Monday, September 11, 2006

To the Lovers Who Awaken Each Morning Without Their Gay Patriot & Hero Beside Them

Note: I set out to do some research on gay people who perished on September 11, 2001 and came across a website that had pretty much done what I was getting ready to do, so I figured I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, so I have borrowed heavily from here. It seems especially appropriate today to recognize some of the gay and lesbian Americans who died 5 years ago today.

Among the openly Gay people known dead at the World Trade Center is New York Fire Department Catholic chaplain Father Mychal Judge. Judge, 68, was killed while ministering to a fallen firefighter at Ground Zero. Judge's helmet was presented to the Pope, and Judge was chosen Grand Marshal of the 2002 Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. There is also an initiative to elevate Fr. Mychal to sainthood. In June 2002, the president signed the Mychal Judge Act, granting federal money to certain survivors of victims of 9/11, including same-sex partners.

Mark Bingham, 31, a Gay passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, helped to thwart the plane's hijackers. September 16 is officially designated Mark Bingham Day in San Francisco.

40-year-old Carol Flyzik's plane, American Airlines Flight 11, never made it to California. It was the first of two to crash into the World Trade Center. Flyzik, who was a registered nurse and a member of the Human Rights Campaign, is survived by Nancy Walsh, her partner of nearly 13 years.

David Charlebois, the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, was openly Gay, the Washington Blade reported. Charlebois was a member of the National Gay Pilots Association. Charlebois is survived by Tom Hay, his partner of almost 13 years.

Graham Berkeley, 37, a native of England who lived in Boston, boarded United Airlines Flight 175 on Sept. 11 on his way to a conference in Los Angeles. He died when the plane became the second hijacked airliner to crash into the World Trade Center. -- Washington Blade

Pamela J. Boyce, 43, is only one of several dozen World Trade Center workers who have officially been confirmed dead. Boyce, a resident of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, worked on the 92nd floor of One World Trade Center as assistant vice president of accounting for the New York office of Carr Futures. She is survived by her partner Catherine Anello.

A Gay couple on their way home to Los Angeles from Boston were killed when United Airlines Flight 175 was hijacked Tuesday and crashed into the second tower of New York's World Trade Center. Ronald Gamboa, 33, and his partner of 13 years, Dan Brandhorst, 42, were traveling with their 3-year-old adopted son, David. Brandhorst and Gamboa were founding members of the Pop Luck Club, an L.A. organization for Gay men interested in adopting children. -- planetout.com

James Joe Ferguson, 39, director of geography education outreach for the National Geographic Society, was on American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. Ferguson was traveling on a National Geographic-sponsored educational field trip to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off Santa Barbara, Calif.

41-year-old John Keohane was at work near the World Trade Center when the planes hit. He was killed by falling debris. Keohane worked at One Liberty Plaza near the World Trade Center and died when the towers collapsed. After the planes hit the Trade Center towers, Keohane met Mike Lyons, his partner of 17 years, on the street, and called his mother from his cell phone. "They were just in the streets like everybody else," Keohane’s sister, Darlene Keohane, told The San Francisco Chronicle. "As he was talking, he had thought a third plane crashed into the building." What Keohane thought was a third crash was really the collapse of the South tower of the World Trade Center. While Lyons survived, Keohane was killed by falling debris. Tragically, Lyons committed suicide March 1, 2002, on his 41st birthday.

Sheila Hein, 51, was working for the U.S. Army’s management and budget office in the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into it. Peggy Neff is Hein's partner of 18 years. Virginia's Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund administrators refused to accept the couple were anything but "friends." However, in January 2003, "the federal government's 9-11 Compensation Fund approved what is said to be the first payment to [Neff], a person in a gay relationship whose partner was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." -- 365Gay.com

"Roxy Eddie" Ognibene, a beloved member of the Renegades of New York's Big Apple Softball League, was tragically lost in the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack. He worked as a bond trader for Keefe, Bruyette & Woods on the 89th floor of WTC 2. -- Jerry Rosco, Renegades for Outsports.com

Larry Courtney and Eugene Clark were partners for 11 years. Clark, 47, worked for Aon Consulting on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center's south tower. Clark sent Courtney a voice message: "I'm OK. The plane hit the other tower. And we're evacuating." Clark is still missing. -- Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos (advocate.com)

Bill Randolph's lover of 26 years, Wesley Mercer, 70, is among three security personnel from Morgan Stanley still missing in the World Trade Center rubble. Mercer, who was vice president of corporate security, was drinking coffee on the ground floor of the WTC when the first plane hit. He rushed to the 44th floor to supervise the evacuation of employees. All 3,700 employees escaped harm. Then Mercer, a decorated Army veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, returned to the 44th floor to make sure no one was left behind. Unlike other surviving partners, Mr. Randolph is not eligible for the full range of benefits, from pensions to Social Security payments to special memorial funds available to victims of Sept. 11. -- advocate.com

Luke A. Dudek, 50, was the food and beverage controller at Windows on the World. Dudek is survived by his partner of 20 years, George Cuellar. Cuellar said his partner loved Cuellar's flower business so much that after years of renting space, this year they bought their own property for the business. He said Dudek spent a week of vacation in September completing renovations. Dudek's first day back to work in New York was Sept. 11. He died in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Since Sept. 11, friends of Michael Lepore, 39, a project analyst at Marsh & McLennon, have been pruning his rosebushes, clearing wayward ivy off stone walls, planting bulbs for next spring. It is the perfect act of kindness, said Mr. Lepore's partner of 18 years, David O'Leary. Their house and garden in Yonkers had been Mr. Lepore's pride and joy and are now Mr. O'Leary's primary source of comfort. -- The New York Times via H. S. Levine, NYC

