Geraldine OSullivan found the note from her husband in the morning. Before the towers fell. Before her world collapsed.
Beloved Geraldine, it began in her husbands slanting script. Fact: I loved you from first sight. Fact: I have always loved you. Fact: I will love thee through time and eternity.
He scrawled the messages on 3-by-5 index cards and left them on the coffee table in the living room where she could easily find them.
His words that particular morning made her smile, but their gravity seemed odd from a man who planned to be home by supper.
I thought to myself that this is a real serious one, she said. I was going to really talk to him about it when he came home. It seemed like he was going away for two weeks on a trip, as opposed to the city. That struck me. I was going to ask him why he felt like he was going to be gone for a long time.
Those questions still linger as she struggles to cope with the loss of her husband, dwindling finances and major surgery.
In the past year, Geraldine, 64, has had two knee replacements to ease the arthritis that left her partially paralyzed and unable to walk without a cane. Shes still recovering from the last one in June, and simple tasks like gathering the mail and making the bed are difficult to do alone.
He helped me in ways I wasnt even aware of, she said. With all thats happened, my stamina has really taken a shot. Im trying to hold it together.
Geraldine has found comfort from the searing grief through her Catholic faith and by focusing on the happy times she shared with the man who filled her life since she was 18.
When I concentrated on what I had, rather than what I lost, things started to turn around, she said. Of course, we had rough times, ups and downs like any married couple. He was really a great guy, and its not just his wife that says that. He was very loving. I just realized how much I had been given; so many people dont even have that.
The pair met at a Veterans of Foreign Wars tea dance in White Plains, N.Y., and Timothy was immediately smitten by the blue-eyed blonde who sat demurely at a table against a wall, sipping cola. A few months later he proposed, but Geraldine shot him down, wanting to wait until she was older to marry.
Undaunted, he proposed again, and again, and again. Finally, after umpteen times Geraldine said she lost count; Timothy liked to tell their three children it was at least a thousand she agreed to marry him.
I realized he was too good to let get away, she said.
She never regretted that decision.
I loved my husband so much, she said between sobs. I miss him so terribly.
A personnel manager and specialist in labor relations for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo, for 17 years, Timothy was something of a labor-management guru. There was never a strike during his tenure, and his success as a negotiator stemmed from his deep respect and concern for the little guy.
He liked to say he took care of the people who took care of the animals, Geraldine said. That involved anything from personnel to keeping everybody happy and dealing with new restrictions and laws.
During a trip to Italy for the couples 25th wedding anniversary, Geraldine remembered, she was standing in a hotel lobby when a voice boomed, Is that you Mrs. O? Wheres the big guy?
Sept 11: One Year Later