While some children remember fathers lost on 9/11, others only have stories

Joseph Reina grew up never knowing his father but carries his name.

The last memory Scott Larsen has of his late father is eating breakfast together on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Joshua Powell, another son of a New York City firefighter who died in the 9/11 terror attacks, said he used to eat Cap’n Crunch with his father every morning.

Florence Amoako was eight months pregnant with her second child when she said goodbye to her husband as he went to work at the World Trade Center that day. Paulina Cardona, Katy Soulas and Lisa Reina were also pregnant at the time. Their husbands never made it home.

Over the past 20 years, ABC News has periodically gathered with this group of women who were pregnant when they lost their partners in the terror attacks. Their children, born after the attacks, grew up without meeting their fathers.

Our most recent gathering took place in late June of this year, where this group shared their perspectives on loss, grief and resilience.

Watch the special edition of “20/20” with Diane Sawyer on Friday, Sept. 10, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Joshua Powell

Joshua Powell was 5 years old when his father, New York City firefighter Shawn Powell, was killed in the terror attacks.

“Although I was a kid, you realize one day, he's not coming back, and sometimes when I was in class, I used to just look over at the door and in my head just imagine him walking through, and coming to pick me up to take me home. And nothing had happened, as if everything was OK,” Powell told ABC News.

Now at 25, Joshua Powell says he’s trying to make his father proud.

”I wanted to follow in his footsteps... I wanted to face danger fearlessly,” he said.

Powell said he didn’t become a firefighter because his mother was afraid to lose him the way she lost his dad. He has decided to pursue a career in medicine instead.

“Being a doctor, for me, or even being a surgeon, would be that same thing: running into the burning building. Running toward something that people are running away from,” he said. “Like when this pandemic happened, a lot of people were running away, but there were many people who ran toward it. I think that's what I want to do.”

Jillian Suarez

Jillian Suarez was 9 years old when her father, New York Police Department officer Ramon Suarez, was killed.

He had raced into the north tower of the World Trade Center, rescuing people from inside.

Now an NYPD officer herself, Jillian Suarez, now 29, says she’s reminded of her dad every time she goes to work.

“When he passed away, I told myself, I was like, ‘I'm going to be where my dad was. I'm going to follow his footsteps,’ and I wasn't going to let anything get in my way. And I made sure of it,” she told ABC News. “I made sure nothing was getting in my way, I made sure I did whatever I can to get to where I am right now, and I made sure that I had his shield on me to make sure that name and that shield keeps going.”

“It feels good. It feels good to walk into the station, to see his picture on the wall. It sucks to see his picture on the wall because you want to see him in person, but it feels good to know, yeah, that's my dad, he was a hero,” Suarez continued. “From all the stories I've heard about my dad, I have some big shoes to fill for sure.”

Samuel Fields, Jr.

Samuel Fields, Jr., is the eldest of six children, named after his father, who worked as a security officer for Summit Security Services at the twin towers. He said that after his father died in the attacks, he stepped in to care for his siblings.

“Especially being the oldest son, I've had to be more of a father figure or a male role model for my siblings,” he said.

Fields said he felt like he didn’t have time to grieve for his late father as a kid because his brothers and sisters needed him.

“I think I was in denial about it at the time. He'll come back. Maybe he's not gone. Even after we had the funeral or after they found his body and stuff, I was in denial for a long time,” said Fields.

He wrote and recorded a song about his father called "Thinkin’ About You" when he was just 12 years old, and said he sees his dad “as a hero.”

“I like to record music. That's how I dealt with it. I put it in lyrics and recorded songs,” he said. “[I try] to think about every good thing that we did together, we had together, all the good memories so that I can move forward.”

Jacqueline Milam

Army veteran Maj. Ronald Milam was 33 years old when he was killed at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., after American Airlines Flight 77 struck the west wall of the building at 9:37 a.m. that day.

Jacqueline Milam, then an Air Force captain, was pregnant with their son Ronald Link-Milam. She was working on the opposite side of the Pentagon and was spared. Their daughter, Myejoi, was just under 2 years old at the time.

Milam says she will always grieve her husband’s death.

“Twenty years later, I don't know if there's ever going to be closure. I found a way to move on... I just found my way to know how to maneuver around it,” she said.

She added that she hopes her husband is watching over their family.

“I'd want him to know that, ‘Hey, I took care of your babies. [I] did the best I can, hoping that I've made them happy. I'm so proud of them and I love them so much,” she told ABC News. “Thank you for my son, thank you for having him look like you. Thank you for my daughter, she's wonderful. They were 18 months apart and it was a lot of work, but it was worth it.”

