New York Firefighter´s Widow Forgives Husband´s Killers

Jean Palombo Has 10 Children to Raise After Sept. 11 Attack

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NEW YORK, NOV. 9, 2001 ( «Forgive them, for they know not what they do,» said Jean Palombo, the 41-year-old widow of Frank Palombo, one of New York´s heroic firefighters who died in the attack on the Twin Towers.

Jean, who married Frank in 1982, now has 10 children to raise on her own. The eldest is 15, and the youngest, 1.

Frank, 46, was a parishioner of St. Columbanus Church in New York, and a member of the Neocatechumenal movement.

«I woke up very upset on the morning of Sept. 11 because I thought I was pregnant,» Jean said in an interview with the Italian weekly newspaper Tempi. «I told Frank: ´I cannot again, so soon, I´ll go crazy.´

«Frank answered me: ´Don´t worry about that … but what will we call him?´ I started to laugh. He always knew how to make me laugh.»

After leaving the children at school, Jean heard a crash, and soon, rumors about the first plane that struck the towers.

«I learned quickly in my marriage that the wife of a fireman must never watch the television news when her husband is working during a tragedy, so I didn´t,» Jean continued. «That night I understood that something had gone wrong, as he had not called and nobody knew where his team was.»

«At midnight we learnt that they were missing,» she said. «A few days later, I knew I was not pregnant. On Oct. 2, I returned to Ground Zero with my catechists, and only then was I able to tell my children that their father had died.»

The couple´s life was not always idyllic, Jean acknowledges.

«Seventeen years ago, I had left the Church. I did not want any children; my marriage was breaking up little by little,» she recalled. «One day, Frank invited me to hear some catechists. I said to him: ´It´s the last thing I´ll do in the Catholic Church.´»

«That night I witnessed Christianity in an itinerant couple who were expecting their fourth child. They had left everything — home, careers, their country — to proclaim the Gospel. I thought: ´God loves me so much that he has inspired in someone this desire so that I could hear the Good News,´» Jean said. «When I saw that love, I realized immediately that I didn´t have that love, not even for my husband,» she recalled. «In a catechesis immediately after, I heard Giuseppe [the catechist] say: ´Do you think, perhaps, that God is a monster that you do not allow his will to be done in your life?´ He opened my life, and today, with 10 children, I can say that God knew the desires of my heart.»

Asked about her feelings now, since Frank´s death, Jean replied: «The Lord gave him to me; the Lord took him from me. Blessed be the Lord.

«I think God works for the good of those who love him. This event has been a great evil. Anyway, God´s love has exceeded this evil. When I think of the terrorists, I can only say: ´Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they have done.´»

«I miss Frank terribly and a cry a lot, but I know that he will continue to help us from heaven,» Jean added. «I am praying for more profound intimacy with Christ, because I am sure it will bring as beautiful fruits as the ones that resulted from my intimacy with Frank.»

«Frank transmitted the faith to the children, and they often console me with a word,» she continued. «The children are happy because of the father they have, but they miss not being able to play with him, not being able to pray with him, not being able to learn with him, and not being able to be with him.

«I am afraid, but I cling to the Lord. Now we will continue, in the Church, doing God´s will.»

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