Shortly before the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a good gent known as The Mighty Quinn pointed me in the direction of a very worthwhile endeavor called Project 2,996. Its purpose is to honor the lives of those who were murdered that day. I contributed a little something to it this year, which I hope at least scratched the surface of honoring the individual for whom I wrote it.
Not too long after I wrote what I wrote, a very dear friend of mine e-mailed me to tell me that he had read what I had written and that it made him think of his cousin. She too had been murdered at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. In our exchange of e-mails I told him a bit about Project 2,996. I also checked the site to see if his cousin was among the list of people for whom a tribute had been written. She was not.
Antoinette Duger was an anomaly in early 21st Century America - in the best possible sense of the word - in that she spent her entire professional life working for the same company. First Union hired her at age 18 - right after she graduated from Barringer High School in Newark. A career that started in an office on Broad Street in Newark continued to grow upward and uninterrupted until it reached the 47th floor of One World Trade Center. At age 44, she had already logged twenty-six years as a First Union employee. In an age where the ties that bind one to one's employer are often tenuous to the point of fragility, Antoinette's were unbreakable.
Who she was is even more extraordinary than what she did. She was forty-four years young in the Fall of 2001. A wife. A mother. One of her daily rites was to make it home by 6:30 every night in order to do something she loved - prepare a traditional Italian dinner for her husband Raymond, her daughter Megan and her to enjoy and to share. Among her other joys? Every year she would get together with her mother and her sisters so that they could press their own tomatoes and make a year's worth of sauce for each of their households.
She was more than a mother and a wife. She was a sister and a daughter. And she was also the cousin of my friend Gerard Gonnella. Tonight, those who loved Antoinette and those she loved shall mark the 11th consecutive turn from one year to the next without her. She shall be missed of course. But more importantly she shall be remembered. As she has always been. As she always shall.
Her sister Silvia Defilippo put it best, "It was a simple life. But it was a good life."
....One might in fact say that it was a wonderful life.