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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 00:42 GMT 01:42 UK
9/11 attention 'magnifies pain'
By Clare Babbidge
BBC News

The fifth anniversary of the 11 September attacks again puts the spotlight on those who lost loved ones in the atrocity that shook the world. Charles Wolf, whose British wife was killed, finds this time of year more difficult.

As 11 September approaches, American businessman Charles Wolf is a man in demand.

Katherine Wolf
Katherine Wolf had started a new job on the 97th floor

As well as fending off business calls to his New York office, the 52-year-old is receiving a stream of calls from media organisations, keen to get the widower's viewpoint five years on from the disaster which transformed his world.

Mr Wolf says he "rolls with the punches", as the media attention flows, accepting that the marking of that terrible day is inevitable.

"Because it's happening, you can't ignore it, so I think it's best to go along with it," he said.

He said the interest had given him an insight into how Jackie Kennedy might have felt every November, when the world marked the anniversary of her husband John F Kennedy's assassination.

"One has to understand the memories don't go away for the rest of the year, and all the attention on the anniversary can be very, very difficult," he said.

However, Mr Wolf said he agreed to interviews "in honour of Katherine" - his wife - and also because he saw a necessary relationship with a media which had helped highlight post-9/11 projects he had been part of.

I have been trying to turn a negative into a positive, trying to do something to help
Charles Wolf

Katherine, from Swansea, was working on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower, which was hit by the first hijacked airliner.

She was one of 67 UK victims of the New York attacks which killed 2,749 people.

'Knew soon'

On that horrific day, Mr Wolf was at home in the small apartment they shared in Greenwich Village and was alerted by the sound of a low-flying plane.

"I ran out on to the balcony, and it was going so fast and then I heard a big boom.

"Somebody said the plane had hit the World Trade Center, and I said - 'it can't have - my wife works there'. So I knew very, very soon."

Mrs Wolf, 40, had been working as an executive assistant with Marsh & McLennan for only three weeks.

Mr Wolf met Katherine, a classically-trained pianist, 13 years earlier when she was visiting New York.

She had been working as an accompanist for a London amateur operetta group and went to the US when it staged a joint production with a Manhattan group.

The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles at the memorial garden
Prince Charles and Camilla unveiled a dedication stone at the garden

Mr Wolf, who sang with the New York group, vividly remembers seeing Katherine for the first time, at the church hall where they were rehearsing.

"It really was love at first sight," he said

He had arranged to go on a date that night, but could only think of the woman he'd met earlier that day.

After a long-distance relationship, the couple married the following year and set up home in New York.

Mr Wolf said: "We were best of friends, and loved to hang out together and just lived life," he said.

He said the couple had also begun "talking in earnest" about starting a family.

Post 9/11

Following Katherine's death, Mr Wolf was thrust into a new arena, becoming involved in what he calls "post-9/11 activities".

He founded a campaign called "Fix the Fund", an advocacy organisation for victims' families aimed at addressing what it saw as problems in the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001.

Katherine Wolf
Mrs Wolf had trained at the Royal College of Music

He also gives his views on New York's future as a member of the Family Advisory Council of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

"I have been trying to turn a negative into a positive, trying to do something to help," he said.

It was this attitude which prompted his recent speech to British industry chiefs who are helping to raise money for the British Memorial Garden in Lower Manhattan.

The $6.5m (3.4m) project, which Prince Charles and Camilla visited last year, is dedicated to the UK victims.

Mr Wolf said his involvement in such projects had helped him move forward, as had the passage of time and Reiki healing.

"You can't live in the past, you can remember it, but you can't stay living in it," he said. "The present attention magnifies it, but my life is moving forward... it's been five years now."

He said he was dating again and had had a relationship which lasted nearly three years, while some other spouses of victims had re-married.

Mr Wolf added that he was not angry over his lost future with Katherine, as he could see no point in this emotion.

"What was done that day was evil," he said. "If you rail against the devil, you lose all your power, because what can be done?"


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