9-11: Maria Jakubiak, Remembered
(Maria Jakubiak was the first person for whom I ever did a 9-11 memorial as part of Project 2,996. It’s also on Pinterest. The particular post below is the one I did in 2009.)
How do you write a memorial to someone you or your friends or family have never met? You don’t know her tastes, what movies she enjoyed, what hobbies she had, how she met her husband. Even more daunting is when that person lost her life in the greatest tragedy to ever strike our country. Countless eulogies and columns and stories and pictures and songs have been published that move people in a way I could never hope to match. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Every one of the victims who lost their lives deserves to be remembered in some way. It is with great honor that I dedicate this post to Maria Jakubiak and her family. Maria is not forgotten.
Maria and her family emigrated from Poland. According to what I have read, they had a choice between Canada and America. She chose America, because she ‘wanted to see the Statue of Liberty’. What wonderful courage Maria must have had to face coming to a new country, learning a new language, and raising a family in a different culture. She succeeded in those endeavors, learning English, getting her Associates’ Degree, finding employment, going to night-school for her Bachelor’s. The tributes all mark her as a caring employee, even acting as a mother-figure to younger co-workers. There is also a site in Polish dedicated to her. It is apparent that Maria is loved in two countries; her new home and her old one.
Everyone who is old enough has a ‘where were you when 9/11 happened’ memory. I was teaching school that day. We kept the news from the students initially, but a few days after that we had a memorial. The whole school body met around the flagpole at the front to say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing a patriotic song. I had a boy in my class at that time who saw the world in a different light. He was an ‘innocent’; open-hearted, very loving, and unaware of the world at large. As my class walked to the front of the building for the memorial, I noticed he seemed worried, with his eyes wide-open looking around nervously. I took his hand so he could walk next to me. We came to a spot where we had to wait for another class to pass, but he kept on walking. I placed my hand gently in front of his chest to get him to stop…and I could feel his heart pounding furiously. In fact, his whole body started shaking. I knelt down, hugged him, and asked him what was the matter. With tears in his eyes, he expressed that he thought we were going to go out to say the pledge, and then the planes would come crash into us. His view of 9/11 consisted of seeing television footage of the planes followed by pictures of the American flag. The two went together in his mind. And it is an indelible image in the minds of those who remember. But that young student, even as fearful as he felt, was going with us because he knew he had to. And he came away strengthened, his fear abated.
I feel that Maria would have encouraged that little boy. That she would have taken his hand and said the Pledge right alongside him. She does not appear to have been someone who would have given up or lived in fear. She chose America, and worked hard to enjoy its freedoms. I ask God to bless her family and bless her memory. Maria is not forgotten. To her husband, children, and extended family and friends, I offer my condolences and prayers. In the words of her brother, Czeslaw Stylinski, “We cannot forget.”
I offer this prayer for Maria Jakubiak and all the victims of 9/11:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.