Family Tribute: On September 11, 2001 our lives were forever shattered. My wife Susan Clyne was on the 96th floor of tower no.1. I spoke to her last at 7:15 that morning, as was our ritual each day. It was the last time we spoke. Time has stood still since that day. The kids and I are still in a fog trying to cope with the senselessness of it all.
Sue loved her job at Marsh and loved the view from her 96th Floor office. She had just recently been promoted to SVP and she deserved it. She went to school nights after high school to get her degrees. After graduating in three years she set her sights on Law School all the while working a full time job. She graduated Law School and passed the NYS bar on the first try. She never stepped foot into a courtroom. She loved computers and since computer law wasn’t very popular at the time, she choose to stay in insurance where she carved her niche first as a programmer (self taught) then up the ladder to manager, AVP, VP, and SVP.
She continued going to night school for her MBA. She was upset that she could not graduate before the birth of our twins in 1990. However, as soon as she felt up to the task she completed her MBA just before the birth of our second son in 1991. Did I mention that she loved computers? She also shared her love with our kids. She would mesmerize them with cd roms of Mickey starting with shapes and colors then on to pre 'K' cd’s, math blaster reader rabbit etc. They could work a mouse by the time they were two and were programming by the time they were six. Her education didn’t stop with three children. She continued on for various certifications all pertaining to computers until the birth of our last child in 1997. Another change took place in the late 90’s.Marsh continued to expand and decided to lease space at the World Trade Center. She was thrilled to move.
She let education take a back seat for a while by taken home study courses for her CPCU. She juggled work, family and studying. Her children were her treasures. She adored them and they worshipped her. Her office was filled with their pictures. She developed a family web site (www.clyne.com) with pictures, slide shows and most recently streaming video. They were truly her angels.
Sue got up every morning at 4:45 and was on the 6:00 train to the city. We never saw her that morning. We never even had a chance to say good-bye. In an instant, some radical religious moron decided it was her time.Getting One Last Message to Their Mom
Charlie Clyne of Lindenhurst works for H2M Group (the Melville engineering firm formerly known as Holzmacher, McLendon & Murrell, P.C.). He had just inspected a water tank and was getting ready to leave the job site at 9 a.m.on Sept. 11, when telephones started ringing and people began talking excitedly and anxiously about what they could scarcely believe was happening.
'After that,' he said, 'there was nothing else but news of this plane flying into Tower Number One. They said it hit high up, somewhere in the middle ofthe 90s.' Clyne knew that his wife, Susan, worked in Tower One, and on the 96th floor. At first, he felt that he should get himself into the city immediately. Then, he thought: 'Get to the schools. Get the kids, so theydon’t hear about this at lunch or something.'
He picked up the twins at the Lindenhurst Middle School and took his fifth-grade son out of the Alleghany School next door. Middle School principal Carl San Fillippo was going to try to convince Clyne that his kids would be safer in the school, '...but the expression on his face told methat he already knew something,' San Fillippo said. 'When I got them home,'Clyne said, 'I told them what had happened and I said, ’We have no word, but it doesn’t look good.’ By that time, the second tower had collapsed. I tried to keep them away from the television, but it was impossible. We watched the towers come down, over and over. My sister, Cathy Cretella, was there.
'We knew it was very bad, unless for some reason, she [Susan] was downstairs,' he said. Clyne held out scant hopes of that. Susan Clyne was asenior vice president at Marsh & McLennan, the largest insurance company in the world. A computer analyst in charge of global software design, she most likely would have been in the office.
Clyne and Susan Marie Dietrich had met on a blind date in Massapequa in 1985. Dietrich, then 27, was living in Huntington. Among the memories they learned they shared were those of respective childhoods in Queens. Clyne,then 30, had lived in Cambria Heights before his family moved to Massapequa; Dietrich had grown up in Whitestone.
They married two years after they met, on June 6, 1987, and soon after that bought a house in Lindenhurst. Their first pregnancy resulted in twins, Mikeand Marie, now 11, who were followed by Kevin, 10, who has freckles and already is taller than Mike and appears to relish that; and then, Timothy,4.
