A widow who lost her 37-year-old husband on Sept. 11, 2001, during the World Trade Center attacks, recalls the pain-filled years that followed and how she became an activist to help preserve the site for a memorial.
“Many feel we should all move on, it’s been 20 years. But for some of us on that day, our loved ones were murdered on national TV,” said Monica Iken-Murphy, whose husband, Michael Iken, a bond trader working in the World Trade Center, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as she expressed her grief.
“It became our ‘forever nightmare,'” the 51-year-old went on to say.
On Sept. 11, 1999, Iken-Murphy met Iken in a Riverdale restaurant. They married on a beach in St. Martins on Oct. 27, 2000.
Iken was working at Eurobrokers on the 84th level of the World Trade Center’s South Tower on that warm Sept. 11 morning in 2001 when the attack happened.
“Turn on the TV. A commuter plane has hit the building. Everything is fine and under control.” Iken said calmly the first time he called his wife.
Then a second call came from him, “People are jumping out of windows. I have to go.” They were the last words his wife heard from him.
Because widows received money from the government Victim Compensation Fund after 9/11, many people assumed Iken-Murphy had been so lucky. “Men came out of the woodwork to date me. They saw dollar signs. I did not fall into that trap.” She said, “what I received was ‘blood money.'”
In addition to using the money to pay her bills, Iken-Murphy used it to start and administer a non-profit called September’s Mission Foundation that worked to preserve land on the WTC site for the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.
“I would give back every dollar for my Michael,” said the widow according to the New York Post.
Iken-Murphy founded the Iken Science Academy on the Upper East Side, the first science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) school for children under five, and named it in honor of her late husband.
Although she had not found any of her husband’s remains or personal belongings, she thought of a way to remember her late husband.
“I bought the deepest chest I could find to hold cherished possessions: his basketball, yearbooks, the outfit I wore when we met, his wedding clothes, napkins with a shell design for his love of ‘surf and turf.'”
“On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I will honor him by wearing my simple white dress from our wedding,” said Iken-Murphy.
She remarried to an FDNY fireman, Bob Murphy, in 2006. They now have two daughters. On 9/11, Murphy was not on duty, but after WTC 7 crumbled, he assisted other first responders.
When Iken-Murphy remarried, she took the diamonds from her wedding ring to design a new one, as she wished for her late husband, who was killed on Sept. 11, to be there in her life at all times.
“When I first met Bob, I told him I would keep the last name Iken, but hyphenate it with another name if I remarried. When we got engaged, I made a new ring that incorporated diamonds from Michael’s band,” she recalled.
The ring is “a symbol of the love I had for Michael and the love I have for my husband,” Iken-Murphy explained. She planned to pass the ring down to her daughters. That way, she said, the love would continue.
“They will always have that ring from the union of two souls,” she said, according to CNN.
Monica’s present husband understands why Michael will always hold a special place in Iken-Murphy’s heart.
“I’m blessed to have a wonderful husband and two beautiful girls who are part of Michael’s legacy because they are a part of me,” said the mother of two.