9/11 REMEMBERED: Eileen Rice, everyday hero

Lesli Rice was a 20-year-old Ridgeite attending ConnecticutCollege on September 11, 2001. Two weeks prior, she had had afalling-out with her mother, Eileen, an administrative assistantfor Marsh & McLennan, an investment firm located on the 99thfloor of the World Trade Center’s north tower.

It was 9:27 and my phone rang, Rice, who now lives in NewJersey with a five-year-old son, recalled. I lay in my bed and waslike, ‘God, I really hope it’s not my mom. I really don’t want totalk to her now.’

But something made her pick up to answer a call from a friendstudying in Australia for the semester. She said that the WorldTrade Center had been hit by a plane, Rice said. It took me asecond to process what she was saying to me. All of a sudden Ithought, ‘Oh my God, my mom works there!’ I knew she was dead;somehow I just knew.

Sadly, Rice was right. Eileen Rice’s remains were found and herfamily was officially notified in early January, 2002.

We had her cremated and she sits on top of the bookshelf in myliving room, Rice said, noting that she set up candles around theurn. When I decorate for each holiday, I decorate around it so sheis a part of it.

Rice has been to therapy and has come to terms with hersituation. Now it is what it is – I am used to it, she said. Ihave told my story a lot; it’s kind of cathartic and it’s importantnot to lose that memory.

Rice said her mom Rice — who loved to entertain, read and wasvery involved in her parish. St. Anselm’s — would not have wantedher to mourn. I knew that my mom would want me to celebrate lifeand move on, she said.

Rice does not visit the World Trade Center site but, since sheworks in the construction business, one of the project managers atGround Zero gave her a piece of rock from the quarry that wasdiscovered there.

It’s a touchstone for me, she said. If I’m ever depressed, Ihold it and feel connected to her that way.

Rice said that her mom was not a hero like the first responderswho died responding to the attack but that shouldn’t take away fromher story. She was just there doing her job, she said. My momactually went to work early that day to make extra money to live abetter life.

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