For Southampton and Sag Harbor residents who lost loved ones on 9/11, the news of terrorist Osama bin Laden’s death prompted reflection on the nearly decade-old tragedy and the holes it left in their lives.
In Southampton, Ellen Danz, lost her son, Police Officer Vincent Danz, 38, a Southampton resident who served in the Special Operations Division for the New York City Police Department Emergency Services Unit.
Danz’s memorial service was the first of scores of heartbreaking tributes for fallen officers.
Danz died inside the Twin Towers, struggling valiantly to save lives.
Danz, 88, said Osama bin Laden’s death “is wonderful, wonderful news. But by the same token, as bad as a person is, God has asked us and told us we must forgive. That’s a hard thing to do, when your child is taken from you,” she said.
Today, Danz said, her son’s oldest daughter is graduating from Fordham University – another milestone missed because of the worst act of terrorism ever seen on American soil. “That was a terrible, terrible day,” Danz said. “I hope no one ever forgets.” And, she added, “Nothing compensates for the child you lost – nothing.”
Doris Gronlund’s daughter Linda Gronlund was 46 when she died aboard United Flight 93, where she helped fight back against terrorists who were plotting to crash the plane into the White House. Passengers changed the course of history when they managed to thwart the terrorists and crashed the plane in a Pennsylvania field.
Gronlund, of Sag Harbor, has found solace in celebrating her daughter’s life. Young women pursuing engineering careers at MIT receive scholarships in Linda Gronlund’s name. BMW, where she worked, named a park in her honor – and last year, her life was remembered at a memorial and meditation service in Sag Harbor.
News of bin Laden’s death, Doris Gronlund said Monday, is “a chess move, that this man is now done away with.” But, she added, “Nobody in my family feels any anger or need to punish the people who were involved in all of this. We don’t have time to waste that kind of energy. Killing bin Laden doesn’t bring Linda back.”
Faith has carried her through the darkest hours, Gronlund said. “What we’re doing now is to try and do all the good we can do, to honor her.”
At BMW her daughter was on the team designing a hydrogen fueled car. “Her desire to make the world a better place was inspiration for all of us,” she said.
The scholarships will help others in the same field, with an eye toward bettering the environment, she added. “If we live that, we can become effective toward working for something good.”
Despite the tragedy of her daughter’s death, Gronlund remains touched by the acts of kindness shown her by her Sag Harbor neighbors – for example, a flag placed on Route 114 at a memorial preserve for Linda. “We are very blessed by people really caring,” she said.
Gronlund says the focus remains on helping to bring troops home and healing wounded warriors. Instead of dwelling on her loss, she said she thinks of her daughter’s shining life. “My heart is full of the wonderful memories of the things she did,” she said.
Sag Harbor lost another light when Erica Van Acker died at the World Trade Center, her friends say.
“She was an extraordinary woman,” said Sister Ann Marino of the , where a garden and a scholarship for women were created in Van Acker’s honor.
After hearing of bin Laden’s death, Sister Ann said, “My prayer is that it’s a finality and we may now begin to live in peace and understanding.”
Van Acker lived in Sag Harbor but worked in New York City and was in her office on 9/11. “From what I understand, she helped many people get out of the Trade Center,” Sister Ann said.
Having met Van Acker on the , Sister Ann remembers her “as woman extraordinaire – gentle and strong. She was a woman of deep faith, what every woman would want to be like.”
East Hampton resident Hilary Knight remembers his dear friend Van Acker: “Erica simply glowed. It was a joy just to be in her orbit.”