The Legacy Letters at 10: A Conversation With Suzann Cayne

  • December 2, 2021
A young father and toddler daughter sit together at a white kitchen table
Suzann Cayne with her father Jason ("Jake"). Photo courtesy Suzann Cayne.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, 100 family members penned emotional letters to the loved ones they'd lost. These letters looked back on the decade since September 11 and shared deeply personal memories, which were then collected and published by the organization Tuesday’s Children. In this milestone 20th anniversary year, the "Legacy Letters" stand as a written memorial and tell a powerful human story about the almost unfathomable long-term impact of that horrible day. We've been speaking with some of the families who contributed legacy letters in 2011 to ask about the evolution of their feelings and what they wish the world knew.  

Today's blog post features a conversation with Suzann Cayne, who was just seven when she lost her 32-year-old father Jason ("Jake"), a Cantor Fitzgerald employee. Suzann lives in Florida with her husband and newborn son Jacob (also called "Jake"); she is completing an internship as part of her master's degree in marriage and family therapy, focusing on those who have endured trauma or grief. 

What would you say to your dad if you wrote a second letter today? 
I would update him on everything that has occurred throughout our lives. I'd share that my youngest sister Raquel graduated from the University of Central Florida and is looking forward to furthering her education and getting a master's degree. My sister Marissa got engaged ... I'd want to introduce him to my husband, to my sister's fiancee, and tell him how hard it's been that he hasn't been here for all these milestones. But his memory is here, I feel him with me all the time, especially after having the baby. And I'd also mention how ridiculously proud he'd be of my mom and how strong she is for raising all three of us. I'd tell him that going through life without a father has been really hard, but that I know he's watching over us. 

Two little girls in white dresses smile next to their father, who is wearing a suit.

Suzann and her little sister with their father. Photo courtesy Suzann Cayne.

Over the years, what has gotten you through the tougher days?
My mom taught us at a young age that a bad thing happened to us, but what we can do is make something positive out of it. She had started a foundation when we were living in New Jersey for other widows who had children under 18, and it would help pay their mortgages for a certain amount of time ... that was always the premise of how I dealt with what we'd been through. On the tough days, do a good act, do something to help others, because we're lucky enough to be here as a family. You take something bad and if you're able to, help other people get through. 

Tuesday's Children has also been unbelievable. Through them I had the opportunity to meet others who had lost loved ones on September 11, and that allowed me to feel less alone. 

Tell us something about your dad that captures the essence of his personality. 
He was so loving, so caring ... he always wanted to make my sisters and me happy. Whether he did tea parties with us, took us to the park, played Barbies with us, read us stories ... I just remember him being so happy. He was an incredible husband/father/son/brother/uncle/friend. I never heard anyone say anything bad about him, and it's an honor to have named my son after him. As the years pass by, it's becoming harder and harder to remember our memories ... so I know how important it is to continue to speak to him every day.

What is something you wish people understood about your experience?
Right after 9/11 happened, I felt like America was united and all came together. I think it's important for us to stand united, hand in hand, and show one another love, compassion, and humanity. This type of loss is still occurring throughout the world - more and more terrorist attacks and hate acts. Others should not have to endure this pain. The world needs to come together and make a difference. 

Read Our August Q&A With Tara Feinberg

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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