Touched by Tragedy
Her blond, shoulder length hair pulled back in a half ponytail, Sharon K. Kelleher '14 recalls the first time she heard the word “terrorist.”
“I was in gym class, and we were line dancing actually, of all things.”
In the years to come, terrorism would become a constant presence in her life, inextricably linked with the death of her uncle, Edward R. Hennessy ’88—the man who lived down the street throughout her childhood and sparked her passion for the piano. Edward, known by friends and family as Ted, was a passenger on American Airlines flight 11, which departed from Boston’s Logan International Airport on September 11, 2001 and was the first of the planes to crash into the World Trade Center.
The day after, fighter jets patrolled the air, visible from Central Park, even though the skies were grayed from airborne debris. People on the streets wore facemasks. New York felt silent.
throughout her childhood and sparked her passion for the piano. Edward, known by friends and family as Ted, was a passenger on American Airlines flight 11, which departed from Boston’s Logan International Airport on September 11, 2001 and was the first of the planes to crash into the World Trade Center.
For the public and the media, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has become a marker of the change of an era in American history, a time when a blustering world power lost some of its innocence. But for the families of the victims, this anniversary is similar to this day every year, a time when they are torn between the public spectacle of remembering 9/11 and the private grief of losing a family member.
“For me, personally, my brother’s death and 9/11 are almost two separate events,” says Susan D. Kelleher, Ted’s sister. “I think of his death as so personal and this whole 9/11 thing is so public.”
Ted’s mother Gerry M. Hennessy’s voice trembles as she says, “Just another day, you know—another day that he’s gone.”
Violetta Demas, whose husband Anthony Demas worked in the South Tower, describes September 11 as “‘a day of infamy,’ as Franklin Roosevelt said. I don’t think there are better words for it than that.”
When in ninth grade, Sharon was asked to write about whom she would choose to talk to if she could have a conversation with anyone, dead or alive. She chose Osama bin Laden.
“I still can’t wrap my mind around it at all,” she says.
“I was only 10 when it happened. So I was old enough to know what had happened but young enough that I didn’t understand the larger implications of the actual tragedy,” Sharon says. “I just remember hating. Just hating whoever had done it and not knowing who they were.”
Over the years, she says her hatred became sadness and pity for those who were responsible for the attacks, but the transformation was slow, one without a definite beginning.
Ted’s death was not the first loss the Hennessy and Kelleher family experienced. In 1971, Ted’s oldest sister, after whom Sharon is named, died in a car crash.