9/11 Babies on Dads: 'I Never Met Him but I Know I Love Him'

As 10th anniversary nears, Diane Sawyer revisits children and their mothers.

September 9, 2011, 6:27 AM

Sept. 9, 2011 — -- Ten years ago, a sad sisterhood of pregnant women gave birth to children who would never know their fathers because the men had perished in the holocaust of 9/11 terror attacks.

Now those babies are almost 10 years old.

They are children who were never able to share a living moment with their dads, but created memories out of ordinary objects such as a lacrosse stick, a biking jersey and even backstage passes from rock concerts.

Morgan Rodriguez still wears the firefighter medallion belonging to her father, Anthony Rodriguez. Ron Milam Jr. said he had his father's basketball.

"This is a picture of my father," Phelan Halloran told ABC News' Diane Sawyer of Vincent Halloran. "I really love him. I miss him a lot. I never met him, but I know I love him."

"This is a picture of him," Grace Danahy said of a framed photograph of her father, Patrick, that played music. "When you wind this, it plays."

'He Knew Who You Were'

"I think it was her magical thinking that that baby is her that Patrick is holding," her mother, Mary Danahy, said. "I think now it's the reality that she knows. So I see it more in tears and a real, deep sadness."

Danahy said she and her husband never asked the gender of any of their children before they were born.

"When we went for our Level 2 ultrasound," she said, "I left to go to the bathroom. He [Patrick] asked the doctor what we were having and he didn't tell me. The doctor called me after he died to tell me. I always tell Grace that. 'You know, Grace, Daddy knew you were Grace. ... He knew who you were.'"

"I sleep with one of his shirts," said Sean O'Neill, who was named after her father, "because it makes me feel good and safe."

Beth Carpenter, a psychotherapist, said the shirt was worth its weight in gold.

"It's something they can touch and see," she said. "They're seeking to actually build memories, which is often the saddest thing because they just can't."

The children seem to yearn for a connection that shows them they are Daddy's child.

"It's a visible reminder," Carpenter said. "Both for these kids and also to the world that I belonged to this person. I'm from him and I carry some of them with me."

"It could be something silly like Jack doesn't like mayonnaise," said Terilyn Patrick-Esse of her son Jack Esse. "Well neither did Daddy Jim."

"My mom says I have his eyes," Grace Danahy said. "She said that he was free-spirited and she said that I was too."

"They say I look like him," James Carson said of his father, James Carson.

"I feel like his humor was a lot, a big part of me," said Sean O'Neill.

9/11 Children Find Solace in Reunion

Ron Milam Jr. said sometimes he asked his mother whether his father looked like him.

"She said, 'Yes. I look exactly like him.' It makes me feel closer to him for some reason," he said. "I don't know why."

Kellie Lee said that her husband, Daniel Lee, was a drummer and that her daughter Allison Lee loved the instrument. "My mom always tells me that he was very energetic," Allison Lee said.

Robert Atwood's father, Gerard Atwood, was a firefighter. He said his dad's look was imprinted on his mind.

"It's him. He has his hat on. Ladder 21. It's all his gear. When I'm trying to go to sleep, I look at the picture and then I look in the mirror. It looks kind of like me and he, it's looking in the eyes," Robert Atwood said. "For Career Day [at school,] I dressed up with all his gear and my teacher wouldn't let anybody touch it 'cause it was too valuable."

The children said the reunions made them feel less lonely, less like "that 9/11 kid."

"I don't think I would get along without these girls to help me get through," Phelan Halloran said.

Gabi Dick said he tried to avoid children at school who asked about his father, Ari Jacobs.

"'Cause I know that they'll keep asking me and asking me, month after month," he said. "That's how I get by in school."

"It's cool that we're here again," Danny Soulas told Sawyer. His father's name was Timothy Soulas. "It means a lot to me. I think it means that I don't feel like I'm the only one. ... Like these guys would know how it feels."

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