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The mission of The Tower of Hope is to empower people who are living with a disability, a chronic illness, or have been in an abusive relationship to live happier and more independent lives through service and assistance animals.
My husband, Tom, began working for Cantor Fitzgerald soon after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. Tommy, in his usually convincing manner, assured me that the failed attack would be the last. Looking back, I know that Tommy told me what he needed to in order to comfort me so that I would not worry about him. In his view, worrying was simply a waste of time. Tom lived everyday to the fullest and he wanted me to do the same. Tom had enthusiasm for all life had to offer. His personality lit up a room and he was always smiling and laughing --- bringing energy to people around him. He was driven and motivated, and he had a passion for everything he did.
Tom always had a twinkle in his eyes and a story up his sleeve. Tom's stories came from life experiences, his observations from history, trading desk antics, as well as from his imagination. I called this "the Tom factor" because he so enjoyed telling a good story, making you laugh until you cried. The fact that he made half of it up was likely the reason he laughed just a little harder than you. When his daughter Ali was a little girl, he had her convinced that he was Peter Pan. Every so often when Ali and I were alone she would ask "Is daddy really Peter Pan?" What could I say? I simply told her that daddy is whoever you believe he is.
When I first met Tom he told me stories of his childhood that included his dog and his love for her. I told him stories about my cats and the other small animals with which I grew up. We simply loved and enjoyed animals and it was a common bond that strengthened over the years. In 2000, Tom was looking into an opportunity to purchase a small farm in upstate New York. We had plans to raise Alpaca and breed Savannah cats. We never had the opportunity to move ahead with the purchase of that farm, as a result of the events of September 11th.
I never heard from Tommy after the plane hit Tower One on that beautiful September morning. On that day Ali learned that her dad was not Peter Pan and I slipped into the darkness of a deep depression. There were nights when the only sound I could hear while alone in the house was the pounding of my heart as the adrenaline rushed through my body. I was filled with the pain of a broken heart and a broken spirit.
One night I was having a particularly bad night. I was alone in the dark, contemplating the meaning of what was left of my life, when I heard the sound of foot steps, then came the head-butt, followed by a nuzzle. It was our baby girl Tazzman, a beautiful Savannah cat that Tom gave to me in the summer of 2001. Our three other cats were just a few steps behind. I don't know how long the five of us sat on the kitchen floor that night, but I do know that the pounding in my heart slowed, and the hate harbored in my soul towards the terrorists subsided for the moment. It was at that point that I knew that I had to go on, because Tom hated to lose and letting evil break me and take from me the life with which I was left meant that evil had won and good had lost.
After that night, I began the long journey of turning my grief and anger into action. I founded The Tower of Hope Foundation in memory of Tom. Our mission is to empower people who are living with a disability, a chronic illness, or have been in an abusive relationship to live happier and more independent lives through service and assistance animals. Studies have shown that animals help with everything from low self-esteem to enabling a person who has a disability to live independently. It has also been shown that people with a disability require 70 hours or less home health care aid per week after acquiring a service dog. Due to the lack of funding for this type of assistance, there are many people who could benefit by having a service animal and do not. For this reason, The Tower of Hope affirms our mission to popularize this type of aid and ensure that no one ever has to go through a difficult time alone again.
The acts around September 11th still remain a mystery to me. When I look into the New York skyline to see the Towers gone, the anger and the bitterness begin to stir as I am reminded that life will never be the same. However, every time I look into the eyes of a furry friend I am reminded about that night on the kitchen floor. Intellect has me believe that our cats responded to me out of instinct. But every so often, when I close my eyes and think back on that night, I see Tommy smiling before me because I got up and I went on. He then begins laughing and disappears. It makes me think that maybe, just maybe, there was some magic about Tommy after all.
Tower of Hope would like to share this magic with you. Please join our efforts to bring service and assistance animals to those who are in need.
- Ken Grosso
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