Jenette Nelson.
She started teaching a class this year on "peaceful conflict resolution," talking to seventh-graders about ways to settle grievances in a non-violent way and occasionally speaks to groups about living better lives and seeking ways of peace.
She says she wants to make her daughter's death -- and all of the approximately 3,000 deaths of Sept. 11 --count for something. "If nothing happens because of it," she says,"it would be a waste. And that would be wrong."
Outpouring of support
Quilts, artwork, cards, have poured in to the Nelsons. In total, more than $50,000 has been contributed to a fund in Ann Nelson's name that goes to such causes as the local hospital.
"What we've seen has not been matched in this community since World War II with the outpouring of emotion and support," says Gary Nelson.
The support still comes, nearly every day. The Nelsons can hear it in their neighbors' sincere greetings of"How are you doing?"
They can feel it when a group ofchildren from a nearby Indian reservation sends drawings of butterflies, a symbol of life after death.
And they can see it in the eyes of some, like Floyd Graff, who are still mending from the enemy attack that forever changed the nation -- and the world -- before Gary Nelson was a year old.
"With Floyd, you don't have to explain the grief you're going through," Gary Nelson says of his longtime friend. "I know that Floyd is with me. It's a complete empathetic understanding. When you have that, you don't have to say too much.
"Sometimes that's the best."
Copyright 2002 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.
Posted by Auntie LeAnn November 2002:
Once again, you would have been proud of your mother tonight. She was honored as the Woman of Distinction for her professional accomplishments, her unwavering grace and spirit, and her courage. She named you as making the greatest impact on her life.
Mikki Hoeven, First Lady of North Dakota, spoke at the banquet and told me that Jenette's speech in Bismarck on September 11, 2002, made a lasting impression on her and many others. You continue to touch our lives daily and in so many positive ways.Thank you for being part of our lives for 30 years and for continuing to bless us with your spiritual presence.
You will always beloved and very much alive in our hearts and memories.
Posted by Roger Branigin October 2002:
I did not know your daughter, and I almost feel that it is not my place to write to your memorial page for Ann because others obviously knew her well and loved her very much. I just wanted to tell you that I am a Carleton grad (1986) and can think of no better representative of everything that the college stands for than your daughter.The brightness with which she shone comes through in every photo, message, and story. We should all live so fully and freely as Ann did.
Those who knew and loved Ann will obviously never forget her. I just wanted you to know that even those of us who were not fortunate to know Ann will also not let her be forgotten. My wife and I still choke up when we think of the events of September 11. When we do, were member the simple beauty inside each of the victims that was so senselessly destroyed - none more tragically than Ann's beauty. No words can console you,but I pray that you have found, or will find, peace.
Posted by Jerald Meiers October 2002:
From a Little Village on the Plains
Jerald Meiers wrote:
Ann's story is not so different from those whom have risen from humble beginnings, to success.
As she was from a little village on the plains, and to have gone to school, gotten exceptional grades.
And then on to the career of her choosing.
To find herself, as it were, On top of the World.
For that is what it must have seemed to her, everyday.As she would arrive at the World Trade Center, to work.
To have stood at a window on the 104th. floor, and looked out across the New York sky line.
To remember the friends and family, which were so much a part of her life, back there on the prairie.
Then to have, one morning, the specter of evil. fly unto her, and so many others lives.
Now, we have her, as a fond and loving memory.
It is not so uncommon, in the little villages of North Dakota, that one feels as family to friend and neighbor.
This is what many felt toward Ann. As she was our little sister, or a not so distant cousin.
Now, we will always have a vision of her in our memories.
And will for decades to come, have a preyer for her. On our lips and hearts.
We will always miss you. And prey that you will dwell now, at the right hand of God.
With all our Love.
-- Jerald Meiers
Posted by Angela September 2002:
To Annie's Mom
I learned about Annie last year, right after September 11th. I had heard that Cantor Fitzgerald had been one of the hardest hit companies in the WTC and followed the news closely. I read about Annie in the NY Times and continue to feel such immense sorrow for what her family is going through.
I have a daughter- she's 10 years old. Janette, please know that although we have never met, I have thought about you every time someone mentions September 11th. I've cried for your loss and have given my little girl many extra hugs because I have a feeling you would want me to.
