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Remembering September 11

Article - Sunday, September 11, 2011
One decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001, 10 people pay tribute to loved ones lost and share the unique, enduring ways in which they celebrate their lives.

Real Simple Magazine, September 2011

Photo by Gareth McConnell

“I Go Bowling.”

Akilah Jefferson | 33 | Suitland, Maryland
Her uncle, Robert Russell, 52, worked as a military-budget supervisory analyst. He was on the first floor of the Pentagon when the building was struck.

When I was growing up, Bobby, my mother’s eldest brother, helped raise me, even though he already had three kids of his own. Uncle Bobby taught me my times tables when I was little, and when I was older, he helped me choose which college to attend. Besides my grandfather, Uncle Bobby was the most important man in my life.

Bobby worked in the Pentagon, putting together the U.S. Army’s annual budget. At the end of every fiscal year, he would throw a big bash at his house for his staff. By the first weekend in September 2001, they still hadn’t completed their work, but for some reason Bobby broke with tradition and held the party anyway.

That was the last time I saw him: happily serving platters of blue crab to his coworkers and chatting everyone up. A few days later, he was gone. I grieved for months before I reminded myself that Bobby wouldn’t want me to be sad. And so in 2003 I decided to honor his memory by taking up one of the activities he loved most—bowling.

I had never bowled more than a 30, but it quickly became one of my favorite hobbies. (I even bought my kids, now ages 7 and 5, their own bowling balls and shoes.)

Everyone in my extended family had relied on Bobby to bring us together for dinners and parties. After 9/11, we retreated to our separate corners. But when I asked relatives to bowl with me, they did—and stories about Bobby tumbled out: “Remember that time we went crabbing with Uncle Bobby?” “Remember how he took us to New York City?” We laughed again at his favorite jokes.

This September 11, more than 30 of my relatives—including my mother’s three remaining siblings and Bobby’s wife and kids—will be together. We’ll attend the Pentagon’s memorial service, and afterward we’ll go bowling. I know Bobby would approve.

To read the other nine stories, click here.