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Published: Saturday, 9/12/2009

Education of others is tribute to lost spouse

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Myrta Gschaar will never forget the chilling morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when she lost her husband, Robert, in the attack on the second World Trade Center tower in New York.

Eight years later, it's become her mission to ensure such a national tragedy never happens again.

"I want to be able to educate people," said Ms. Gschaar, who left New York a few years ago for Maumee to be closer to family. "I just don't want them to remember [Sept. 11] once a year and pay their respects. I want them to be aware of what happened so it doesn't happen again."

So for the third consecutive year, the American Sign Language major at Owens Community College spent most of her day on the Sept. 11 anniversary at a memorial set up at the college's Center for Fine and Performing Arts Rotunda.

Other 9/11 memorials were held across the Toledo area yesterday, including at Crossgates Elementary School in South Toledo, where students recognized area firefighters and veterans for their heroism.

Sylvania held a Patriot Day Ceremony and in Maumee, city employees gathered for a moment of silence and a citywide ringing of church bells at 9 a.m., close to the time of the terrorists attacks in Washington and New York.

In Toledo, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was late for his role in ringing a memorial bell at the Civic Center Mall downtown at

8:46 a.m. at the time of the attacks. Toledo Fire Chief Mike Wolever took over for the mayor in ringing the memorial bell.

The memorial at Owens Community College included newspaper clippings chronicling the horrific events that morning and the days that followed, lists of those killed in the attacks, continuous showings of the History Channel documentary 102 Minutes That Changed America, and an impression book for students and faculty members to share their feelings.

Many of the writings expressed ongoing grief ("eight years later I still cry whenever I see the attacks being replayed") and shock ("I had never seen the footage of the people jumping out of the buildings until today. … Those images will truly haunt me.").

One posting was particularly personal:

"My stepfather was killed in the second tower. He was in my life for 25 years. And as I hear the bagpipes, I feel chills and weak. How do I feel, not good."

After the death of her husband, Ms. Gschaar, 60, said she spent "two years in a hole," where just the mention of Robert's name would send her into a days-long crying fit.

She turned her life around, though, and hopes to help others struggling with the tragedy do the same.

"We need to find a way to turn it into a positive thing," she said. For her, it includes her message and her stories with school students, many of whom are too young to remember the events of Sept. 11.

Last year, she received an offer to speak at an area high school, but was unable to make it. At the 9/11 memorial yesterday, she received a speaking-engagement offer from another school.

Ms. Gschaar said she hopes for the opportunity to talk at many more schools.

"At all our schools we should be educating" children on the facts of Sept. 11, she said.

"Just like I learned about Pearl Harbor and John F. Kennedy and I learned to respect those people."

Contact Kirk Baird at:

kbaird@theblade.com

or 419-724-6734.



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