Fonticulus Fides

Monday, September 11, 2006

In Memory of Martha “Marti” Stevens

Martha Jane Stevens — Marti to her family and friends — perished in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, at the age 55.

I didn’t know Ms. Stevens personally, and from what little information I gathered from the Internet, I determined she was a rather private person. Or maybe just modest.

After the tragedy of 9/11, there was a sprinkling of comments of her on Internet guest books. Reading them, I have developed an image of Ms. Stevens in my mind: one of those highly intelligent businesswomen who was able to succeed without taking herself so seriously, she loses her sense of humor.

I found her niece’s e-mail address on one of those guest books, and wrote to her asking for more information about Ms. Stevens. Here is what she said:

”It turns out that writing about my Aunt Marti is harder than I thought - words will never do justice to the impact that she had on the lives around her. What I can tell you is this:

“She was the oldest of four children, born to a graceful ballerina & rugged cowboy. I saw her as the perfect blend of both - a determined woman whose strength and kindness I will forever look up to.

“She loved art and enjoyed traveling. One of her favorite paintings bought in Italy now hangs in my parents home, a gift given to my father after her passing. She was cultured, intelligent and her generosity inspiring, always donating to charities in NY. (Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club and Dress for Success were two that I know of). Her heart was genuine, and helping others was never a question for Marti - it was simply part of who she was.

“She is survived by her parents, Martha & James Stevens, her two brothers -- James (my father) and Kenneth Stevens -- her sister, Rose Marie Witt, and her husband, George Gayle.”

When Ms. Stevens died, she was a senior vice president for Aon Corp., a large insurance brokerage firm. Maybe she was sitting at her desk when the planes struck. Maybe she was strolling down the hall, greeting a co-worker. Maybe she was in a staircase heading down to safety. I don’t know. And maybe it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that she was a wonderful woman who had an artistic side that balanced out her work-a-day world. When she was a student at Mount Saint Mary College in Los Angeles, she created illustrations for the school’s literary journal. She had a penchant for sporty little Triumph TR4 motorcars and great wit.

The world suffered on the day Ms. Stevens died. And the people who loved Ms. Stevens and lost her still suffer her absence. I never heard of her before I signed up for the 2,996 Project. I wish I would have had the privilege of knowing her before her death.

The following are some thoughts about Ms. Stevens from the people who knew her, posted on various Books of Remembrance on the Internet. I hope you will read them and get to know Ms. Stevens a little better. And please do, pray for her eternal soul and pray for those who mourn her passing.

“Martha will always be remembered for her wonderful sense of humor,” wrote Marie Van Blaricom Maitrepierre, a close
friend and classmate.

“I liked her and still think of her. A smart, funny and very professional lady indeed!” remembered former colleague Thomas Bentley.

“I will never forget her wonderful sense of humor and irony,” said Alice Bergeron Aurelia

Ms. Stevens’ secretary, who was not in the World Trade Center because her mother had just passed away, wrote, “Martha, was the kindest, down right honest person I ever worked for. When I could not get thru certain projects, Martha would sit at my computer and help me complete it...I love you Martha...”

Another business acquaintance, Chris Fletcher, left this tribute: “When 911 struck, I immediately thought of Martha, whom I originally met when I was a cargo underwriter with MOAC…She and I became fast friends, rapidly building a sizable volume of very profitable biz together…I saw something in Martha that few people took the time to explore - a very wry sense of humor, the willingness to be flexible…I bumped into Martha occasionally…not as often as I would have liked, but regardless of the time elapsed, she always broke into a sly, slightly sideways grin and a ‘Well hello there!’ greeting. Martha - sorely missed, fondly thought of, soaring gently.”

Said another business associate, “I only met Martha once, but I am sure she will be sadly missed, both for her great personality and also her true professionalism.”

Her colleagues were really full of praise for her: “Throughout my years at FBH, RHH, and AON, I respected her for the person she was..a true professional in every sense of the word! Finding out a few minutes ago that Martha was no longer with us came as a complete surprise…Rest In Peace dear Martha.”

Her friend, Jane Madison, wrote, “When I first heard of what happened I immediately thought of Martha, because we often rode the subway together downtown and I knew she was always in the office early, so I knew she was there. I have such wonderful memories of her, her sense on humor, her honor and mostly the way she dealt with people. I will think of her often. My heart goes out to her family, and mostly to George.”

