"He's Still Here": A 9/11 Wife On Love's Endless Bond


9/11 widow
Author Bonnie McEneaney shares hope from beyond, as well as love lessons for all women and couples.

Indeed Eamon was still finding ways to stay in touch with his wife, and her awareness of his pure, kind nature grew more evident than ever before. Like most married couples, Bonnie says that after 19 years and four kids together, she and Eamon had reached a point in their marriage where they'd grown so comfortable that it was easy to forget how valuable the other's presence was. But a decade after her husband's passing, Bonnie says she feels more connected to him than ever. "After a person is gone, you suddenly start to realize things about them that you never realized before." Bonnie learned from Eamon's friends and colleagues that he'd ushered people in his office out of the World Trade Center in the 1993 bombing and that he'd regularly taken a homeless man to lunch. She also feels that the very trial of losing Eamon in the physical sense brought their spirits closer together, and she says she's learned that a successful love is very much like living as an individual: it's facing what seems impossible that makes you stronger together. 

Meanwhile, there's a lot we can all learn from a woman whose bond with her husband actually grew after he passed during the most tragic event most Americans have ever lived through. For women in long-term relationships, Bonnie McEneaney's advice is to appreciate their partners every day. "Make sure you don't take your situation for granted," she says. For marriages that have hit something more serious than a temporary rut, she urges couples to consider every possible alternative to splitting. "Identify why and work hard to resolve that issue. Only if you can't resolve it should you identify what steps you have to take. I think we quit too quickly."

Bonnie knew Eamon in college as a friend before they began dating in 1982 (they married four years later), and she has a lesson about love for single women too. "Have confidence in yourself, and be patient," she says. "When you meet someone new, don't be overly critical right off the bat because it takes a little bit of time for that person to let their guard down enough for you to get to know them. You may or may not really know what you want in a person. Patience is important."

Today, McEneaney says her children—now ages 16 to 22—have served as her greatest source of strength over the last 10 years. How did she mother her children through their dad's death? "No matter how bad you feel, you've got to be strong for them," she says. "It's certainly okay to show emotion because you want your children to know how much you loved the person you lost, but remember: your kids are depending on you now. You're it."

In moments when Bonnie needed a little extra support in parenting, extended family came through. "My kids are very fortunate because my husband comes from a big Irish family. When my husband couldn't be at their soccer games or to see them in their first play because he was no longer with us, his brothers and sisters were always there. That's love and the bond of family."

How does the attention on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 affect a woman who lost her husband on that day? Bonnie reveals she's already had the privilege to visit the 9/11 Memorial twice (it opens on September 11). "People should always remember what happened and these innocent lives that were taken so needlessly," Bonnie says. "The 9/11 Memorial will be the perfect setting for people to reflect for generations to come."

And while she prefers not to comment on her current romantic status, Bonnie McEneaney says the whole point of her story is this: "Love is the strongest force in the universe, and just because a person dies doesn't mean they're gone forever. They may be gone in the physical sense, but love keeps you connected. Love is strong enough to transcend any divide—even the boundary between love and death." 

BIO will air a special based on Bonnie McEneaney's book, Messages: Signs, Visits, and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11 on Saturday, September 10 at 10 p.m. EST. Learn more about Messages at the book's Facebook page.