January 15, 2002

Portrait of a grieving family

   By Mitchell Uscher
   Times Herald-Record
   
   Months ago, Monroe resident Katrina Marino had no idea that she and her children would appear in Life magazine, that their faces would be published in the No. 1-selling book in the country or that their photo would be part of a major exhibition at Grand Central Station.
   Yet this is what happened to Marino, 35, her daughter Kristin, 4, and her son Tyler, 2.
   Katrina's husband, Kenneth, was a firefighter for Rescue Company 1 in New York City. He was among the first to get to the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11 and he is still officially listed among the missing.
   
   The morning
   Katrina and her children were in Manhattan the morning of Sept. 11.
   Her daughter does some modeling and they had a photo shoot in Midtown, so they made a surprise visit to her husband's firehouse around 8 that morning. "Kenny put the kids on a fire truck. We spent about 30 minutes together," she said. "As we were leaving, he kissed everyone."
   What Katrina didn't know until later was that Kenny whispered something into his daughter's ear. She is a big fan of "The Wizard of Oz," and he told her that he would bring her a prize when he got home.
   As the morning progressed, Katrina, a former flight attendant, saw a plane flying low across the city. This was the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. Later, she saw the buildings in flames and, as they were leaving the city, watched as one of the towers collapsed.
   Still, Katrina figured her husband would be all right.
   "Kenny's company is the first due for anything major in the city," she said. "I told myself, 'My husband's probably there,' but all I thought was that he'd have a story to tell when he got home."
   It wasn't until Katrina got back to Monroe and started watching television that she saw the fire truck from Kenny's company destroyed in the rubble. That's when the magnitude of the disaster began to hit her.
   And it wasn't until they were home that Katrina's daughter told her what her Daddy had promised.
   She asked, "What about my prize?"
   
   The tragedy
   As far as Marino knows, her husband was put on the injured list on Sept. 11.
   "My friend said she was pretty sure she saw him on television on a stretcher during the initial moments of the whole thing," Katrina says. "She described exactly what he was wearing. She said he had a bandage on his arm."
   Katrina believes her husband was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital.
   "The hospital said they had a Marino who went up to MRI," she says. "He was on the injured list with a shoulder problem, which would have been consistent with my husband."
   But Katrina also heard a story that some firefighters were seen driving out of the hospital to get back to the World Trade Center.
   "That would be my Kenny," she says. "He would try to go back and the hospital probably would have let him because of all the chaos." So far they have found eight of the 11 members from Kenny's company at Ground Zero.
   
   The prize
   Three weeks later, Katrina went out and bought a set of "Wizard of Oz" dolls.
   When Kristin saw the Dorothy figure, she said, "Daddy got me the doll." Katrina had also bought a scarecrow doll for Tyler.
   Then her daughter said, "Daddy left a prize for you, too." Katrina was stunned; she didn't know what Kristin was talking about. Her daughter went into another room and brought back a Santa Claus ornament Katrina had never seen before.
   "Kristin said Daddy left it for me," said Katrina.
   Weeks later, at a memorial service for Kenneth, Katrina told the story about the prizes. Then she added, "Kenny left prizes for each and every one of us: his sense of humor, his love of sports, his toughness, his sensitivity and his everlasting courage. We have all of these prizes from him ..."
   
   The photograph
   Katrina got a call to do a life-size photograph for People magazine. She wasn't sure, but finally said OK.
   "I thought it could be something special to keep for the children someday," she said. Katrina was told the family could bring mementos with them.
   "We brought Kenny's Rescue 1 hat and we brought the dolls," she said. "In the photo, (shown at lower left of this page) you can see Kristin holding her Dorothy doll. Tyler's scarecrow doll is all the way in the left-hand corner of the picture."
   The family was driven to Manhattan, where they were put on a big stage. Joe McNally, the photographer, and his assistants were in a separate room because the camera was huge: 12x16 feet, roughly the dimensions of a one-car garage.
   The photo shoot took less than 20 minutes. When it was done, Katrina and the children got to see the picture which turned out to be 9x4 feet.
   "It was the size of us," she said. "It was like looking in a mirror." Later Katrina was interviewed and found out the photo was going to be used in Life magazine instead of People. When the magazine came out, Katrina went to Barnes and Noble to get one.
   "The copies were flying off the shelves," she said. "I asked the lady at the counter where the magazine was. She went over to the side to get a copy. She found the picture and said, 'Oh my gosh, is this you guys?' I said, 'Yes,' and she started crying. She handed them all to me."
   Later, Katrina's sister e-mailed her that the photo was also in the book "One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001. That book went to No. 1 on The New York Times" best-seller list.
   The reaction has amazed Katrina. Members of The Wizard of Oz Foundation saw Kristin's doll in the photo and sent "a little bit of Oz magic her way." The Marinos received five huge boxes of Oz presents and have been invited to be the grand marshals for next year's annual Oz parade in Indiana.
   In addition to the magazine and the book, there is an exhibition of 85 life-size photographs titled "Faces of Ground Zero" that can be seen through Jan. 20 at Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall. The photo of Katrina, Kristin and Tyler is included along with those of Rudolph Giuliani, Lisa Beamer and many others.
   
   The future
   Katrina and Kenneth had been together for seven and a-half years. He had been a firefighter since March 1990. They moved to Monroe three years ago and Katrina says she loves the area.
   "I have so many friends and so do the children," Katrina said. "My neighbors and friends have been such a support. When this happened, they came and took over. Someone is always coming to check on me and make sure I'm OK."
   Still, Katrina admits she's not sure if the whole thing has hit her yet.
    "Sometimes I can talk about it calmly. Sometimes I cry," she said. "It comes in spurts. The fact that they haven't found him helps in a way ..."
   
   The caption
   There is a caption that goes with the photograph of the Marinos.
   It reads: "Kenny was listed as injured and I was very hopeful, but later they said it was a mistake. I try not to get upset in front of the kids. I need to be there for them.
   "My daughter has been an inspiration. It came to the point where I had to tell her Daddy's in heaven. She said, 'Don't worry, Mommy, you've got me and Tyler.' "
   
   If you go ...
   What: "Faces of Ground Zero" exhibition of life-size portraits
   Where: Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall on East 42nd Street between Lexington and Park avenues
   When: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. every day through Jan. 20
   Admission: Free

 

Copyright 2002 Orange County Publications, a division of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., all rights reserved.

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