Just as they've done every year since 2006, when the county created its memorial to the 109 Westchester residents who died on Sept. 11, 2001, Rani and Brad Walz will head to "The Rising" at Kensico Dam Plaza on this 10th anniversary of the terror attacks.
They'll step inside the 109 intertwined steel cables that soar 80 feet up into the sky and release handfuls of balloons in memory of their husband and father, Jeff. The Walzes always go with another family whose dad worked at the financial firm Sandler O'Neill in the World Trade Center.
"We write messages like, 'I love you' on the balloons and also stuff going on in my life," Brad Walz says.
Otherwise, the anniversary will be just like any other late-summer Sunday. "I try to keep it as normal a day as possible," Rani says. "I don't let him (Brad) stay home on 9/11."
The Walzes are doing OK, Rani says, immersed in all the day-to-day things that 13-year-old boys do - Little League games, homework, video games, shopping for sports gear, going to classmates' bar mitzvahs.
"All these years later, you're still in the same place in so many ways - and then you're not," she says.
No remains of Jeff were ever recovered - only a burned piece of his fireman's helmet was found. Officials knew it was his by the faint trace of his badge number: 5715.
Brad, who was just 3 the day of the terrorist attacks, doesn't remember much about his dad, but he keeps two treasured photos of him and Jeff together on the nightstand by his bed.
Within a year of his death, Rani decided to move the family from Tuckahoe to a home in Ardsley.
"I've made a good life for us here," Rani says. "We have amazing friends here. And Brad - he doesn't let anything get in his way."
"Throughout life, sometimes you get knocked down," she adds. "You have to get up and function. I'm never going to let him use 9/11 as a crutch."
- Bill Cary
View and sign victim's guest book