Your daughter was an incredible person- that has become obvious to me by reading the tributes from her friends and family. Surely, one of the reasons why she made such an impact was because she had you as her mom.
I am a single parent- it's a challenge sometimes to come up with enough energy to make it through my day.You have inspired me to be more patient, more loving and never to leave the house without telling my kids how much they mean to me.
I am sure this will not ease your pain but I wanted to let you know that Annie- and you-have made a big difference in my life.
Posted by Melissa and Mark Schroeder September 12 2002:
September 11, 2002
Certainly today is the Anniversary. Therefore, I didn't want to write a note until today had arrived and indeed it has. Ann and I shared a few years together as friends at Wayland Academy in Wisconsin, and we worked together at Dainrauscher. Imagine my surprise running into her some ten years later at Dainrauscher. It was like a breath of fresh air - we recognized each other from across the bond floor in Minneapolis. We continued our friendship and met several times, when she transferred to Chicago we saw each other time and again in the city. Ann was successful in everything she ever undertook. She was so excited and so determined to be successful in her career. I am sure that Ann was busily trading bonds the morning that she went to a better place. She always arrived early and left late; she persevered in everything she did all the way until the end! I carry such fond and loving memories of her around with me everywhere. She touched my life and brought love to so many people. Rather than celebrate our loss we must simply remember how much fun we had with her and how blessed we were to have known her even if for a month here, a year or two, or a lifetime. Ann was such an ideal woman, gentle, beautiful, intelligent and at peace with herself.
"Do not measure your loss by itself, if you do, it will seem intolerable; but if you will take all human affairs into account you will find that some comfort is to be derived from them."
- Saint Basil
Posted by Greg Post September 2002:
Remembering One Year Later
I have gone back and forth about sending this email to you, talking about Ann ... in some ways, I suppose I feel I don't have much right to my connection with Ann's story - a fleeting association that almost feels like two cars sharing the same bit of highway for a few miles, then turning down different off-ramps and never seeing each other again. But the thought has stayed with me, and today of all days, it feels appropriate to share my thoughts with you, the people who knew and loved Ann best. It's not really meant for the message boards - I'm too long winded, I'm afraid. But if nothing else, I want you to know that another someone "out there," in my own way, remembers Ann and knows the world is a little less bright without her here.
Exactly one year ago, I was anxiously trying to get out of downtown Chicago, praying for the anonymous people in NY and the World Trade Center, not knowing if anyone I knew had been directly affected by the events of that day. It wasn't until some time later that I learned from my brother that Ann was a victim of the tragedy, and that knowledge connected me with 9/11 in ways that continue to surprise me today.
Ann and I met at Wayland Academy - we were both in the class of 1989, both starting Wayland as juniors in the fall of 1987. We came to Beaver Dam for very different reasons: Ann was there to broaden her education and strengthen her opportunities for the future, I was there to escape decisions I had made and hopefully to find a shot at a future.
Ann is the first student I remember meeting, at the orientation program for new students. At the time, I was very uncomfortable being at Wayland - I had long hair and I much preferred wearing an Ozzy Osbourne t-shirt (much less vogue then than it is now!!) to a shirt and tie. I was lost, and nervous, and I couldn't imagine"fitting in" with the group of people I was going to meet.
On the surface, Ann was everything I expected of a Wayland student: beautiful, intelligent, motivated and outgoing ... a nightmare confirming everything I had built up in my mind. I could have thrown in the towel right there and run the160 miles back home. Then, she talked to me, and she was genuine and friendly to me, and a whole new world of possibility opened before my eyes. If someone like Ann could accept me for who I was, then maybe Wayland wouldn't be so unbearable after all. I remember enjoying the orientation days a lot after that.
Ann and I shared a few classes together (most notably Mr. Baxter's Western Civ. APclass, where she really shined), and knew each other as you can't help but know each other in a graduating class of 80 students, but we weren't ever what I would consider "friends." She never stopped being genuine and friendly to me over our two years at Wayland. She was someone I admired and respected from a short distance, one of those people that you KNEW were going to make a mark on the world. From what I have learned, she did exactly that in the short time she was here.
