(WEHT) – The Tri-State lost a beloved member that fateful day of September 11. Stacey Peak grew up in Tell City, Indiana, but moved to New York to work at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center.
She was at work when the plane hit the first tower. Her family never saw her again. Her loss was felt deeply, and still is. Time does not change that.
19 years ago, I met Stacey’s niece, Missy Huber, and she shared with me then the bright light that Stacey was. Missy agreed to meet me again on this 20th anniversary at Stacey’s memorial. It sits on the Ohio River in Tell City. There’s a bench and a bird bath along a quiet path, with a picture, a simple inscription and a poem. It’s a humble tribute to a hometown girl who left the small town behind to make her mark in the Big Apple, only to have her hopes, dreams and her life cut short on September 11.
Missy describes Stacey as, “such a spicy thing. She had so much zest for life. That’s what took her to New York. She lived her dream to the fullest, and she paid dearly for that.”
On that morning on 9-11-2001, Stacey was at work as an energy trader on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center. Missy was back in Tell City on her way to work, when her mom called to tell her Stacey had called and said there was a fire in the building, not to worry, she would be fine. Missy continues on her way to work, when the phone rang again. Her mother told her, “a plane hit the pentagon and the other World Trade Center building. I needed to come home. I knew it was so bad.”
She says she tried to call Stacey on her way back home, but no answer.
Missy and her family huddled around the tv watching the horrific images that day, holding out hope for a miracle, but she says, “When the building fell, there was nothing left to really say. We didn’t know what to do.”
20 years later, and the pain and the loss are still there. Missy says this time of year is always hard. Stacey’s birthday is September 4.
“I always think how it would be if I could talk to her, because I had no siblings. She was 4 years ahead of me. She was my mentor. I always wonder what she would say about things.”
The smallest things bring it all back to her. “Any kind of flag takes me back to 9-11. And any time I hear the National Anthem, I think of her. It’s hard to disassociate because that’s all I ever thought about is the ash and her.
For years, Missy waited for someone to be held accountable. Then on May 2, 2011, Missy got the news she’d been waiting for. The mastermind of 9-11 was shot and killed in Pakistan. Osama Bin Laden, the man who caused the death of Stacey and thousands of others, was dead himself.
“I always thought if they ever caught him, which they did, it would ease me, ease my pain.”
But the feeling she’d hoped for, never came.
“But it didn’t really. Doesn’t really change things. It doesn’t make you feel any better, because the person is still gone. So, life must go on.”
I asked Missy if she’d found any peace after all this time. She told me she is not as angry as she was. She says, “Time helps heal the edges of a broken heart. The heart is still broken inside and the edges kind of heal, but the middle is still broken. It’s hard. Because she should be here. She should still be here with me.”
At the top of a hill in Tell City is another more private and personal memorial. It’s a headstone placed next to Stacey’s mother, Missy’s grandmother. Although Stacey isn’t there, it’s where Missy feels close to her and comes to talk. It’s there where she tells me Stacey would want her to live her life to the fullest, and not live in fear. She says, “Because sometimes we get busy with life and forget what happened in the past and how fragile life is, how it can be taken away. So you’ve got to live each day at your best. And don’t forget to say, ‘I love you.’”