WTC victim memorilized by friends and family
By Joseph Kellard
For Anthony and Lorraine Marchese, it was like reliving Sept. 11 all over again.
Last month, the Freeport couple learned that the remains of their daughter, Laura Merchese, an Oceanside resident and a victim at the World Trade Center, were identified through DNA as being at the devastated site.
"I guess a person tends to fantasize, 'Oh, they never found her, maybe she got away,'" Lorraine said. "And I think just the confirmation gave us that bang all over again, because you realize she was there. And it's very hard, very hard dealing with that, and not to have a body is overwhelming."
On Sept. 11, Marchese, 35, had been working for about a year on the 102 floor of the WTC as an executive assistant with Alliance Consulting Group. For 12 years before that, she had worked with Reliance National, an insurance company in Manhattan, where she elevated herself from a ground-floor position to executive assistant. Less than two weeks before the terrorist attacks, Marchese, a life-long Freeport resident, and her fiancé, Joseph Mendez, a life-long Island Park resident, had moved into their new home in Oceanside, happily nestled between their families.
"Laura was a very special person and one of a kind: successful, intelligent, caring, and she touched a lot of people's lives," Mendez said. "It's hard to lose a loved one who you are planning to spend your whole life with and they are just taken away. But what keeps me going is I knowing that she's in a better place and some day I'll see her again."
Echoing similar thoughts about coping with the loss of Laura, Lorraine said, "I pray and I have faith that she is with family members who have passed. I think that's what truly keeps me going. I believed Laura's remains would be found. I never gave up hope."
To assist them in their ongoing grief, the Marcheses attend counseling sessions at South Nassau Communities Hospital's World Trade Center Child and Family Counseling Program in Rockville Centre, where they meet with other parents whose children perished at the WTC.
"If it was not for the wonderful people who are a part of this group, I don't know how we would have managed," Lorraine explained. "It helps to know that we are not the only people who are suffering like this."
Not a big believer in counseling, Mendez has found comfort and strength in his family and friends and through other means.
"I keep working and I keep on moving, and that's how I deal with it," he said. "I keep Laura in my memory every day, and that's what gets me through."
Laura will be remembered by loved ones as someone who was enormously considerate of others, and who gave much of her time volunteering for certain causes, such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
"She was the kindest, sweetest person I'd ever met,” Mendez said. “She would do anything for anyone she or I knew.”
A testament to the many lives that Laura deeply touched is the many dedications that have been made in her memory. A group of her closest friends dedicated a bush and a plaque at Holy Redeemer Parish in Freeport, which they all attended while growing up. The Freeport Memorial Library, where Laura worked for five years while attending Freeport High School and Nassau Community College, dedicated a tree in her name. And Laura's sister, Cathy Collins, recently held a ceremony and unveiled a wall comprised of six ornamental pear trees and a plaque on a rock before them in her backyard in West Babylon.
Marie Thomas, Laura's other sister, has had Masses said in her honor at her local parish in Pleasentville. Others who knew Laura — from people who rode the train with her to work each day to past co-workers — gave donations in her name to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Presently, the Marcheses are unsure what they will do on Sept. 11, but attending the ceremony planned for New York City will probably be too emotionally overwhelming for them, Lorraine indicated. One thing is for sure, however. They will continue to pray for what they still have.
"I pray for the good health of my two girls that are alive and my husband," Lorraine said." I think that's basically truly what keeps me going."
* This story was originally published in the Oceanside-Island Park Herald in September 2002.