Even before the events of last year, I have often thought about that first experience at Wayland, and how my time there changed the path of my life. It was people like Ann who, through no overt act or specific intent, changed the"off-ramp" I chose in life for the better. I'm thankful for that. The gifts I received from my time knowing Ann are exceedingly valuable: Be kind. Don't judge. Strive to be more than you are today, and you can make the world abetter place.
I remember Ann today, as I often do, and I pray that she is at peace.
Wayland Academy Class of '89
Posted by Rob Griffo September 2002:
Thank you for posting this website. I often bring up pictures of Ann to help remind me of better days spent with her. She really was an amazing woman. I thank God for having the chance to have had her as a friend. Although my time was brief with her, we had a lot in common and enjoyed what New York City had to offer. I also use this site as a source of inspiration and motivation throughout life's daily events. If I ever need to smile, all I have to do is think of her wonderful laugh, which was a sign of how much she enjoyed life.
Ann has taught me many things both before and after 9/11/01. I will always keep her and other friends lost, close to my heart. May God bless her family and friends always.
Posted by Howard McMillan September 2002:
Dear Gary, Jeanette, Scott, and Eric,
Like so many others, my thoughts and prayers are with you and the extended Family of Ann.
While never far away, today's reflections and remembrances hit a little harder, cut a little deeper. My youngest daughter, Maggie, 13, has asked me to share this wish with you.
As the tragedies of September 11 unfolded, she set about assembling a 4000 piece 3D foam puzzle of lower Manhattan. A Christmas 2000 present she picked out for Santa Claus to "give" to Mom, the enormity of the project had kept this puzzle project on the sideline.
By dinnertime on September 11, the bags of foam pieces were being dumped, sorted,and prepped. The kitchen table was now our "ground zero" for the ensuing months, as Maggie and Lili methodically moved the project forward in their free moments.
Pleasure, therapy, catharsis, education, tribute all rolled into one interactive project - while the puzzle-challenged father/daughter duo of Howard and Katherine, mostly kibitzed from a safe distance. Since its Thanksgiving completion this clever puzzle has occupied its own pedestal in front of our dining room window.
Maggie hopes to find a meaningful and appropriate home for this project, and asked me to offer it first to the Nelson Clan. Through her occasional visits to our floor at Dain, Maggie has some fleeting memories of Ann. Perhaps it might fit in the new MCHF project in Stanley!
Perhaps not. While the Spirit of this offer is genuine - the visual reminder of the two Trade Center buildings may make acceptance difficult. Maggie certainly understands this fact.
We will contact you directly at a more appropriate time, and I share this herein in celebration of Ann's Spirit and of Maggie's thoughtfulness. If anyone wishes to suggest other appropriate destinations, please contact me directly.
We miss you Ann.
A friend, always,
Howard McMillan III
Posted by Kelly S Mogen September2002:
I have approached this day with a sense of dread simply because I feel that I must say goodbye again to Ann in a year that has been filled with goodbyes that bring no closure. It will be a day when it will be difficult to just go on with life. As I watched the names being read this morning of the victims and Ann's was read and her picture shown on the screen, I thought about that day a year ago that never seemed to end.
The waiting, the wondering, the hope and the despair that came with it. It has been a very long year filled with questions of why as well as a greater appreciation for my family and friends as well as life itself. I truly believe that Ann lived life to the fullest, without questioning if she had chosen the right path or waited to do something tomorrow instead of just doing it today. I hope that I can live my life more like that.
My promise to Ann is that instead of focusing on the day she died or was remembered at her memorial or put to rest at her burial service, I will remember the 30 years she was with us and treasure my memories - the good and the bad, the incredible laughter and the pains of growing up. She truly was and will always be a friend in the truest sense of the word. She will never be forgotten.
Take care and God bless
Posted by Mel Johnson September2002:
Thank you to everyone who has emailed with their thoughts and stories about Annie. It's really amazing how much she is still influencing people. At this really tough time of year, with media reminders everywhere, it helps to still be hearing from people who care.
According to our web host, Annie's site has had over 5,500 page visits in the last month. Thank you for taking the time to help us remember such a wonderful person, and know how many people she touches still.
Posted by Rhonda Slingsby September 2002:
I also went to Wayland. That is how I learned about the site. Annie seemed like a very special person, you must miss her very much. Her family reminds me of mine - we are very close. I will keep her family and friends in my prayers. I didn't know Annie, but she must have been a wonderful person to have all of you in her life. I have been very inspired by this site. I also, wanted you to know that my thoughts and prayers are with you especially as 9/11 approaches.
