In Memory of my Aunt Jean, Eugenia McCann Piantieri
September 11, 2001 is a day nobody will forget. I think everyone can tell you where they were, how they found out and what emotions they felt that tragic day. I know I remember it like it’s yesterday. I remember every detail from that morning. My Aunt Jean was on the 97th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At first I comforted myself with the thought she wouldn’t be at work yet. She just couldn’t be, I kept telling myself. She and I just had a conversation a few weeks before during her visit to California about how we both arrived to work around 9am. But I quickly found out she had gone into the office earlier that day for a project she was working on. My heart sank. I was in shock and disbelief. We never heard from her again. My family and I lost my Aunt in the 9/11 attacks.
Over the past 10 years since 9/11 there have been many days I recall the details and the intense emotions I felt during the entire experience. It was a roller-coaster to say the least. The anger has passed and now what I feel the most is that I miss her. I have chosen to focus on the happy memories I have of my Aunt Jean up until 2001. In my mind this is how you move on so the painful memories and emotions don’t overtake the positive. When I think about my Aunt now, I find myself smiling or laughing thinking of these things. I wanted to write this to share some of those memories and to honor her. I guess this is my own little tribue to my Aunt on this 10-year anniversary and I hope somehow she knows that.
When I was growing up I looked up to my Aunt Jean in so many ways. You know how people have their favorite Aunt or Uncle? My Aunt was that to me. I remember wanting to be just like her in everything she did when I was a little girl. I really admired her. I always felt a kinship and closeness with her. It started when I was a little girl and remained that way as I got older.
My Aunt Jean had a very classy style and way about her. One of my favorite memories is when I was a little girl and my Aunt would be putting on her make-up and doing her hair getting ready for a family gathering at our house. I’d plop myself down next to her in the bathroom and just stare in awe while she applied her mascara, her signature bright red lipstick, blush and eyeshadow. I’d beg her to put make up on me too so I could look just like her. I even remember her putting in her contact lenses one time and I told her I wanted to wear them too, obviously because she was. She laughed out loud with that contagious laugh of hers and patiently explained to me I didn’t need to wear them and should be happy about that. Then there was her jewelery. My Aunt Jean and Aunt Ginger, both of my Dad’s sisters, wore these gold bangles. They were like part of their body. You never saw them without them. Sometimes I’d get to put on the bangles myself and get my makeup done just like hers. I loved it. Nine times out of ten I’d walk out of that bathroom with a little bright red lipstick, rouge and blue eyeshadow.
Another time when I was a bit older she had me over for the weekend to her apartmnet. That was like Christmas to me! I got to have my own special time with Aunt Jean with nobody else around and that was simply wonderful. I remember the two of us sitting on the living room floor of her apartment while she showed me her artwork. She was a very talented artist and did some beautiful pieces. I recall her being quite humble about them even though in my eyes they were absolutely amazing. The next day she drove me home in her silver Mazda RX-7 which was like a little sports car. I loved her car and thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread! Of course I decided I wanted one also when I was old enough to drive. My Dad was working for Volvo at the the time and the only car his daughter was going to drive for safety reasons was a Volvo so no surprise that I never ended up in a Mazda RX-7.
As years passed and we lived in different parts of the country and world, Aunt Jean and I kept in touch through cards, phone calls and eventually email when it replaced letters. She’d send me meaningful quotes and little things like that she wanted to share with me. Not long before 9/11 she sent me a version of “The Paradox of Our Time.” I loved it when I first read it and it means even more to me now because of my Aunt.
What I remember most about my Aunt Jean was her big, beautiful smile and laugh. She had one of those smiles and laughs that lit up a room. If you met her, you loved her. She had that type of personality. She was intelligent, driven and successful in her career. She had a wonderful sense of humor. I remember her looking glamorous in all black and the animal print scarves she loved so much. She was very caring and loving, especially to her nieces and nephews. I loved how she called me her little princess and she’d sing that song “K-K-K Katy” to me. I could go on and on.
I miss my Aunt very much. At times I find myself wondering what our conversations would be like now if she was still here. What advice she would have given me over the past ten years the times I would have gone to her about my career, moving overseas, relationships or just life? When I’m faced with big decisions in my life I think of her, what she would say to me and how she would handle it. I find it gives me strength and comfort. I know she’s watching over me.
On this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and my Aunt Jean’s death I am writing this in her honor, as a tribute to her. I love you and miss you Aunt Jean. We will never forget.