Ursula Andrus and Claudia Szurkowski

Ursula Andrus says she sees her late husband Norbert Szurkowski reflected in the face of their youngest daughter, Claudia Szurkowski, who was born in May 2002.

“She looks just like him, physically -- her face, her hair texture. She looks just like him,” Ursula Andrus told ABC News.

Norbert Szurkowski was applying wallpaper at the Cantor Fitzgerald offices in the World Trade Center’s north tower on Sept. 11, 2001. It was his first day on that job.

“My mom is the strongest woman I know,” Claudia Szurkowski said. “I look at her and I'm like, ‘How did she do it?’ It must've been so, so difficult. And I envy my mom so much. I look up to her so much. I want to be just like her.”

Claudia Szurkowski says she copes with the absence of her father by researching 9/11 to understand how such a tragedy could happen.

“[9/11] doesn't define me, but it labels me,” Claudia Szurkowski said. “I like to find out every detail about it that I can... I always like to learn new things about it, just so I can really understand it and know what exactly happened because I wasn't there. It's just so shocking and so different from anything that has ever happened before. And it is just so confusing with every little part and point in it.”

She said she’s envious that her older sister, Lexi Szurkowski, was able to know their father and still has memories of him, even though Lexi was only 3 years old when her father died.

“There's just so many things that I'm upset I never got to experience, which is another reason why I really envy [my sister],” Claudia Szurkowski said. “She heard his voice. So somewhere in the back of her head, it's there. There's a memory somewhere and I didn't get that.”

Patti and Leah Quigley

Patrick J. Quigley IV was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers when he boarded United Airlines flight 175 on Sept. 11, 2001.

The flight crashed into the World Trade Center’s south tower 17 minutes after American Airlines flight 11 struck the north tower.

His now 19-year-old daughter Leah Quigley was never able to meet her father. She said she has felt the reverberating pain of his death throughout her life.

“When I was in middle school, I always felt really awkward and uncomfortable [on 9/11], so I never really stepped out or did anything that would draw attention to me because it was always just awkward,” she told ABC News.

As part of the first generation of kids born after the attacks, she also noted, “We don’t have that memory everyone talks about.”

Her mother Patti Quigley said that over the past 20 years, she’s learned that grief comes in many different forms.

“Grieving is so circular,” she said. “It's hard to tell somebody that when they're going through it, or starting to go through it, because it really changes your whole life... But there's so much happiness that can be had, even though it seems like you can't get there.”

Patti Quigley said she channeled her grief into helping others, ​widows and girls in the very country that provided haven to Al Qaeda, the group behind the terror attacks. ​In 2003, Quigley and her friend, Susan Retik, who also lost her husband on 9/11, started Beyond the 11th to help war widows in Afghanistan. Now, Quigley works with Razia’s Ray of Hope, a foundation dedicated to the education of girls in Afghanistan. She has helped the foundation raise millions of dollars to help provide education to over 1,000 Afghan girls. The chaos in that country has put their gains at risk, but Quigley has vowed to continue the foundation’s work.

“I think working with Razia's Ray of Hope Foundation was very uplifting for me. It was life-changing for me,” said Patti Quigley. “Everything we found out in this past year with COVID; how what happens in one country affects another country. I found that out 20 years ago. What we're doing in Afghanistan, educating those girls will not only affect their community but it affects what will happen in another generation for the whole world.”

Her daughter said she admires her mothers dedication to continue her work with girls' schooling in Afghanistan.

“[My mother] always said when I was younger, ‘Don't let [9/11] control your life,’” Leah Quigley added. Because that's what her whole outlook on the whole thing was. I don't want this to define who I am and so that's my biggest takeaway in this whole thing is that I'm not going to let it be the only thing that makes me, me.”

Paulina and Joshua Cardona

Paulina Cardona said all she and her husband Jose Cardona wanted was a family of their own.

For years, the couple tried to conceive and had three miscarriages. In 2001, Paulina became pregnant with their son, Joshua Cardona.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Jose Cardona left their home to go to work at brokerage firm Carr Futures, which had offices on the 92nd floor of the north tower. Paulina was five month pregnant with Joshua at the time.

“I felt so sad because I was pregnant and lost the baby, got pregnant again and lost the baby, and got pregnant a third time and lost the baby ... and then I got pregnant again and in the fifth month, in the happiest time of my life, I lost [my husband], too,” she told ABC News.