Posted by Mitch Berg September 2002:
I'm nobody of any great importance. Just another expat North Dakotan. I've passed through Stanley many times.
I found Ann's various memorials incredibly touching, and I thought I'd say so. I'm a father of two, and I can't imagine your loss - and I pray for the world my children are growing up in.
Anyway - thanks for the little bit of inspiration your site - and its subject - pass on to me, and seemingly many others.
Once from Jamestown,
Now, St. Paul
Posted by Dawn Schilf August 2002:
In Memory of Annie
Although I did not know Ann, I must let you know how deeply I am moved by the beautiful memorial site you have set up for her. I, like all Americans, was deeply affected by the tragic events of September 11th. The loss of innocent lives was, and is still, incomprehensible to me. I was especially struck by the great loss of life at Cantor-Fitzgerald. While visiting the Cantor website, I came across Ann's page. The tributes to this young woman brought tears to my eyes. She obviously was a remarkable and very much loved person.
I had to let you know that I stumbled upon a website called www.MemorialBracelets.com. I ordered a bracelet bearing Annie's name. I will wear this to never forget that fateful day and to always remember that every human being lost that day was someone every special in all of the lives they touched.
In memory of you, Ann Nelson - May your spirit remain alive forever.
Posted by Mary Barber July 2002:
I really miss Ann today. I have missed her and thought about her almost every day, but today it hit me right in the heart. I was working on a trade with some people and there was a spot in the action that she normally would have been involved in. It came back to me how much I miss her. She was smart, graceful, innovative and brave in her trading style. My admiration for her had no limits. We quickly became friends.
The first time I ever heard from Ann was about eight or nine years ago. She called up with her Midwest accent (takes one to know one) and asked if I "still had those bonds" and could she have them. I didn't know her from Adam and asked her "are you sure you want 10 MILLION, not 10 THOUSAND dollars worth?" She firmly told me to hurry up or she was going to miss the bonds and, yes, she did want 10 million. She later called me back and introduced herself and asked if I would cover her for mortgages. I said I would be happy to, but that I had just started and didn't know much, maybe she would prefer more knowledgeable coverage. She laughed and said she knew less than I did, it was her first day! Over the years, Ann became one of my best customers, not just for one or two of those years, but almost every year.
I started trying to arrange to see her as often as I could as the various outings, opting not to go if she wasn't there. It usually amounted to me chasing her all over the place, because everyone in the business had the same plan. They all wanted to be with Ann. She made it an event. She was beautiful, men loved her, but she kept them in their place so effortlessly, only the chosen few ever got through. She made you feel needed and wanted in spite of all of the attention she got; she once scolded me for going on vacation and not leaving my cell number with her. This from the girl that must have lost her cell phone 100 times!
She would always pack like three events into one evening ... 5 p.m. drinks with one group; 7:30 dinner with another; meeting up at a dance club with a third. She usually tried to drag everyone she met up with on the way along with her, kind of a let-down if you couldn't make it to the end. Then she would hop out of bed the next morning and be her beautiful sweet self all over again. I roomed with her in Memphis in May (of course she forgot to make a reservation!) and I got about four more hours of sleep than she did and she still outplayed me in golf and outshined me in personality the next day. It was her birthday that trip and she received many calls; one from you, Gary. I just remembered how sweet she sounded when she said "Oh, Dad!" about something you said to her. She really loved her family and talked about you a lot! In the hotel, for her birthday, She received two huge bouquets of flowers! This when she was traveling!
Ann and I talked pretty much daily, sometimes many times a day because it was hard to keep her on the telephone after she went to Cantor. I think her thoughts for that place were mixed; she really loved the people, but the work was competitive and sometimes people were not at their best. I know she was, though. She was really upset one time because she said a customer that she was covering yelled at her for not buying some bonds that she had showed them and they traded away before she could buy them. She wasn't sure the level was right and she was trying to protect the customer. She was really upset, but of course we know she did the right thing. In my opinion, she always did the right thing,she had the biggest heart I know - loyal, loving, generous. She would have been my friend for life.
Eric, Gary and Jenette, I will never forget her kindness to me.
