Remembering My Sister Nancy, Chana Perel, Morgenstern on 9-11

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Yaakov Morgenstern emulates his older sister. Nancy הי"ד. He rides the same bike, wears the same helmet and wears her cycling jersey (Courtesy: Yaakov Morgenstern)
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By Yaakov Morgenstern, whose sister Nancy was killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 

nancy-portrait My dear sister Nancy, Chana Perel, was killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that day my whole life changed. My sister was a woman who loved living life to the fullest with a smile while keeping to her roots of being a proud orthodox Jewish woman.

Nancy was 32 years old at the time and I cannot believe that today I am older than she was. She seemed so much older, experienced and wise.  Nancy was an avid skier and a top notch cyclist. She traveled all over the world to cycle in different types of settings. Places like Colorado, the Grand Canyon, Spain and Italy. All that time, no matter how difficult it would be, she ate kosher and kept shabbos without batting an eye.

 

During the summer when she would race out of town on a Sunday morning, she would begin to travel after shabbos for 3-4 hours and arrive at the motel 2-3 in morning and only sleep only 4 -5 hours that night just because keeping shabbos was more important.

The other racers would make sure to arrive earlier, traveling on Saturday in order to be well rested for the race. For this reason, all her non-Jewish friends respected her so much. They respected her for holding onto her faith as the most important thing in her life even above her greatest passion, which was cycling.

Nancy’s siddur at the 9/11 memorial.

Sunday September 16 2001, we went to her apartment and found her prayer book which was sitting on her table still opened up to the end of the daily prayer. She must have prayed right before she ran out to work and had forgotten to close it. She may have been running late but she would always take the time to pray daily. This is just one example of what exemplified my sister, Nancy. I now use the same prayer book.

Yaakov Morgenstern, traces Nancy’s name at the Point Lookout Memorial.

Throughout the first few months after my sister was killed, my parents were overwhelmed with letters from her friends, Jew and non-Jew, friends we knew about and those that we didn’t know about. They took the time to write to us about their experiences with Nancy that brought such joy and happiness to us. Most of them are filled with stories about how Nancy kept strongly to her faith and of what a loyal friend she was. They commented about how whenever she walked into to a room she brought so much positive energy with her . These letters were all compiled into a book that my parents published.

The anniversary of 9-11 reminds us that we are faced with evil on a daily basis that never seems to abate. We constantly hear of new terror attacks all over the world.  That is why we must love one another.  She had this uncanny ability to always find the good in people. It is not uncommon to meet people who, by virtue of what they have accomplished or by the way they conduct themselves on a continuing basis, have earned the admiration, approbation and love of those they associate with.

Nancy kayaking in Alaska summer 1998 (nancymorgensternmemorial.org)

What is very uncommon, however, is to meet somebody evoking these feelings across such a broad spectrum of society, as Nancy did. She earned the admiration, approbation and love of all those who knew her by being a devoted friend and family member and by doing the little things that matter on a daily basis. She was true to herself and to her ideals. She was there when she was needed, and she made a difference in people’s lives, even casual acquaintances’.

In a phrase, Nancy was, quite simply, a beacon of light for the many of us who knew her. We hope she will be a source of inspiration when you find yourself in a difficult situation or when you see somebody who can use some help. We like to think that although Nancy is no longer with us in body, her spirit lives on. The example she set by just being herself will continue to guide us, and as a result she will forever be a part of our lives.

This is her legacy.

-Yaakov Morgenstern

Today Yaakov Morgenstern and his family continue their sister Nancy’s legacy via the Nancy Morgenstern Memorial Fund. The fund set was set up expressly to perpetuate Nancy’s name by engaging in activities consistent with the life she led—dedicated to helping her fellow human beings, while remaining true to her Jewish traditions and heritage. Just some of the many accomplishments in Nancy’s merit are establishing and sustaining a volunteer ambulance group in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel.

Supporting the construction of a synagogue in Ramat Bet Shemesh
Writing a Sefer Torah in Nancy’s merit
Ongoing Support of a Kollel (a program of advanced Talmudic study)

For Yaakov Morgenstern, dealing with his sister’s 9/11 loss has manifested itself by helping others. He does a lot of work with injured Israeli soldiers as well as other families who have been victims of terror.

“It is definitely part of a coping mechanism to deal with the loss of my sister but it also represents much more. After somebody dies, there is nothing positive left for them to accomplish, and all that remains is the legacy one leaves behind. My sister always used to help, even, or perhaps especially, in the smallest things. I am perpetuating who she was by promoting the values she applied, like my parents do through the memorial fund.” Morgenstern said.

Yaakov Morgenstern and family with recovered wounded Israeli soldier, Dvir Noah and his wife Shaked Bogen Noah on their honeymoon in NY. They visited Nancy’s memorial. You may remember Dvir from a picture that went viral.

“Captain Noach Dvir (no relation) was injured in combat in Gaza. His girlfriend Shaked Bogen has not left his bedside since. Refuah shelaima! #TrueLove” – Eddie Dvir, Facebook
Yaakov Morgenstern presents a gift to the Family of Ezra Schwartz הי”ד. The Nancy Morgenstern Memorial Fund Jersey.
Morgenstern (2nd on left) with the Mark family. Their father Rabbi Mikki Mark הי”ד was killed in a terror attack in Israel while driving.
Yaakov and Harvey Morgenstern with Leah and Simcha Goldin, Hadar Goldin’s parents, at the 9/11 Memorial (Courtesy of Belev Echad)

The Morgenstern family has the unique ability to provide some solace and comfort that only family members of a terror victim can understand and connect with other similar families and they do it all as a living memorial for their beloved Nancy. Please consider helping their work by contributing to the Nancy Morgenstern Memorial Fund

 

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