Living Through a Very Public Death

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LaChanze, who does not use her last name professionally, is a 44-year-old Tony Award-winning actress. Her husband, Calvin Gooding, died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He was 38.

My husband went to work that morning at Cantor Fitzgerald in the north tower. I was eight months pregnant and I remember watching television, just hoping, hoping it wasn't him. I was devastated when he didn't come home that night. I kept thinking that he was going to be coming home at some point, but he never did.

I feel like I didn't really have time to grieve his death. We had a one-and-a-half-year-old, and I had to focus all my energy on my daughter and my about-to-be newborn. Our second daughter was born Oct. 23. Although I had a lot of support from friends and family, and the firm was extremely supportive, it was difficult. It was also very public. It wasn't like my husband got into a car accident. Everyone knew about what had happened and I felt very exposed. I didn't have the private time to think about the things I needed to think about, and feel things I needed to feel. Sometimes I wish it were more private because I probably would heal faster — or at last differently.

How 9/11 Changed My Life

In their own words

The Survivor

• The Burden of The Living
An executive made it to safety, but is wracked with guilt knowing his firefighter brother-in-law did not

The Widow

• Death in the Public Eye
An actress accustomed to exposure is stunned by the very public death of her husband

The Firefighter

• It Was All Part of the Job
A lieutenant with the FDNY survives that day, only to be forced into retirement due to crippling lung problems

The City Councilor

• The War Zone
The politican responsible for the World Trade Center's district went from worrying about potholes to worrying about poisonous air

The Cop

•The Darkest Moment
After spending months raking debris for remains, an NYPD officer finds solace in therapy

The Complete Coverage

The 5th Anniversary of September 11


•Photo Essay: 9/11 First Responders
September 11th has left its mark on these heroes

•Photo Essay: 9/11 The Turning Point
How Americans have tried to commemorate the tragedy across the nation

•Video: Memories In The Landscape
Historian Niall Ferguson looks at the effects of 9/11 from the year 2031

My feelings about that day come out in different ways. I have a certain anxiety now that I never had before. I'm very fearful of flying when I wasn't before. I feel a lot more vulnerable to outside events than I used to. Even though I don't often openly discuss the attacks, it comes out in my life. It just changed my sense of security a little bit.

After Calvin died, of course it was very hard to start new relationships. I loved him, and I didn't want to allow intimacy with another man. But I was fortunate that when I met my current husband in December 2003, we weren't in the same city. Our relationship started with conversation. He is an artist, and I had commissioned him to do a piece for the law firm that had handled my 9/11 affairs pro bono. He needed to talk to me about my experience in order to come up with a vision for that painting. He had to talk to me about 9/11, what 9/11, my husband, my children meant to me — everything. It took hours. And it was very cathartic. I knew when we had been talking for six weeks late into the night, early into the morning, and I had shared with him a part of myself I hadn't been able to share with anyone else, that we had built up a real friendship, a trust. So when I finally met him face-to-face I had already fallen for him. He came to New York City for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in 2004 and wanted to meet my daughters, who were his muses for the painting. The moment we all met, I knew he and I were going to be more than client and artist. We got married on July 30, 2005.

It's still hard for me to think about Sept. 11 sometimes. I'm still angry. It's hard to watch my daughters, Celia and Zaya, grow up and know they'll never see their father. They'll always be 9/11 girls, and I wish I could shield them from that. Everyone has an immediate pity for them. It is a sad thing, but the girls are also so happy. I've been lucky to remarry a wonderful man who's picked the ball right up. They adore him. I'm also still very close to Calvin's family. The children spent last weekend with them.

Now that it's the fifth anniversary, sometimes I switch on the TV, see the footage, and it's like I'm watching my husband's death again. I just don't want to see that. I don't want to feel that again. This time of year particularly, the temperature makes me think of it a lot: how the seasons change from summer to fall. I get the same sort of sadness every year this time. But even though it's been very hard, I think the whole experience has taught me to value life more. I value my day-to-day experiences more. I try to take time to find joy out of life and I don't take a day for granted like I used to.

—As told to Laura Blue

Next: How We Should Acknowledge 9/11 >>