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"Jersey Girl" says she is no longer a 9/11 widow

Kristen Breitweiser says she no longer thinks of herself as a 9/11 widow.
/ Source: Reuters

Kristen Breitweiser says she no longer thinks of herself as a 9/11 widow.

To honor the investment banker husband she lost when a hijacked plane slammed into New York City's World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the wife who became a widow, activist and author says she has transformed herself once again.

"I don't identify myself as a widow anymore. I'm a single mom," Breitweiser, author of "Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow," told Reuters in an interview near the beach on New York's Long Island where she now lives.

Once one of the "Jersey Girls," widows from New Jersey who pressed officials in Washington for a public accounting of the attacks, she said her priority now is raising her daughter Caroline as a secure person with a grasp of world politics.

The 40-year-old Breitweiser said she is devoted to ensuring that her 12-year-old daughter appreciates cultural diversity, especially Islamic culture.

"I've been traveling with her and introducing her to cultures. We're all here on this Earth together and we're different and you don't need to be hating one another."

"She knows why we go through metal detectors at the airport, she knows why people wear burqas, she knows why there is a call to prayer," she said. "She understands that."

Breitweiser is relieved that her daughter, who was 2 when her father was killed, has his quick smile.

"That was my biggest fear. I didn't want her to grow up bitter or angry or with some sort of unidentifiable rage inside her because of what happened to her dad," Breitweiser said.

Breitweiser added that it is heartbreaking when Caroline calls her father "Ron," not "Dad," and it is unsettling to allow her to read her own book, which tells of being notified that her husband's arms and wedding ring had been recovered at the Ground Zero site where the World Trade Center towers fell.

After observing the 10th anniversary of the attacks with her daughter in their own way, Breitweiser said it will be time to move on. "You just have to know ... when it is time to redefine yourself and move on with your life," she said.