Joshua Cardona was born on Jan. 2, 2002.

“When Joshua was born I felt a calm in my heart because I knew Jose came back to me,” said Paulina Cardona.

Now 19 years old, Joshua Cardona and said his mother is his inspiration.

“Thanks to her I have had a good life,” he said. “She always says that I look like [my father]. When I laugh, when I eat, whatever I am doing she thinks I look like him.”

“In a way I do feel like we are a little stronger because we lost someone from our family,” he added. “But I think my mom is stronger than me because she lived it, she lived the trauma.”

Lisa and Joseph Reina

For 15 years, Joseph Reina, Jr. went to work at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 101st floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center.

On Sept. 11, 2001, his wife Lisa Reina was pregnant with their son.

“It feels like it was just yesterday that it happened. And then when I look back and I look at pictures, I feel like it was so long ago. Like, every picture I have of my husband, he was 32. ... It's like we're stuck. Time stood still but it kept going,” she said.

When their son was born just weeks later on Oct. 4, 2001, she named him after his father.

“I really had no time to mourn my husband. I just went into mom mode. I had to be a mother,” she said.

Their son is now 19 years old -- his mother recently gave him his father’s chain to wear around his neck.

“I gave his father [the chain] for his 30th birthday and Joe wore it every day, and for whatever reason, on 9/11, he did not put it on. So I have it,” said Lisa Reina.

Lisa Reina said that all her husband would have wanted was to watch their son grow up.

“What stays with me is that he knew that I was going to be an amazing mom and to our child… I even have my first Mother's Day card that he gave me while I was pregnant that said he knew that I was going to be an amazing mom to our child,” she said.

Lisa Reina says she still thinks about her husband every day.

“I don't want him to be forgotten,” she said. “I don't want him to be just another name that was lost on 9/11. He was amazing. He was a wonderful man and I will miss him for the rest of my life.”

Katy and Danny Soulas

Tim Soulas, the father of a daughter and five sons, worked for the financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center’s north tower on Sept. 11, 2001.

His wife Katy Soulas was pregnant with their youngest son, Danny Soulas, when he was killed. She says the wounds from losing her husband still haven’t healed.

“In so many ways, it is a really long time ago. And then in others, it's not. I've had so many happy events, like sport banquets, high school [and] college graduations. I have two sons getting married in the next year and those can be bittersweet, because I wish their dad was right by my side,” said Katy Soulas.

Danny Soulas was born in March 2002, six months after his father died. He is now 19 years old and attends the University of Wisconsin.

“[Tim] does live on in Danny's eyes, in his smile, in his humor, and it's really fun to see. When he does it, I want to tell him. You're doing it again, there's your dad again,” said Katy Soulas.

“I think for Danny, because he wasn't born yet ... it's impossible for him to get to know a person he hasn't met,” she added. “His curiosity has piqued since he's gotten older. I think no one wants to — when they're younger — be different than anyone else, [to say] that, ‘I don't have a dad.’ And so, many dads who knew Tim, stepped in as role models.”

Kimberly, Tyler and Chase Statkevicus

Derek Statkevicus worked for investment banking firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in World Trade Center’s south tower at the time of the attacks.

He was survived by his 1-year-old son Tyler Statkevicus as well as his wife Kimberly Statkevicus, who was pregnant with their second child, Chase, at the time.

“[My husband] was excited for both boys,” Kimberly Statkevicus told ABC News. “It just makes me grateful for the years that we had.”

Chase Statkevicus was born in January 2002.

“[In] the early days, you wake up every morning and for a split second you forget that you're living this nightmare and you think it was a dream, and then you realize it wasn't and that you're in the middle of this,” she added. “I would feel sick to my stomach every morning… I think about now, [how] we would have been empty nesters on our way to retirement and what that would look like, and so it's a new grief. It's grieving this part of our lives.”

Kimberly Statkevicus said the she's grateful for organizations - like Tuesday's Children - that arose out of the Sept. 11 tragedy.

"[Tuesday's Children] has done a great job being there for the kids who've lost a parent and now expanding it to include military families, families that have been affected by other tragedies, which we've had so many," she said. "They provided mentors. Tyler had a mentor prior to going to college, and she was great."

Also thankful, both children say that their mother continues to be the strongest person they know.

“Whenever I look at her I just see everything she's gone through and how strong she's been about it and how she's been reliable and smart about everything since then,” said Chase Statkevicus.

Holly O’Neill-Melville and Sean O’Neill

Sean O’Neill, who bears her father’s name, said that she felt like everyone knew her dad except for her.