Posted by Linda May 14 2002:
Seemed to Fit
I didn't know Ann personally, but have learned a lot about her through Midge L. and my thoughts and prayers have been with her family and friends since 9/11. I came across this quote today and I'm not sure who wrote it, but it really seems to fit everything I learned about Ann over the past year. "They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them." May we never forget all those who were lost and the families who were affected. May God bless us and reunite us with our loved ones on that final day.
Posted by Suki April 2002:
I know I just spoke with you both on the phone and I know Gary is coming out to visit here in a couple of days, but I wanted to pop on to tell you 'hi' and let you know that I visit Ann's websites often and read all your beautiful poems, Jenette.
I also think I told you this, but Sethina Watson came down from Oxford to spend a night with me when I was in London last month and I switched hotels for her stay because I wanted to stay at a more lively hotel for a while and it just happened that the hotel I picked was right across the street from the pub Ann and all of us went to when we were in Cambridge together in the Salisbury. I had always sort of wondered where that pub was and although I knew the vicinity it was in, I was never able to find it until I picked that hotel. How funny to stumble across it just as Sethina was coming to see me! We sat in that pub and talked about Ann for a long time. It was very super. She is still so alive tome and sometimes that makes it much sadder for me but I am so happy I can still hear her voice, feel her touch, know what she might say in situations.
See you in May, Jenette. See you Saturday, Gary.
Posted by Tim Clausen March 2002:
A Beautiful Poem for You
Thank you for your beautiful and remarkable writings Jenette. I lost my mother in November, and can't even fathom what you must be experiencing regarding your daughter. Wanted to share with you and yours this poem someone shared with me and which I've found helpful:
I was not aware of the moment when I first crossed the threshold of this life.
What was the power that made me open out into this vast mystery
like a bud in the forest at midnight!
When in the morning I looked upon the light
I felt in a moment that I was no stranger in this world,
that the inscrutible without name and form
had taken me in its arms in the form of my mother.
Even so, in death the same unknown will appear as ever known to me.
And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well.
The child cries out when from the right breast the mother takes it away,
in the very next moment to find in the left one it's consolation.
by Rabindranath Tagore, from "Gitanjali," a collection of his poems.
Best to you,
Posted by Erin March 2002:
I've spent much of my afternoon on this page. I was friends with Aaron Horwitz and came to know of Ann only through tragedy. I often find myself reading your poems, Jenette and reading your sweet computer typed entries, Gary. Your memories, sentiments and stories are so very sad and heartbreaking yet so beautiful as well. I thank you for providing a place for those of us to be reminded of both Ann and what is important - the people in our lives whom we love and cherish so dearly.
My thoughts are with you
Posted by JanWysocki February 2002:
Ann is for Angel
I have agonized over the loss of Ann and I have tried several times to put something on paper to express to the Nelsons how the Wysocki family feels about this tragedy. I read somewhere that knowing how many people were lost on 9/11 is a statistic; knowing someone who perished personally is a tragedy. Our hearts are simply broken and we will never be the same. Jenette, when I read your poems, I can actually feel your pain. You have such a gift when it comes to expressing your feelings. My heart aches every time I read what you have written.
Our memories of the Nelsons span over 40 years now. I think 1965 was the first year we spent Thanksgiving Day together and that was the beginning of at least 25-30 years of sharing that feast. Sometimes, when all our kids were little, it was quite an accomplishment just to get the food on the table and eat while the babies were sleeping. Our Thanksgivings always included the traditional meal, lots of lively conversation, games, football on television, lots of dirty dishes and a terribly over-stuffed feeling when the pies were all eaten.
We celebrated this day in a variety of venues: Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Stanley, at our farm near Landa, at the Nelson's cabin on Lake Metigoshe, and one time we even ate at a very posh Men's Club in downtown Minnepolis. I think that was the only time we didn't have to prepare the meal and do the dishes ourselves. Gary, Jenette, Gary and I all lived in Minneapolis following our graduations from college; they moved to Wisconsin, but we managed to get away many times to visit them while they were there. In the 70's, both of our families moved back to North Dakota. In the 80's, we both bought cabins at Lake Metigoshe.The similarites didn't end with our physical locations; the Nelsons named their son Scott; we named our daughter Anne; Nelsons had Ann, and soon after our Scott arrived. I think about the time I was ready to send the birth announcements, it hit me that our families had almost all the same names: the dads were Gary, the moms were Jenette and Jan, and the kids were Scott and Ann(e). Brett was our tag-along and Nelson's first grandchild was named Brittany.
