Messages of hope from 9/11 family members

"It took me nine years to discover that it's okay to laugh again, and it's more than okay to try"


Editor's note: This article features excerpts from "The Legacy Letters, Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members," a compilation of 100 letters written to those lost on 9/11. The book shares stories of resilience that honor the memory of each person through the full lives their family members are leading today, and is published by Tuesday's Children, a non-profit family service organization that has made a long term commitment to every individual impacted by the events of September 11, 2001 and subsequent terrorist incidents. For more details oh the book and organization, click here.

Carl John Bedigian was born on August 31, 1966, in Queens, New York, to Joseph and Dolores Bedigian, and was the brother of Joseph Jr. and Robert. He married Michele Becker in 2000. Carl was a New York City firefighter who spent most of his FDNY career in Engine 214 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He was a romantic who loved to cook, build homes and collect motion Hallmark ornaments. He had a smile that could truly melt your heart. On September 11, Carl was one of five members from his firehouse who never returned home. He was thirty-five-years old.

Letter Writer: Michele Bedigian (wife)
Age: 40

"Dear Carl,

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It's been almost ten years since your death, and in that time, I've worked so hard at trying to understand what has happened to the life I dreamt of as a little girl.

That vision is gone now, but through so much darkness, there are these glimmers of clarity of what life really means that I never would have seen had 9/11 not happened.

My good friend Sarah said that I've always had a choice on how I reacted to losing you. She said although my life will never have the picture-perfect story I dreamt of as a little girl, it is mine to live.

From the moment you perished, each obstacle has taught me something more about myself, and about the potential every one of us is capable of. Consequently I uncovered a truth, that happiness is a choice, one that takes courage and a genuine commitment.

I still want a family, I want to be a mother, I want to love and be loved. I want to have someone to grow old with in this lifetime.

I'm thinking about the dream I had of you about a month ago. Maybe it was a visit?

Nonetheless what you said was a gift I'll treasure forever:

You and I are the same spark. So your life is my life. Your children are my children. You've fulfilled us by having the strength to go forward. The future is beautiful and I'm right here with you. Go make a life for us all. Choose happy and I love you.

Your philosophy was simple — in order to be all things possible, one must try.

It took me nine years to discover that it's okay to laugh again, and it's more than okay to try.

I promise.
Thank you, my love.

Always,
Michele"

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Stanley Smagala Jr. was born on April 6, 1965, in Bayshore, New York, to Stanley Sr. and Florence Smagala, and was the youngest of seven children. He grew up and lived his whole life on Long Island. He joined the New York City Fire Department in 1996. He was married to his wife, Dena, for three years, and they were expecting their first child, Alexa. Some of Stan's hobbies included golf, softball and Ping Pong, as well as being a Mets and Jets fan. He was thirty-six-years-old.

Letter Writer: Jim Smagala (brother)
Age: 47

"Dear Stan,

I am so proud of you.

You were a New York City firefighter stationed at Engine 226 in Brooklyn who traveled across the Brooklyn Bridge with your company that fateful day to perform the duties that you swore an oath to uphold. I, too, took that solemn oath.

I traveled across that same bridge, that same day, to carry out my duties as a New York City firefighter. I made it back home. You did not. You left your family, your wife, your unborn child behind. Truly tragic.

Through tragedy, though, come important lessons to be learned, hard as they may be. You and I were the best of friends. We worked together, played softball together, grew to be young me together. We argued at times. We had feelings of bitterness and jealousy. I don't regret those feelings. We were still great friends.

Reality set in that day and woke me up to the fact that nothing is forever in this world. The things we so easily take for granted can be taken from us in an instant, even though we fool ourselves into believing that they won't. They were taken from us suddenly and without warning when you were just thirty-six years old.

Stan, I love you and I miss our time together.

Your brother,
Jim "

Excerpts of letters reprinted from The Legacy Letters collected by Tuesday's Children by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright (c) 2011 by Tuesday's Children.

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