Children of 9/11 victims reflect on messages they wrote to their late fathers

(CBS News) – Olivia Perez, 30, was just 10 when she lost her father, Anthony Perez, on September 11, 2001. He worked as a technical specialist on the 103rd floor of the North Tower.

“I can take you step by step until the 11th. After that for about four years, I couldn’t tell you anything,” Perez recalls.

“The kids were pulled left and right to get home early,” Perez recalls. She said she was in her college orchestra class when her teacher told the class that the World Trade Center had been attacked.

Anthony Perez worked as a technical specialist on the 103rd floor of the North Tower on September 11, 2001.(via CBS News)

“It was just an instinct – I mean, the feeling of sinking in my stomach. I had just gone to the World Trade Center. I had just worked with my dad a week ago. He had just gotten the job there- low relatively recently and I knew he was no longer there, ”Perez said.

Lauren Charette, 28, has had the opposite experience. “If she can walk you through her day, I have five minutes.”

Mark Charette was holding an annual planning meeting on the 100th floor of the North Tower on ...
Mark Charette held an annual planning meeting on the 100th floor of the North Tower on September 11, 2001.(via CBS News)

Charette’s father, Mark, usually worked in his New Jersey office, but on September 11 he held an annual planning meeting on the 100th floor of the North Tower. She was only eight years old at the time.

“My mother knew he had been to town that day. “And that conversation, I don’t quite remember, but she must have sat us down a few days later, it was definitely the weekend, and told us he was dead.” The only memory I have in between is someone at recess when we still weren’t sure, because I know someone was saying something, and I know I’m very upset. . said Charlette.

An Nguyen was only four years old when his father, Khang Nguyen, died at the Navy Command Center ...
An Nguyen was only four years old when his father, Khang Nguyen, died at the Navy command center at the Pentagon.(via CBS News)

An Nguyen, 24, says he has a vague memory of September 11. He was only four years old when his father, Khang Nguyen, died at the Navy Command Center at the Pentagon.

“I honestly thought he would come back at some point. And it was a few weeks later that the funeral took place, ”recalls Nguyen,“ I saw my father’s coffin, it was pushed into the cremation chamber. That’s when I knew he wasn’t coming back … it took me a few more years to figure out that he wasn’t coming back and try to live my life and develop my identity without my father.

The letters were collected by "Tuesday children," an organization created to support families ...
The letters were collected by “Tuesday’s Children”, an organization created to support families affected by September 11.(via CBS News)

Perez, Charette and Nguyen wrote to their late fathers ten years ago in a book called “The Legacy Letters”. Their letters were collected by “Tuesday’s Children”, an organization created to support families affected by September 11. Earlier this month, they revisited their letters with “CBS Mornings”Co-host Gayle King.

Perez said the writing of the letter in 2011 was cathartic: “I want him to be proud. I want him to know that even though his life has been cut short, he is leaving a lasting impact on the planet. He was everything to me.

Anthony Perez said writing the letter in 2011 was cathartic.
Anthony Perez said writing the letter in 2011 was cathartic.(via CBS News)

Anthony Perez March 31, 1968 – September 11, 2001

“Dear daddy,

You were the greatest man I have ever known. I’m sure any girl who loves her dad as much as I do would say the same, but from the short time I’ve spent with you, I know you were the most amazing person in the world.

Over the past ten years I have grown so much and taught even more. I graduated from high school and entered my dream college, but neither was possible without learning my first lesson on September 11: Life is Too Much short – chase your dreams.

Dad, I miss spending time with you, Anthony James and little Alexis. Since you’ve always been a huge Star Wars fanatic. You have passed on your passion to us. Anthony James used to tell you “Look at a Wuhz star” and you would run around screaming and tickling us. You were always making a joke about the little things, and I absolutely loved how little time we had together. Funny, though: trying to pick just one memory is like asking someone to pick their favorite dream. These memories are the dreams I hold dear to keep me going.

I love you and I miss you a lot,

Olivia “(from” Legacy Letters)

“I wrote about the closure in my letter.” said Perez. “And I’m sitting here and listening to everyone and I don’t know what closing is anymore. Is it to have a – a place for me to go and visit where he’s buried? Is he at peace with what happened? Is it forgiving the individuals who caused this?

“I don’t know what closure is. I worked really hard to get to where I am to overcome this terrible thing. And does that mean it’s closing? Does that mean I don’t have moments of total weakness? Some days it is impossible to get out of bed.

“Have you forgiven? Asked the king.

“Carrying hate in your heart doesn’t help anyone,” Perez said. “It’s exhausting. Not worth it. And they had a lot of hate for whatever their reasons. And I feel bad for it. And it breaks my heart that we all grew up without our parents for it. .

Mark Lawrence Charette February 19, 1963 - September 11, 2001
Mark Lawrence Charette February 19, 1963 – September 11, 2001(via CBS News)

Marc Laurent CharetteFebruary 19, 1963 – September 11, 2001

Father,

Could you answer some of the questions that I will never be able to ask? I’m looking for universities, which one should I choose?

I passed my black belt test as promised. Were you watching Have you seen me fight against the nations?

I graduated in June. Do you want to applaud for me?

I passed my driving test, isn’t it scary?

….

Do you think I am choosing the right career?

Missing out for lunch?

Did you know I learned how to light a campfire?

I still can’t catch a fish – funny, huh?

Would you take my door off the hinges again when I slam it?

Hey, daddy, why is the sky blue?

I forgot. What is your favorite color?

Do you remember the beach? Could you teach me how to build sandcastles?

Did you read what I wrote?

Would you like to hike with me?

Do you love me?

I especially wanted to ask, am I still your little girl?

Forever,

Lauren

“Always your little girl. This question really touched me because I think every girl at some point asks her dad this question, ”King said.

“I always felt that was the big question. This is also the first question I asked. This is the one I wanted to answer the most, ”said Charette.

Khang Nguyen with his son An.
Khang Nguyen with his son An.(via CBS News)

Khang Nguyen December 19, 1959 – September 11, 2011

Dear daddy,

I had just turned four when you left, killed in the terrorist attack while working at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. My memory of you is vague. Our family photos and moms stories help keep your memory alive. I love you very much, even if you are not part of my everyday life.

Early that morning on September 11, as Mom was leading me to the school bus in front of the house, you suddenly ran out and waved your hand at me. You shouted out loud, “An, say goodbye to daddy once more,” as the bus pulled away, a gesture you’ve never made before. It was the last time that father and son saw each other.

….

Now I am fourteen years old. Unfortunately, you couldn’t be there for my music lessons. I am saddened and sometimes angry that I was forced to grow up without a father. I learned about terrorism and the war on terror.

You are my hero. You are always in my heart. I am so proud to be your son. I promise to be a good student and to study hard so that when I become a man, I will make you, in heaven, happy and proud of me.

Love,

Your son, An

“A lot of people will not understand what the word terrorism means until you are directly affected by it. And this is something that is even difficult to describe.

“Even now?” asked the king.

“Even now,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen says that 10 years later, he feels like he made his father proud. He will earn a Masters in Software Engineering from George Mason in December. “This diploma was an honor for my father because he didn’t have the chance to complete his.

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