“My whole life I've always felt left out of everyone that knew my dad. I was like, ‘Why didn't I get that?’” she said.

Her mother, Holly O’Neill-Melville, was pregnant with her when the attacks occurred.

“We did such a good job of keeping his memory alive, maybe almost too good sometimes that she always felt she was missing out,” O’Neill-Melville said.

O’Neill-Melville's husband Sean O’Neill worked at Cantor Fitzgerald as an equities trader. On 9/11, they had been married for only three months. O’Neill Melville said that she feels lucky for the time she had with him.

“That's the beauty of memories, right?” O’Neill-Melville said. “Every time I need to tell [my daughter] something, there's a memory there that I haven't shared yet. I don't even have to think about it. I know there's going to be a kernel of something I could share when she needs to hear it.”

Kellie and Allison Lee

When Allison Lee was born two days after 9/11, her mother Kellie Lee said it felt like her world had ended even as her daughter’s life had just begun.

“It was hard at first because everything was just gray,” Kellie Lee told ABC News.

Her husband Daniel Lee was working as a carpenter and crew member for a Backstreet Boys concert tour when he died on American Airlines Flight 11, which flew into the World Trade Center’s north tower between the 93rd and 99th floors at 8:46 a.m. on that day. He had been headed home to attend his wife’s scheduled Cesarean section.

Allison Lee, now 19, said she once had a dream about meeting her father.

“I asked him questions, he said he was proud of me and that I was doing great and all the stuff like that. I woke up just like, ‘Whoa … Mom, I swear I just talked to him,’” she told ABC News.

Kellie Lee says she also sees him in her dreams.

“[My husband and I] were in a room. It was all white and we were both in white. There was no furniture and he was just hugging me from behind,” she said. “We were sitting on the floor and it just felt very peaceful and like he was saying, ‘It will be OK, you got this.’ ... I don't know, it just felt peaceful after.”

Florence Amoako

For Victor Kwarkye, Sept. 11, 2001, began like any other day. He went to work on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower, where he was part of the morning cleanup crew at the Windows on the World restaurant.

“The only chance I got to see him was when he was leaving the house, going to work, then I didn't see him [again],” said his wife Florence Amoako.

At the time, Amoako was pregnant with their second child.

“Anytime I sit down, I look at... [my daughters] and I tell myself, I have to be a mother and a father,” she said.

The couple had immigrated from Ghana in 1999. She said their youngest often asked about her father when she was little.

“[She] used to ask me ... because in Africa, we have our traditional foods..., ‘Does daddy eat the same food?’ I say, ‘Yeah, we all eat the same food, yes,’" said Amoako.

“So it's not something that you can just forget about, it always lives in you. But you just have to learn how to live every blessed day,” she added. “I want to remember him as the Victor that I knew.”

Jacqueline and Connor Gavagan

Connor Gavagan never got to meet his father, but his mother said he looks and acts just like him.

“[Connor] is the spitting clone of my husband,” Jacqueline Gavagan told ABC News. “His personality and his hair and his eyes are my husband and his personality and everything. The whole package.”

“[Hearing that] makes me feel good inside," Connor Gavagan added. "Makes me feel like maybe he is there."

Donald Richard Gavagan, Jr., worked for Cantor Fitzgerald as a bond broker in the north tower. Connor Gavagan is now 19, and said that day will always be a part of him.

“I guess you could say 9/11 has shaped me, but not in a negative way… I do look at my mom as a very strong figure to look up to, someone I strive to be,” he said.

He says he wants to be a dad himself one day "to give a child the opportunity I never had."

Elaine, Caitlyn and Mary Lyons

It took Mary Lyons a long time to be comfortable with hearing stories about her late father Michael J. Lyons because she said it was too painful.

“​​It's a sore spot,” said Mary Lyons. “It always will be.”

Michael Lyons was a firefighter with New York City Fire Department Squad 41 in the Bronx when he was killed in the terror attacks.

At the time, Elaine Lyons was pregnant with Mary -- she was born two months later. Their oldest daughter, Caitlyn Lyons, was just 15 months old.

“My dad is a big part of my life, but 9/11 isn't,” Mary Lyons added. “I always feel he's watching over me no matter what.”

When he died, Elaine Lyons said she felt like she just wanted “to sit in the corner and cry” and be “angry at the world.”

But now, reflecting back on the past 20 years, “I’m not angry anymore,” she said.

Mary Lyons said she would want to assure her father "that we're happy."

