We constantly talk about the wonderful memories we shared with my mom. We have pictures of her everywhere at home. And I always keep Mom close to me, literally and figuratively. Every day, for many years, I wore a necklace bearing her picture. I didn’t remove it until I got my tattoo. Two years ago, Aaron and I both got tattoos honoring our mother. Mine is on my hip and has her name between two angel’s wings. Aaron has a picture of her on his arm. Both my necklace and tattoo serve as reminders that she is always with me and help me get through each and every day.GREATEST LESSON We honor and remember Mom in other ways as well. Every year on Mother’s Day, 9/11, and again on her birthday, Dad, Aaron and I make the five-minute pilgrimage to the Middletown 9/11 Memorial Gardens, to the stone with her picture etched into, one of dozens of memorial stones that dot a tree-lined path. We release a balloon, a ritual that started when I was an elementary student at a school counselor’s suggestion. We always say a prayer, kiss the balloon and then let it go. Sometimes the balloon carries a note with the words: I love you, I miss you, or Happy Birthday. Other times, we place flowers and a teddy bear at her stone. It’s a private moment the three of us share. We will do it again this year, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, as we have every year since 2001. But we will also return to what was once known as Ground Zero—where twice before we’ve heard my mom’s name read aloud along with the other thousands of innocent victims—to participate in the larger, more public 9/11 Memorial Dedication. Losing my mother at such a young age has made me mature much faster than I might have otherwise. Even as a tween, I understood the value of life more than other children my age. At 20, I can still say the same is true. Some people get upset over the smallest things. I don’t, because I know that life is too short to worry about them. A lot has been written about the more than 3,000 children who lost a parent(s) on 9/11. Some don’t care to be classified as a 9/11 kid. I’m not as concerned about it. Aaron and I just consider ourselves as two kids who had to grow up without a mom. As unfair and tragic as that is, there’s no doubt I am a stronger person for it. I am also more independent, adventurous, and have a broader outlook on life. My brother and I, the same two kids who wouldn’t get on that roller coaster at Six Flags, have been skydiving, along with our father. I did it because I know my mom would have done it. But I also did it for me. As short as it was, my mom’s life was filled with fun, risk-taking, and living life to the fullest. I am my mother’s daughter, even more so now.