Lorisa Taylor and her husband, Frank, celebrated their seventh anniversary on Sept. 10. It was a quiet, homey affair, in contrast with the previous Saturday, when they got a baby-sitter for their three daughters and went dancing to mark the occasion. Taylor, 31, loved dancing to R&B.; She danced so much that night that she had to take her shoes off to walk back to the car.
So on the day of their anniversary proper, Lorisa picked up a DVD to watch, and Frank came home with cake and champagne. They passed out sparkling cider to the girls - Tatiana, 11, Imani, 4, and Cyann, 3, - so they could join in the party. 'We toasted to seven years, and we toasted to just having our little family,' her husband said.
From her children to her burgeoning career, Taylor had a lot to celebrate. An aggressive businesswoman, she enjoyed the challenges of her job at Marsh & McLennan, where she tailored personal insurance plans to the needs of a high-end clientele of wealthy individuals and families. 'She didn't like getting stagnant,' said her mother, Geneva Dunbar. 'She was a woman who knew what she wanted to do.'
Taylor's determined nature manifested itself early. She was a tomboy who loved baseball and played it with the boys, both in the streets of Flatbush and as a slugger with the Marine Park Little League. 'As a teenager she was headstrong,' said Dunbar. 'My husband would tell her to do one thing, and she would do the opposite.'
After attending the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Morrisville, she returned to Flatbush and took a job as a broker in Manhattan. But money wasn't what drove Taylor. She treasured her relationships. 'I bent over backwards to make my wife happy,' said her husband, 'and the gift she gave me back was unconditional love. There was nothing left undone between me and her.'
Outgoing and affectionate, she was always reaching out to people, he said. Where other adults would cross the street to avoid the groups of teenagers hanging on the corner, Taylor would just walk on by and say hello. 'She got a kick out of it,' said her husband. 'The kids on the block loved her.'
At home, Taylor enjoyed spending time with her daughters and made frequent visits to her mother, who lived just eight blocks away. 'She would come in the door with that big smile and greet me with a kiss,' Dunbar said.
The couple was running late on Sept. 11, so Taylor insisted on walking to the subway while her husband dropped the girls off at school. Taylor leaned into the family van to distribute hugs and kisses, giving her husband a peck on the cheek. 'Get back over here and give me a real kiss,' he told her, and she did.
Taylor rode the subway into Manhattan with her mother that day. Dunbar had been out of town on vacation for a week, so her daughter filled her in on all the anniversary festivities before getting off at the World Trade Center to head up to her job on the 94th floor of the north tower. Less than an hour later, the first plane slammed into the building.
The family initially tried to shield Taylor's three daughters from the truth, a difficult job given the ubiquity of footage from the attacks. 'My little 4-year-old ... saw on TV,' Frank Taylor told ABC News the day after the attacks. 'She knows something happened to Mommy's building.'
In the days that followed, Taylor's husband and parents plastered New York with 'missing' fliers. The posters yielded more media inquiries than information about her whereabouts. Atfirst the attention was welcomed: Dunbar appeared on 'America's Most Wanted,' and pictures of her daughter made the front page of papers as far away as Minneapolis. But as time passed with no word of Taylor's whereabouts, Dunbar found that the sight of her daughter's face popping up unexpectedly on TV and in print only made it worse.
'If she was sick, it would have been easier,' Dunbar said of her daughter's disappearance, 'because I would have known it was coming.' It is the suddenness of the loss that tears at her. 'I rode the train with her that day, not knowing that less than an hour later ...' said Dunbar, her voice trailing off.
Now the family is struggling to adjust to a new routine dictated by tragedy. Dunbar took a leave of absence from her job at the MTA so that she can come over in the mornings and help get the children ready for school. She and her son-in-law are both busy planning for the Nov. 10 memorial service to be held at 10 a.m. at Vanderveer Park United Methodist Church in East Flatbush.
Frank Taylor plans to give a speech celebrating his wife's life at a reception after the service at the Marriott in downtown Brooklyn at 3 p.m.
'I don't think she would want me to speak about her so much as to speak for her,' he said. 'She would want people to look at their ways and realize that it's not all about money, that sometimes it's about making other people happy first.'
Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.