I know we have all told this little tidbit many times! I have so many memories of Ann; like so many others have said, her laughter will always echo in our hearts and minds. She was such a delightful person, even as a little child. My favorite memory happened on an Easter Sunday when the Nelsons came to stay and have Easter dinner with us. We all got up early and went to our (Catholic) church in Westhope. Ann wasn't quite a teenager at the time. The church was packed and she ended up sitting quite close to the front with her dad. The rest of us were spread out in various spots behind them.
When it came time for communion, I saw Ann and Gary looking around and probably wondering what they should do. Unbeknown to them, communion in the Catholic church is only offered to Catholics. However, when everyone else in their row got up and went forward,they did likewise. I never said anything to them, but when we got home, Ann said, "Oh, that was so neat! It was the first time I've ever been to communion!" Many times I have chuckled to myself about "Ann's first communion!" It was so innocent!
Another memory-maker was when our daughter, Anne, turned 16. She was only a year older than Ann. Ann and Jenette came for cake and ice cream and Ann brought a beautiful cross-stitched picture for our Anne as a gift. She had made the picture herself (for those of you who never thought she had domestics kills, you're wrong!). Anyway, the cross-stitch was of a little angel with a halo and the caption under the picture was "Ann is for angel." Our Anne pointed out to her that her name was spelled with an "e." Ann took the picture home and squeezed in the "e" and also cross-stitched "oops" above the mistake! She had the greatest sense of humor and could always laugh at herself! When we lost Ann on 9/11, it gave a new special meaning to the picture she had stitched some 15 years ago. We know now that ANN IS FOR ANGEL.
Ann, we miss you.
Gary, Jan, Anne, Scott and Brett
Posted by Jana (Springan) AbelJanuary 2002:
All About Ann
It is really hard to believe I’m sitting here writing memories of Ann. I was so sure the whole time, that we would be sitting around listening to Ann tell the story sometime of how she was able to get out of the WTC. To me, Ann seemed invincible. My name is Jana and I am a high school classmate and long-time friend of Ann. We had not kept in touch the last couple of years, but I spent many years growing up with Ann. Even before we started school, we were friends. I have so many memories of Ann and can’t even get them all down on paper. I can still see Ann’s bright smile in my mind and I’ll never forget her infectious laugh.
I remember when we were young, Ann would sometimes start laughing so hard ... and I mean so hard that she could not even control herself. Sometimes I would get irritated with her and want her to quit laughing, so I could tell her something else. But now, I’m so glad that I have those memories of her laughing.
Speaking of laughing so hard. I remember Jenette taking Ann and I to Minot to the State Fair one hot summer day. Once we got on Broadway, the car died and with the stress of it all, Ann started laughing so hard and could not quit. I remember it being absolutely hilarious because Jenette was not in a laughing mood and she was just worried about getting to the closest service station. But Ann was laughing so hard that every once in a while Jenette could not help but laugh because Ann was just out of control. I just remember sitting there and trying so hard not to laugh, but eventually giving in and dying laughing with Ann. I’m sure we were almost peeing our pants. Ann always seemed to make stressful times like that so much fun.
I remember Ann, I and Tammy (Elliason) Wilhelmi went to bible camp in Epping, North Dakota. We all shared a cabin. During our stay, there were various occasions when Ann would get laughing so hard that she would end up peeing her pants. I don’t know if we never got it completely cleaned up or what, but by the end of the hot summer week, the cabin really started to smell. I just remember these guys coming to our cabin and stepping in and them saying “What the ---- is that smell! This only made Ann laugh even hardier.
I remember that Ann had the best slumber/birthday parties ever and she was always the best host. She would do whatever any of us friends would want to do.Everyone loved going to Ann’s birthday parties. They had a lot of room in their basement for lots of people. We would have pool tournaments at her house and no one could ever beat Ann in pool. We eventually wouldn’t let her play anymore. She was totally fine with that - I’m sure we weren’t much competition for her.
