I knew that it was important to keep Jeff alive for my girls, to give them information about their father, so they would know his likes and dislikes, and what he might have said or done in different situations. Jeff and I loved to travel, and whenever we traveled anywhere, I would tell our girls how pleased Daddy would be with their adventurous nature. “Mommy and Daddy wanted to have good travelers,” I would say. Sometimes, even now, when my daughters and I are exploring a walled medieval city in Europe, I turn to them and repeat that phrase, to make them smile.
Most importantly, I made sure my daughters knew that without a doubt their father tried very, very hard to escape the towers and come home to them, and to me. “Daddy wanted to be with us,” I told the girls. Once, when Maggie was not yet 3 years old, she explained to her ten-month-old sister, “He ran very fast, but smoke got in his mouth.” As much as it pained me to teach my girls the truth, I did it. They needed to know how much he loved them, and how much he wanted to come home. “He was killed, Charlotte,” Maggie said.
Despite what Jeff told me that day on the sailboat, I never remarried. I never had any desire except one: to ensure that my daughters grew into the best versions of themselves, not hindered in any way by the fact that the terrorists killed their father when they were babies. I believe I succeeded: Maggie is now 20 and studying abroad in Belgium this semester, and Charlotte is, at 18, a college freshman. The girls are in the throes of their college careers, as planned, and I find myself living alone again for the first time since 1996.