Mike and Kevin are masters of the computer (Mike has his own Web site and just completed a sixth-grade computer course in Lindenhurst Middle School,where he served more as a teacher’s assistant than a student). Marie, by comparison, is merely an expert at working on a computer. When asked recently how many computers they have, Mike and Marie looked at each other, barely perceptibly counting on fingertips. They then nodded silently inagreement and answered together: 'Seven.' They were excluding from the obsolete computers in the basement and three or four laptops. They attributed their love, knowledge and passion for computers to their mother.
'Susan was a genius,' Clyne said recently. 'She went through a finance degree from C.W. Post. After that, she worked for a while as an insurance adjustor, and while she was working there, she got annoyed at the attitude of some of the attorneys who called her office. So, she decided she would become a lawyer. She went to [the] Touro law school at night for three years and graduated with a law degree. She passed the bar exam on the first try.She was admitted to the bar in 1988, but she never set foot in a courtroombecause by that time, computers were becoming more and more mainstream, and she just loved computers. She had an Atari way back in the ’70s, and shejust loved everything about computers.'
In the Clyne household, computers dominated the days following the World Trade Center attacks. At 3 p.m. that Tuesday afternoon, Clyne received an e-mail from a former co-worker of Susan’s who said her name had shown up ona 'safe' list, an accounting of company employees who had been spotted aliveand well in the disaster’s aftermath. Clyne didn’t want to tell the kidsuntil he verified it, but Mike and Kevin had found the same information onthe Internet anyway. They said, 'Dad, Dad, Mom’s safe!'
At 3 a.m. Wednesday ('Nobody slept that night,' Clyne said), they learned that the person who had 'seen' Susan Clyne really had only heard of her sighting from someone else, who had heard it from someone else. 'We spent 12 hours calling numbers and writing new phone numbers on the kitchen cabinets: agencies, hospitals, emergency lines. The numbers are all still penciled into the cabinets. I went into the city almost every day for a week and ahalf, just like everyone else, visiting everyplace, asking everyone. Thekids were devastated. They told me later that each night, they thought I wasgoing to surprise them and come home with Mom.
'On the Thursday and Friday after the towers came down, they asked if I thought writing letters to Mom would be a good idea, for when she came home.I said it would be a great idea. They wrote notes. They cut out hearts. They drew pictures. The ideas and thoughts came straight from their souls. By Friday of the second week, when hopes were dim, I went to bed, and when Igot up, they had made this absolutely beautiful, gift-wrapped package, withall the notes inside, and they asked, ’How do we get it to her, now thatshe’s not coming home?’ And Kevin says, ’Balloons.’
'Saturday, we went down to the beach at Robert Moses State Park with 50 or60 helium balloons. As physics would have it, the balloons wouldn’t lift thebox, so they had to modify the idea. They attached the notes and letters with their thoughts and hopes to individual balloons, and we watched those balloons fly away, and it was wonderful.'
People in Lindenhurst and at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic parish andin the school system donated time, energy, money and so much food to theClynes that some of it almost went bad. Clyne was deeply moved and awash ingratitude but said he didn’t want the money. His brother, Pat, who had driven north from Key West, Fla., beginning the day after the attacks, suggested a memorial fund, and the kids jumped at the idea. They would collect money in their mother’s name and buy computers for those in the school district who couldn’t afford them.
'Every dime we get,' Clyne said, 'I want to go into this fund,' which the district is overseeing. On Dec.9, the village is co-sponsoring a Susan M.Clyne memorial 5K run/walk and a number of different events. Said Clyne: 'Iwant to do everything I can to keep her memory alive.'
For information about the run, call Lindenhurst Village Hall at 631-957-7500 or go there for an application. Contributions may be sent to the Susan M.Clyne Memorial Foundation, c/o Lindenhurst Village Hall, 430 South WellwoodAve., Lindenhurst, N.Y. 11757.
(c) 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.www.newsday.com