‘9/11 is what happened to my family’: Mason family continues mourning wife, mother 20 years later

Lynn Faulkner and his wife, Wendy, occasionally talked about death and their funeral wishes.

He wanted to be cremated. She wanted to be buried.

She frequently asked her supervisors for her work office to be located near the ground level because she feared being trapped in a skyscraper fire.

“It was like she was dreading her premonition,” he said quietly. “It’s almost as if she knew.”

That’s what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, when two hijacked planes purposely flew into the World Trade Center in New York. Wendy Faulkner, 47, a mother of two daughters who lived in Mason and worked as vice president of information technology at the Chicago headquarters of the retail-insurance brokerage Aon Risk Services, was killed.

She was in New York for a one-day meeting that was supposed to last a few hours. The meeting was on the 104th floor of World Trade Center 2. When those in the tower were ordered to evacuate after the first plane crashed, everyone scrambled toward the elevators.

There was only room for one of the three women standing there. Faulkner and another women waited. They were never seen again.

The night before, Lynn Faulkner ended the conversation with his wife with, “I love you.”

“If you’re going to say last words,” the 69-year-old said, “those are the words to say.”

His wife’s body never was recovered, buried under the tons of rubble.

“It doesn’t seem like 20 years ago,” he said when asked about the upcoming anniversary. “Life is a mixture, you know. It seems like it happened yesterday and then it seems like it happened one thousand years ago.”

The Faulkners were opposites, and that worked during their 20-year marriage. He loves riding motorcycles and flying planes, while his wife was content reading an Agatha Christie novel while sipping hot tea in front of the fireplace.

“The chances were I would be the first one to die,” said Faulkner, two years younger than his wife. “That was always our thought. If you had told me this little lady would be killed by terrorists, I would have said you’re ridiculous. Her odds were 100 million to one, but it doesn’t matter if you’re the one.”

Lynn Faulkner, a retired communications and advertising executive, hasn’t moved from his Mason home. His daughters, Loren, 39, and Ashley, 33, have started their careers.

Loren, a mother of three, is an anesthesiologist at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, and Ashley is a faculty member at Ohio State University.

Lynn Faulkner, who once said he’d never love again after losing his wife, married Aletha eight years ago. He called her “a wonderful, beautiful lady.”

In the years immediately after his wife’s death, Faulkner said his life was frozen by the terroristic acts on Sept. 11, 2001. He had frequent nightmares and insomnia. There were times, he said, when he fell asleep at a red light while driving his daughter to soccer practice.

“I really can’t remember a few years,” he said. “It’s like they didn’t exist.”

But he does remember a conversation he had with a man two years ago during a social event. After being introduced to Faulkner, the man said, “I know you. Your claim to fame is your wife was killed on 9/11.”

He wanted to punch the man in the face, he said.

“I was hurt and it angered me at first,” he said. “9/11 is what happened to my family. It wasn’t something I sought or wanted. I didn’t want it to be my defining moment.”

Every Sept. 11 for the past 19 years, his Warren County neighbors have planted flowers as a memorial to Wendy at the base of the front yard flagpole that flies two flags, an American and Remembrance.

The Remembrance flag depicts the Twin Towers with the simple slogan: “Never Forget.”

The license plate on Faulkner’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle is “91101.” The plate on his GMC truck parked in the driveway reads “NVR4GIT.”

It was that way 20 years ago. It’s that way today.

Less than one week after 9/11, when it became apparent Wendy Faulkner didn’t survive, the family discussed ways to honor her memory. She was a daughter of missionaries who sent a care package to an orphanage in the Philippines every month.

“What a heart she had,” Faulkner said.

They founded the Wendy Faulkner Memorial Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that for 19 years took donations and completed good work around the world.

“She spent her life trying to help people,” he said of his late wife.

But over the years, as 9/11 has fallen deeper in peoples’ memories, the financial support of the foundation has decreased, he said. The family made a commitment that every dollar raised would benefit the needy children. He refused to hire a professional fundraiser.

Sometime in the near future, the foundation will close, he said.

He has dealt with the heartache associated with 9/11 for 20 years. He was asked what advice he’d give others dealing with grief: “I know this sounds obvious, but you have to live one day at a time. Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. Things will get a little better, a little easier.”

He paused for a few seconds, then added: “Lean on your faith. You will need that.”

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