When Time Doesn't Heal

astaneh, 9/11, david kohn CBS

A year later, many who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 find that their wounds have not yet healed. CBSNews.com's Emily Cartwright reports.

Michelle DeFazio no longer wears her seat belt when driving.

She was pulled over by a cop recently and explained to the officer why she won't wear a seat belt anymore.

"I welcome death now," she says.

Before September 11, Michelle, who is 27 and lives on Staten Island, had always been very careful to buckle up. Then, her husband Jason died. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in Tower One of the World Trade Center.

Among those who lost family members and loved ones on September 11, Michelle's attitude is not uncommon.

"I'm not scared of death anymore," says Lisa Aversano, of Staten Island, who lost her father, Louis, in the attack on the World Trade Center. "I look at it now as if I die, I can be with my father again, and if I don't die, I can be with the rest of my family."

Although each family deals with the tragedy in their own ways, certain ways coping and emotions crop up over and over.

Even a year after the attack, many family members still find themselves in denial. "It just doesn't seem possible," says Diane Miller, widow of New York Firefighter Henry Miller of Ladder 105 in Brooklyn. "To this day, there are still some days that I think Henry is coming home."

New York City police officer Steven Campbell, 37, never imagined that something might happen to his wife, Jill, who worked for Baseline Financial in the World Trade Center.

"Being a cop, my wife and I kind of came to terms with the fact that something might happen to me," Steven says. "We came to terms with that. Then one morning, we wake up and it's not me, but her, and that totally knocked me for a loop."

For many who lost loved ones, denial has often gone hand in hand with a kind of stubborn hope.

Campbell, who lives in Queens, had two ways of dealing with whether his wife would be coming back to him. "There are two parts to me: there's the part of me that is Jill's husband, and the other part of me that is a cop," he says. "As Jill's husband, I was holding out hope, and am still holding out hope. But as a cop, and with being down at Ground Zero on 9/11, I knew realistically that if we didn't find her within the first 24 hours, that it was going to be bad, very bad."

Even after her father's memorial service, Lisa Aversano, 30, still believed he was coming back, especially since his body had not yet been recovered.

"We had my father's memorial service on October 6th, and even on that day, I still had hope that he was alive," she says. "I called his cell phone every single day for about a month… I thought that maybe he was walking around with amnesia and didn't know where he was or where he lived. That was a hope for me for about four months."

Finally, in May, Lisa had to give up this hope. The Aversanos were notified that her father's body had been found.

Many who lost loved ones found their health suffered over the past year. "I lost 33 pounds over the whole thing," says Diane Miller, a small woman to begin with. "I look terrible."

Some went the other direction. Lisa Aversano, a personal trainer, no longer felt motivated to work out after the death of her father. Before the attacks, Aversano was a regular at the gym. "I'm not as conscious of my health," she says. "I don't exercise as much as I used to because I just don't have the motivation to do it."

Some have found help in community. Officer Campbell turned to fellow police officers. Michelle DeFazio and Diane Kelly joined local support groups for Sept. 11 widows.

For some, the march of days has not brought peace. "People say time heals all wounds, but it doesn't," says Michelle DeFazio. "Everyday seems to get worse."

Diane Miller agrees. "Everyone tells me that time is a great healer, but as we are getting closer to September 11th, it's going to be hard again," says Diane Miller. "Some days are September 11th all over again. Some nights I go to bed crying and wake up crying."

But Miller also has moments when everything seems, if not good, at least bearable. She likes to think that her husband can now spend more time surfing, something he loved to do.

"I just have to believe that there is a better place, and that is where they all are," she says. "I just hope the waves are great so that Henry can surf to his heart's content."
  • David Kohn

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