After losing his wife, Janet, on Sept. 11, Robert Alonso sold his pizzeria so he could stay at home to raise his two children in Stony Point, N.Y.
Janet Alonso was a part-time e-mail analyst for Marsh & McLennan and worked on the 97th floor at the World Trade Center. She went back to work three days a week after her son Robbie was born. She worked part-time because he was born with Downs Syndrome.
Today, Alonso wants to encourage spouses of Sept. 11 victims to move on. He tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, "We as Americans have to go forward and our lifestyle now, we live for the people who passed away. We live a good lifestyle. We have to go forward because if we don't, the bad guys who did this will win, and at my house, that doesn't happen."
The money from Janet Alonso's insurance policy and from several survivor funds have allowed Robert Alonso to stay home with his children. Friends already have raised $60,000 for their college education.
He has said that he wouldn't have known what to do after Sept. 11 if it wasn't for his children. He says, "The toughest job in the world is the job of a mommy. It's rewarding. But I see them reach so many goals alone without Janet and physically, Janet is not here. But she is the one pushing Robbie to do his thing. And Victoria has a smile on her face when I pick her up at school - mommies always pick up their daughters and she still has that smile on her face."
He said the first year after his wife's death was very difficult, particularly spending the first Mother's Day, birthdays and wedding anniversary (they were married in 1989) without her.
Asked what he wants his children to remember about their mother, he says, "As time goes on, they ask me different questions and I try to answer them as best as possible. But it's the truth. Mommy had faith in Jesus and my children will have faith in Jesus and with Jesus' help, it will help us all."
Alonso has planted a "mommy" tree in the backyard to help his children deal with the loss. Last year, he told one reporter, "I put a picture of the kids on the tree so mommy can feel her children and left Janet's shoes in the closet so Victoria can feel something of her mother's."
As for him, he said, "After Sept. 11 2002, my in-laws went on a vacation to Myrtle Beach. They were doing their thing. I said, 'Life has to go on.'" He now has a girlfriend with two children, ages 4 and 8. "I have the full support of my in-laws," he said.
After the commemorative events, he says he plans to spend time with his children. He says, "Go up to the monkey bars and a trampoline in the backyard and jump up and down and then it's daddy's time."
In regard to what should be done with the land where the towers once stood, Robert Alonso says, "That's a tough question, but, you know, I think all of the chips will fall in the place as time goes forward and I think it's going to be the eighth wonder in the world. When it's done, it will be something very, very special."
On Sept. 11, 2001, around 8 a.m., Robert Alonso called his wife from their pizzeria so that she could say goodbye to their daughter Victoria before she went to day care.
The first plane crashed into the north tower at 8:46 a.m., between the 94th and 97th floors, on the opposite side of the building from where Janet worked. She called her husband a few minutes later to tell him that they were being evacuated.
He recalls, "She told me there was a lot of smoke and it was hard to breath and she was getting together and trying to get out. I said, 'Please, get somebody. Help is coming up. Don't be scared. I'm coming down to get you.' And I wanted to assure her everything was OK because she didn't know what happened. Then she told me she loved me, and the kids, and I told her I loved her and that was the phone call and that was it."
The building that she was in collapsed about an hour and 20 minutes after that phone call.
He saw the building collapse on the television in the pizzeria. "I couldn't believe what was happening," he said. "I must have called her cell phone 20 times after the tower dropped. There was no signal." Janet Alonso's body was found seven months later.
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