Mom of September 11th victim reflects on loss ahead of 9/11 memorial and museum

Liverpool mom Donna Marsh O'Connor lost her daughter, Vanessa Lang Langer, on September 11th, 2001. Vanessa worked on the 93rd floor of the South Tower.

O'Connor was in Toronto the morning of September 11, 2001. "My cell phone rang, and my brother-in-law sort of ended the world," O'Connor said as she recounted that morning.

Vanessa was pregnant at the time she died. Her pregnancy is a reminder to O'Connor of how much time has lapsed. "It's the constant reminder that there should be a 13-year-old person in our lives," said O'Connor.

O'Connor said the last 13 years have felt like 15 minutes, and that she is always, in some way, tied to Lower Manhattan.

"Families of 9/11 never really leave Ground Zero," O'Connor explained. "You're rubber banded to it. So, you know, you can just walk away from it. But then there are these things that happen that pull you right back."

Among the events that pull families back is the opening of the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. The museum opens to the public on May 21, but is open this week for victims' families and first responders.

O'Connor has been debating making the trip, not because she is concerned about emotionally handling the visit, but because she questions how well the museum is representing the true story of September 11th.

"Where the bones and the ashes of people still live, still exist, comes to mean 'Yay, America, look how resilient we are,' " said O'Connor. "And not the complex picture of all the people from many countries who died that day."

O'Connor, a writing professor at Syracuse University, is now memorializing September 11th in her own way, by writing a collection of essays as a way to understand the events and heal.