John Winter and his lover William Anthony Karnes, 37, lived within sight of Karnes' office at Marsh & McLennon on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center Tower One. Walking to the office together, the couple had timed the "commute" at just 11 minutes. On the morning of September 11, Karnes, who went by "Tony," left for his office at about 8:30. At 8:45, Winter heard what sounded like a calamitous thunder clap. When he looked out his apartment window, he could already see his future. Karnes was killed in that morning's tragedy. In dealing with the aftermath, Winter says that he was "fortunate [in having] a good relationship with Tony's family in Knoxville." -- Paul Schindler (lgny.com)

New York resident Tom Miller lost his partner Seamus O'Neal in the World Trade Center attack. "I did not have the luxury of grieving without having to defend myself and prove who I am and who we were," Miller said. "If down the road anyone can be spared that torture, that would be excellent," he said -- Dan Kerman, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network

Elba Cedeno lost her partner of six years, Catherine Smith, 44, who worked on the 97th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers. They both had wills, which will ease the process of Cedeno taking sole ownership of their home. But Cedeno said she is angry that she will not qualify to receive any of Smith's Social Security benefits. "This was my soul mate. We planned to live the rest of our lives together and retire together," Cedeno said. -- AP via contaxguide.com

Emergency aid kept Margaret Cruz afloat after the loss of her partner of 18 years, Patricia McAneney. Ms. Cruz documented her finanacially interdependent partnership and prevailed with the Crime Victim's Board, the Red Cross and the New York State charitable fund. A total of $80,000 went to Ms. Cruz. McAneney, 50, was the fire marshal of her floor of 1 World Trade Center, where she worked for the insurance company Guy Carpenter. -- Jane Gross via Lucy at fiancesof911.com

Waleska Martinez, 37, a computer whiz in the Census Bureau's New York office, was aboard flight 93 that crashed outside Shanksville, PA. In his book, Among the Heroes, Jere Longman "unobtrusively quotes [Angela Lopez, her] same-sex partner." Lopez said, "She was my longtime companion, best friend and soul mate." -- NY Times Book Review, 9-8-02, p. 13.

Renee Barrett, injured in the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, died on October 18 of her injuries. Barrett was a member of [the Gay] Metropolitan Community Church of New York. She leaves behind her life partner Enez Cooper and her 18-year-old son, Eddie, who lived with them. Renee was an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald, and was in Tower 1 at the time of the attacks. Though critically burned she escaped the building prior to its collapse, and had been hospitalized at Cornell-Presbyterian Hospital.

Francis S. Coppola, a New York City detective whose partner, a firefighter named Eddie, died in the attacks, summed up the bipolar feelings many GLBT people have had about Sept. 11. "I have never been more proud of being an American or a New Yorker, but at the same time it has made me sad. The greatest country in the world, and yet we are treated like second-class citizens.... The great love of my life died doing what he did best and what he loved to do: helping others. I have never been an activist or ever wanted to be one; however, it is time we stand up and be counted and demand equality -- nothing more or nothing less." -- Tom Musbach, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network

And sadly, most of the gay widows and widowers would soon face a tangle of legal obstacles over inheritance rights and a first-of-its-kind victim compensation program offered by the federal government that would complicate their lives and, in many cases, add to their grief.


As the days went by, we learned that some of the missing rescue personnel were gay, and that many of their lovers, some of whom are cops and fire fighters, were grieving in silence for fear of outing them. There were also gay cops that lost family members that were rescue personnel. We all learned too quickly and in too cruel a way that the closet is a terrible place to grieve... -- Edgar Rodriguez, NYPD (in the former Lesbian & Gay New York)

Matt Foreman, former executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, says advocates have already identified 24 surviving partners from the Trade Center attack, and believe that there may be as many as 50 in total, based on surveys about gay and lesbian participation in long term relationships. -- Paul Schindler in Lesbian & Gay New York

On September 11, 2001 we were not black, white, gay, straight, Republican, or Democrat, we were Americans. Sadly, this was not true for some people. There were those whose homophobia and profound hatred transcended even the sorrow and horror that united everyone else that day. For these people the tragedy of 9/11 presented a golden opportunity to yet again display their grotesque and twisted worldview of those who are gay. Unfortunately for them it actually highlighted for sane Americans just how unhinged and hateful they truly are:

Before a television congregation, Jerry Falwell offered up his credo: "I really believe that ... gays and lesbians ... helped this happen." Pat Robertson seconded the motion, "Well, I totally concur." -- Ellen Goodman, Washington Post

Rev. bigot Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the ... Traditional Values Coalition, urged relief agencies working in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedies to withhold assistance to surviving partners of Gay people who died. -- pfaw.org

On March 9, 2002, Rev. Fred Phelps and followers from his Westboro Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas, picketed in New York City at 9 Metro Tech Center, Brooklyn. Their target: the "fag ridden" New York Fire Department, which Phelps says brought down the wrath of God upon itself September 11. -- Queer Mail via J. Steakley


Gay domestic partners are "left out of my program...Otherwise I would find myself getting sued in every state...I can't get into that local battle." -- Kenneth Feigberg, discussing the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund -- via John Aravosis

But thankfully, while you had the Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, Lou Sheldons, and Fred Phelpses yapping hate, there were also those who were not afraid to speak truth to bigotry. One such person was Scott Simon:

Referring to Mark Bingham, a Gay rugby player and hero of Flight 93, National Public Radio commentator Scott Simon asked,

"If your plane was hijacked, who would you rather sit next to? Righteous reverends who will sit back and say, 'This is God's punishment for gay Teletubbies,' or the gay rugby player who lays down his life to save others?"

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