Making a Difference
Susan Retik and her college sweetheart, Dave, settled into the life of their dreams—happily married with two children, and a third on the way. Tragically, one moment would change Susan's life forever.
Dave Retik was on American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center.
"In the blink of an eye, everything changed," says Susan. "We lost our story."
Susan saved the last phone message her husband left her. "Hi. It's me. I was just calling to say hello and that's it. I just called to say I love you. Love you. I'll call you a little bit later. Bye."
"We had just taken my 5-year-old daughter to a sibling class and two days later on September 11, Patrick got up, he left our house, got on a plane, and didn't come back," says Patti.
Both mothers, who were introduced by a mutual friend, worked to put the pieces of their lives back together, trying to create a sense of normalcy for their children.
"I just could not imagine living in Afghanistan and having had the same thing happen to me. Losing my husband and not being able to support my children—not knowing where the next meal was going to come from," says Susan.
Susan shared her feelings with Patti and together they decided to take action. Despite the fact that the women came from a country where terrorists were trained to kill their husbands, they got to work—knowing that helping these women was a chance to heal themselves.
"The terrorists may have killed our husbands on September 11th, but we can create our own future and destiny," says Susan. "The cycle of poverty and lack of education and all of those things that we take for granted here in the United States, if we can end that whole cycle, or help to in some small way, this isn't going to happen again."
To help raise money, Susan and Patti decided do an annual bike ride from Ground Zero back to Boston in honor of their husbands' unfinished journey home.
"We had seen so many images on TV of women in burkas and women begging on the streets. You think that you're prepared for it, but you just looked around and everywhere there seemed to be somebody in need," Patti says.
In Afghanistan, when a man dies the couple's property automatically goes to the decedents' male relatives—leaving their widows with few options. To help get them off the streets, a portion of Susan and Patti's funds were used to train women in a vocation so they could start to provide for themselves.
Improving the lives of these women has helped both Susan and Patti come to terms with their own pain. "I think having received the amount of support that we did after our husbands were killed on September 11—and [the fact] that we were born in America, and they were born in Afghanistan—it was just by pure luck that we have this wonderful life, and support."