9/11 widow in E. Islip gains 40 'brothers'

Marion Otten with her eldest sons, Christopher (left) Marion Otten with her eldest sons, Christopher (left) and Jonathan, at the firehouse where her husband worked. (Sept. 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Randi Marshall

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"I lost a husband, but I gained 40 brothers," said East Islip resident Marion Otten before the Ground Zero ceremony Sunday. "Life has gone on and people have done their thing but they all come back home."

East Islip resident Marion Otten was surrounded by her new family Sunday morning.

Hundreds of firefighters, their relatives, friends and Upper West Side residents gathered in front of Engine 40 Ladder 35's firehouse to remember, sharing their stories, their feelings and four silent moments, broken only by the toll of the firehouse bell.

A pipe band played "Amazing Grace" and the names of the 12 firefighters from the house who died in the towers were read.

Otten, whose husband, Michael, died in the World Trade Center and was one of the 12, spoke to the crowd about her memories, and thanked the people who formed her second family over the last decade.

Home -- for those like Otten, and others as far away as Virgina and North Carolina -- is that firehouse at the corner of 66th and Amsterdam.

"We all need this," Otten said, gesturing to the children, firefighters, grandparents and others gathered in the firehouse and spilling out onto the sidewalk. "Just to be together."

But for Otten, an occupational therapist, the 10th anniversary of the attacks was like a march back in time.

"This is very overwhelming," she said, her voice tight. "It's as if it's day one. This is how the firehouse was right after it happened."

In the years since her husband's death, Otten has relied on her "brothers" for everything from advice and support for her children to help with chores at home.

In the last several years, she noted, many faces in the firehouse have changed. But they're still there for her and her three sons: Christopher, 21, Jonathan, 18, and Jason, 14.

"I might have lost my dad, but 40 other figures stepped in here for me," said Christopher Otten, now a senior at Providence College.

The two oldest brothers said they want to be city firefighters, marking what would be their family's fourth generation.

When the third moment of silence came Sunday at the first tower's fall, Marion Otten, 49, had her most difficult moment.

"That was the hardest for me," she said. "I let myself think back -- that's when the tower came down. That's when they died."