Remembering the Heroes

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Stephanie Dunn DeSimone Shares Her Story

My story is one of complete devastation and attempting to rebuild after my loss. CDR Patrick Dunn and I met in Bugsy's, a sports bar in Old Town, Alexandria, September 12, 1997. I was amazed by his spark of life and his ability to talk to anyone. I had never met someone who could talk more than me, until then. He was a delight, and someone I wanted to get to know better. We dated for 18 months before he asked me to marry him, and I said yes.

 We were wed in October 1999 in a beautiful wedding ceremony in Washington, DC. We were surrounded by all of our family and friends and were very excited about our future together. Two weeks later, we were off to Italy for his tour as the Executive Officer of the USS LASALLE.

 Italy was a blast. Lots of fun with the officers, crew of the ship, and their families was had. We learned to accept the fact that we could celebrate anything anytime, since the ship was gone for 191 days of our fourteen-month tour. It was a great time, and one I will always remember fondly.

 In December 2000, we returned to the States and Pat began his tour in the Pentagon. We had chosen this tour because we wanted to start a family and Pat felt he could give our family the devotion he needed to give if he had a duty station such as the Pentagon. It meant no time at sea. Needless to say, start our family we did. In August of 2001, we found out we were pregnant and were due in March of 2002. We were absolutely delighted!

 Morning sickness was never an issue with me, but complete exhaustion was. It seemed for the first 11 weeks of the pregnancy I went to bed at seven every night, while Pat played around in the house and worked on his "Love Me" room, a room full of his plaques and memoirs of his years in the Navy. On September 10, 2001, I had a burst of energy and told Pat I wanted to stay up and watch "Everybody Loves Raymond" with him. I recall thinking to myself that I had never heard Pat laugh so hard at a television show. He was extremely happy and delighted to be sitting with me and our soon-to-be child. One happy family - that was us.

 The next morning, as Pat prepared to leave for work, he made his coffee as usual - adding one ice cube so not to burn his lips while driving - and then he was off. Before walking out the door, he kissed me, kissed our cat and then for the first time, bent down, kissed my stomach and said goodbye to our baby. Off he went in his beat up old Cherokee that he loved so much. That was the last time I saw him.

An hour or so later, Pat called my office and told me to turn on the television because a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. I remember telling him that he had to have been joking, but I soon found out that he wasn't at all. My co-workers and I watched in silence as the news reports gave the gruesome details. All of a sudden, a second plane hit the second tower, and for some reason, we knew this was not an accident. All of us went to work canceling the event for the following day. In the middle of making calls, I arose from my desk to go check out the news reports. That's when I saw it, the Pentagon was ablaze. I screamed, and in my heart, I knew my Patrick was gone.

 I stayed at work, as Pat always promised to come and get me if anything should happen. "Stay where you are and I will be there," he would say. But he never came. So, at 3:00 pm, I left work knowing my life would never be the same.

 I waited and waited by the phone. Family poured in from all over the East Coast, as we all knew Pat was among the Angels and we were just waiting for the official word. At 3:00 am, September 12, 2001, the Navy sent a Casualty Assistance Officer, a Command Representative and a Chaplain to my home to give me the news that Pat was missing. All we could do was wait. Four days later, my husband was declared dead, as his remains had been found and recovered. He was gone.

 For the next six months, I did everything I could to keep myself happy, as I was afraid the baby would be affected by the events. The doctors and nurses at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD were the best they could be, making sure both the little one and I were in good health.

 On March 15, 2002, I delivered our daughter into this world. She had red hair just like her father and was just perfect. Now each night before we go to bed, we say our prayers and ask God to bless Daddy in Heaven. And I know He does. 

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