“Martha was my mother's second cousin,” said George Adams. “I can remember visiting Marti’s parents on summer trips to the mountains, seeing family pictures on the walls of their home…She was loved and admired…”

Another classmate from Mount Saint Mary, Francine Johnston, recalled, “…We worked together on a college literary publication, Westwords. Marti was the art editor, and I was the editor. She was incredibly creative in her illustrations of the entries in our anthologies and captured the essence of each poem. She was fun, open, and so very easy to connect with…As I began flipping through the pages of the "Westwords" magazine, I first turned to this poem. I wish I had the technical capability to show her illustration. It very much resembles the Twin Towers; however at the time of the writing, the towers weren’t even built. This poem touched my heart. It was written by a fellow classmate, Linda Caggiano.”

And here is the poem:

As Icarus
We hung ballooned between
The glass and wire-fragile pair of wings.
And that sprawling splat of concrete and
Bumper to bumper people
Spread under --
Valleyed between animal humped and haired ridges
And the lace-edged sea
Lit over by the blue and forever
Endless worst of all wind tunnels
That was calmed now by the yellow grip
Of sun that eyed its way over the world
And into our cocoon
Making it impossible to hide.
And since then this city is forever flatly dulled
And smaller than before --
We escaped the shattered plunge, the fall of life
From that bright globe, that dome,
But perhaps we still flew too near the sun.


Remembrances of the Day

From CNN, what it's like for the children born after their dads died on 9/11. They're all four, almost five years old right now.

From Amy Welborn, here is a link to a story about a baby conceived shortly after 9/11. It evoked a lot of the same emotions I had myself. We also were debating whether or not to try for a second child. It had been very difficult to get pregnant with Zooey, and my husband was completely against taking that painful journey again. I was willing, and so any discussion on the topic would end in disagreement.

Then 9/11 happened. And suddenly, I thought it was a horrible, horrible time to have another baby. I was terrified for Zooey -- I couldn't bear the thought of bringing another child into this mad and godless world.

Somehow, though, the need to draw close to each other in love and an ovulatory pattern than surprised me by starting a couple days earlier than usual amounted to me becoming pregnant with Edyn. Who is, today, a beautiful, compassionate, charming, artistic, insightful child, whom I thank God for. I don't really consider her a 9/11 baby, because she wasn't conceived intentionally. But then again, God certainly intended her, so maybe she is.



  • Well done, Sparki, well done. I knew that you'd come through with a wonderful tribute. All of them have been marvelous and touching. It's 1:30am and I've been up for 3 hours watching/reading video, audio, and stories of families and children. I am at once grieving, sad, crying, and angry...very very angry. I've not mourned for the last five years...wouldn't allow it. And this past week it has just poured out of me, climaxing tonight with my insomnia and almost morbid research into all of "this".

    By Blogger Jeff, at 1:38 AM  

  • Thank you for sharing beautiful memories of Martha.

    Jonathon's Closet remembers Robert Levine.

    By Blogger kateandjona, at 7:47 AM  

  • Jeff, I know what you mean. In my case, the shock of 9/11 immediately flowed into the shock of being pregnant unexpectedly...and then a difficult pregnancy with lots of morning sickness flowed into joining the Catholic church flowed into another difficult pregnancy with lots of morning sickness and babies 18 months apart...and it seems like 9/11 is just hitting me for the first time now. I spent most of the day swallowing tears and couldn't sleep last night thinking about those who lost their lives. Especially the children.


    By Blogger Sparki, at 8:58 AM  

  • Thank you for your beautiful tribute. I was moved beyond words when I read that you contacted Marti's niece and the response she gave you. Thanks for taking part in this project and helping us all to get to know each victim on an individual and more personal level.

    Jimmy Audiffred: Let the Light Shine.

    Other tributes: Frederick Kuo Jr. and Francis Nazario as well as here, also Juan Salas.

    Can you help? Some of the 2,996 victims don't have tributes or the ones posted were missing so much, it would be a disservice to their memory, family and friends if one wasn't posted that truly honored them. For a list of these individuals and more info, please go to: and click on "Remembering The Forgotten".

    Please pass the candle by sharing other tributes while leaving kind words in the comments of blogs paying tribute to the 2,996 lost on September 11th.

    God bless,

    By Blogger Kathie, at 2:34 PM  

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