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9/11 victim's husband reflects on bin Laden

Marc Wieman with his wife Stephanie. Wieman lost

Marc Wieman with his wife Stephanie. Wieman lost his first wife, Mary, on September 11, 2001 in the attack on the World Trade Center. He shares his memories of 9/11 and talks about the death of Osama Bin Laden. (May 2, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Marc Wieman lost his wife, Mary Lenz Wieman, 43, on Sept. 11, 2001. She was an insurance marketing executive at Aon Corp., working in the South Tower. Monday, he talked about his life without her, and his reaction to the news of Osama bin Laden's death.

 

Osama bin Laden transformed Marc Wieman's life. Bin Laden's death, after a 10-year manhunt, will not.

"Does this mean now I can turn the page after nine years, seven months and 21 days? No. I'm glad they kept after it but I don't think it makes any difference."

Long ago, Wieman got on with the business of living.

He had to, he said. He raised the three children left motherless by the loss of his wife, Mary Lenz Wieman, on Sept. 11. He worked, and decided to volunteer with his parish, bringing food to shut-ins and helping in the local food pantry. He soldiered through Girl Scout ceremonies, took his son and daughters shopping. And oh, that prom. Eventually, he even remarried.

At his Rockville Centre home Monday, he reflected on his life and on the news that the mastermind of the attack that killed his wife had now himself been killed.

"Is it a good thing that he's dead? Yes. Do I wish they could have captured him and waterboarded him? Yes. Maybe one day for every victim. But I don't understand the V-J Day celebrations. It's not like the war on terror is over. It's not like we're going to stop getting searched at the airports. Yeah, it's a good thing, but nothing's over."

Wieman's second wife, Stephanie Barreda Wieman, "thinks I have a gift for forgetting," he said. "There are things I forget and there are things I could never forget. I don't have to watch TV . . . I could watch those towers fall any time I want. Then there are things you put in a box and you just put it away."

Sept. 11, 2001

Wieman will never forget the song that was playing.

He'd witnessed the collapse of the south tower as he crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on his way to get a train home.

"I have a clear recollection of riding home from the station listening to the radio on 9/11 and they were playing 'Amazing Grace,' the absolutely worst song to hear. I was pretty convinced once I saw the second tower fall that she was dead. You know the way you have nonverbal communication with people you've known forever? Then, after so many days, you can't go on telling the kids she's downstairs in the basement of the World Trade Center eating food from a newsstand. Maybe one of the kids said that to me, maybe she's trapped in the train station eating candy."

His son, Christopher, and daughters Alison and Mary Julia, were 12, 8 and 6 when their mother died. He had a lot of help from their then-nanny and housekeeper, Cheryl Salino, but it fell to him to get their lives back on track.

"I'm very much a creature of routine. . . . So it was a question of establishing the new normal quickly so I would be comfortable and everyone would be comfortable."

"We went to Disney, we went to Paris," he said in an earlier interview. "I never ever wanted to hear that 'we would have done that if Mom were here.' As a result are they spoiled? Probably, but that's a small price to pay."

 

Being dad, and mom

"What I missed most was having someone to talk to about the day," Wieman said. "The graduations, the communions . . . I'd be at the dance recital and Mom's not there, or the Girl Scouts flying-up day and Mom's not there. There were places she should have been. Losing a mom is a different thing than losing a father or husband. . . . The kids, their coping strategy was not dealing with it. They didn't want to go to any of the events, they didn't want to go to the cemetery or to the memorial services. Sometimes I'd make them go, sometimes not. I tried to keep their lives the same, so day to day it was the same life and they had Cheryl, God bless her.

"Then they got to be teenagers, dealing with hormones. That was hard even with Cheryl. It was hard when you're not sharing the load."

He turned to his son Chris, who just turned 22. "Your prom was hard. I had no idea how to pin on a boutonniere. Taking the pictures, in all these pictures with everyone's mom and dad and it's just me. I was the only dad in a roomful of moms previewing the school sex-ed video for girls. I was kind of amused. I try to find the humor in things.

"I don't want to come across as the unhappy guy. I'm not the unhappy guy. Everybody has tragedies and mine isn't any less or more tragic than yours. It's just more public. I had Chris at the doctor and Oprah Winfrey was on the television with Jennifer Aniston's first interview after her breakup with Brad Pitt. Aniston said, 'I don't want to be defined by one event in my life.' I thought she hit the nail on the head."

No body, no wake

"Sometime before Mary died we had a big discussion over dinner at a restaurant about wakes because I hate them, but Mary was a big fan and wanted everyone to come ooh and ahh over [her]. I said, I was more in favor of the Jewish tradition of getting in the ground quickly and sitting shiva. As it turned out, we never got any recovery so there was never any wake. Funny how life turns out. It's not like I'd get closure by having a body. I don't know what that means. I have a cemetery plot but there's nothing there. . . .

"I used to go every month. Since I got married, I go less but I still go. When I have a tough day, I go. It's a nice, quiet place."

 

May 2, 2011

Mary Lenz Wieman loved carousels, and to this day Wieman tells his kids to ride whatever carousel they encounter. When their father finally joined an Internet dating site, he posted two photos of himself: one in a business suit, the other riding a carousel horse, Stephanie said. When he first visited her house, she told him she owned something she thought would surprise him. It was a carving of a little carousel horse. It now sits outside their front door.

Almost two years ago, they married. "I'm not sure anybody who hasn't gone through this can understand entirely what we're going through, but that said, it's nice to have somebody there who cares for and about you. That makes a difference in everyone's life."

Earlier, he had put it this way:

"It's nice to be loved again."

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