"But he already knows that," she added.

David Casimes

David Casimes, like some other children of 9/11 victims, says he’s spent a good part of his life trying to live up to his father’s name.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. David L. Williams was killed in the attack on the Pentagon.

“The world sees my dad as a hero, rightly so. But being the child of a hero, it can be hard. You wonder what they would think about you, what he would think about me. You just kind of have to cling onto what you do now and to my mom and my sisters and the people who he knew,” Casimes said.

Casimes said that his mother Sara Casimes’ strength inspires him.

“​​I think she's very resilient,” he said. “It's really hard. I can't imagine what it was like.”

Sara Casimes said she couldn’t have done it alone, and took some comfort in the fact that after the attacks, the country seemed to come together.

“My folks took a picture of all the neighbors, and everybody had put up an American flag. I just thought that was just a sign of solidarity, and that's all it meant… We were in solidarity together to grieve and support one another. I really appreciated it back then,” said Sara Casimes. “I think I'm saddened right now about what's going on, and that we're not supporting each other the way we did.”

Andrea, Ariella and Olivia Russin

Steven Russin’s wife was pregnant with their twin girls, Ariella and Olivia Russin, when he was killed at his Cantor Fitzgerald office. Their son Alec was just 2 years old at the time.

When the girls were born after he died, Andrea Russin said she knew she had to push through and keep going.

“I had to change diapers, they were crying. They needed to be fed. I had babies on each breast. I didn't have a choice. It was the best and worst of everything because … everything relied upon me getting up so I got up.”

She said she is thankful for organizations like Tuesday's Children, who came together to support her and families like hers.

"People got together to make their lives the best that it could be. Tuesday's Children throws a 'Take Your Child to Work Day' every year so that these kids whose fathers couldn't take them to work, had places to go," she said.

Andrea Russin says she talks about her husband often to keep his memory alive.

“We're always talking about him, we're telling stories about him. It's hard though... it's hard to continue to dwell on what we need to talk about in order to keep his memory alive all the time… You live it on a daily basis. There's something everyday that just triggers it,” said Andrea Russin.

“Whenever we do things, we hear something about him,” said Olivia Russin.

“​​We moved, so we were cleaning out the basement and stuff and I found a camera and it was his camera. I think that's pretty cool because I like photography,” said Ariella Russin. “It's an old film camera so I've been trying to clean it up and get it fixed so I can use it.”

Jenna Jacobs McPartland and Gabriel Dick

Gabriel Dick was born just six days after his father was killed.

Although he didn’t work at the World Trade Center, on that morning, Ariel Jacobs was attending a conference at the Windows on the World restaurant in the north tower.

As Dick has grown up, he said he’s tried to focus on moving forward, and is currently attending college.

“I want to live my life. I want to look toward the future, and I don't want to think about the past too much. That being said, those stories are really, really important,” he said.

His mother, Jenna Jacobs McPartland, said she was grateful for the opportunity to be with other women who also lost their husbands while they were pregnant on that fateful day.

“Sharing these last 20 years with these other families has been transformative to me,” she said, “It really is personal. And I appreciate that. And I loved my Ari to pieces and I feel uniquely blessed to be able to say that out loud to so many people.”

Scott Brian Larsen

Scott Brian Larsen was 4 years old when his father, New York City Fire Department deputy firefighter Scott Andrew Larsen, died in the attacks.

“I remember seeing him at the kitchen table, saying goodbye to all of us… before he went to work. I do remember that, and I'm happy to remember it. [I remember him] just saying goodbye to everyone and obviously going off to work,” said Larsen.

His little brother August Larsen was born two days after the attacks.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Scott Larsen is now a member of the same New York City Fire Department. He says he’s like his dad in more ways than one.

“I look exactly like my father, everything from the beauty marks on my face to every single thing, identical,” he said. “I feel like we just don't bring [9/11] up because we don't want to get each other upset. Especially my brother, I think that's what really gets us to not bring it up. … He never even got to meet him. I think, for all of us, we don't try to bring it up just for the fact of him.”

Larsen is now a “legacy” firefighter, one of many children of first responders killed in the attacks who went on to become first responders themselves. He serves on the same ladder company, Ladder 163, that his father did in the Woodside neighborhood of Queens, New York.

He said that now that he’s a firefighter, he hears more stories than ever before about his father. People tell him about how his dad was “such a good guy,” he said,

“Twenty years later, [they] still remember him so vividly,” Larsen said. “I love my job. It’s the best job in the world.”