I know everyone remembers playing Ouija Board. We turned off all the lights and we were convinced that we were moving bodies into the air with our fingers and we were all extremely freaked out. Some of us were so freaked that we didn’t want to do it anymore, but Ann insisted that if we all kept doing it that we could find the answers to a lot of things that we wanted to know. I remember at one of her birthday parties we thought it would be fun to sneak out of the house. I just know that when we got out, we did not have anywhere to go. It’s not like we were going to walk to town and even if we did go to town, we didn’t have anything to do there. Ann then taught us all the good hiding spots for hide and seek in the dark, which was so fun. We just had so much fun at her parties calling boys, watching movies, eating, staying up all night making-up skits and doing whatever. Ann loved having everyone out at her house and she always did such a good job of making sure that everyone was having fun.
I remember as young girls, we were always so scared of Ann’s dad, Gary. He was tall and had that deep voice that could carry throughout their house. He would come home when we were all there and yell Ann’s name really loud. We would always say to Ann - is your dad mad? She would always say no, he just likes to do that to see everyone’s reaction. She would always say, he never gets too mad. Ann always had this deep appreciation and respect for her dad. When I think of Ann and Gary, I think of Ann being “Daddy’s Girl”.
I remember post high school years, I spent a weekend with Ann at Lake Metigoshe. Ann and I went out one night and stayed out really late at a party. The next morning, Ann’s Dad yelled Ann’s name really loud and again I thought we were in trouble. I found myself asking Ann, is your Dad mad? Again she had no worries, she walks out and talks to her Dad and he just was laughing at how late we had stayed out. I know that Ann loved being at the lake so much. I know it was quiet time to spend with her parents or herself. You could see the peace she felt while she was there.
One time when we were quite young Ann was at my house playing and I wanted to play a trick on her by putting buttermilk instead of milk in a glass and have her drink it. I don’t know why I thought this would be funny. I just remember trying to convince her to have a glass of milk. She said that she wanted a glass of water and I said no, you can’t have water, it’s old!! Ann said “what are you talking about, water is as old as the hills, and it doesn’t matter.” I said trust me, you don’t want water. So she finally took a sip of milk and I will never forget the look on her face. She said “Oh my God, I think something is really wrong with your milk!!”
Ann was over at our house another time and my Dad was doing a Scramble the Words puzzle that he used to get in a quarterly publication. It was a pretty difficult puzzle. Ann and I sat down with him and Ann got most all of the words and quickly figured out the final clue, with minimum help from my Dad and I. I remember my Dad being so impressed with how bright Ann was, which was something I always knew. When the next publication came and he was having some trouble, he said “call Ann and have her come over - we need her!”. I know my parents really enjoyed having Ann around. She was always extremely polite and took time to talk with my parents.
Ann and I spent a lot of time golfing together. At first it started out that we just liked driving the golf carts. We eventually got bored with that and started golfing. I think that Ann was probably one of the best natural athletes that I knew. I know she was gone a whole summer one time and she came back and we went golfing and she beat me, no problem. I had been golfing all summer and she had not picked up a club the whole summer. She was like that with most every sport that she tried.
Ann truly had it all. She was beautiful, smart, athletic and had a great passion for living. There were many things that I got to do with Ann and I’m thankful for that. There are many things that we didn’t get to share with her and for that I will always be sad. There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought of Ann since this happened and I know that her memory will always be strong in my heart.
Posted by David January 2002:
May God Bless You, Always...
I did not know Ann, but came across this website a short time ago. This is the first New Year's Eve ever that I have stayed home. I simply could not go out and celebrate, in light of what has happened this year. Instead, I stayed home to reflect and think of the many beautiful and vibrant lives lost on September 11th.
Again, I did not know Ann, but then again ... we all knew her, in a way. We know she and others all had lives, hopes, dreams. All that were tragically cut short September 11th. She shared that with those on that day. I am a young professional, and often think that it could easily have been me, had I been living in NYC, instead of Texas. I look at the many pictures and faces of the young who lost their lives, and see myself reflected back. It could easily have been me.
It is my hope that God brings some sense of peace to Ann's family and to those who lost loved ones. Please know that you are ALWAYS in my heart ... not a day goes by that I don't think of that day and of all of you.
YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN
God Bless You....Always