Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering Mary Jo Kimelman - A Kid At Heart, Taken Too Soon

Today, as part of Project 2,996, I am honoring Mary Jo Kimelman. Mary Jo was working at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center, when she was taken from her family and friends on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Here is a portrait of Mary Jo published by The New York Times in 2001.

Mary Jo Kimelman: 'Time Out New York,' Live
Published: Saturday, December 8, 2001

Whenever friends or friends of friends came to town, Mary Jo Kimelman eagerly became their tour guide. She knew so much about happenings in New York City that her mother once called her "Time Out New York," after the magazine.

Ms. Kimelman, 34, was always a taker when people had an extra ticket to concerts or sporting events. She often read poetry at clubs in Greenwich Village and ran up on stage when bands invited audience members to sing. About two years ago, Ms. Kimelman impressed her friends by belting out a Melissa Etheridge tune at a bar near Wall Street. "At the beginning she was a little nervous," said her friend Carolynn Kutz. "But once she started going, she let it rip. The band helped her along and she shined."

Ms. Kimelman was passionate about photography and travel and was particularly smitten with Paris. She mused about getting executives at Cantor Fitzgerald, where she worked as a volume control clerk, to transfer her there. "We always got a kick out of that," said her [step]mother, Pat Kimelman. "I said, `Mary, maybe you should learn to speak French first. You should go to London.' But she happened to like Paris better."

In addition to being her own "Time Out New York", Mary Jo's mother, Terre Wallach, recalled, "no one had more fun than Mary Jo."

Her stepmother said, "She could be a kid with the kids ... crawl around the floor and make them laugh."

And she had plenty of opportunity to let the kid inside of her out when she spent time with her six nieces and nephews.

When she wasn't hitting the town or sharing laughs with her family, Mary Jo poured her heart out through her writing. Her choice of medium was poetry. Her boyfriend, Thierry LeBras, recalled that just before 9/11, she had read her poetry at a show in the East Village.

"She wrote about everything," her mother said. "She shared her father's interest in food and wine. She had so many interests."

Mary Jo wore her heart on her sleeve. She was always there for everyone. Her boyfriend said, "She had this special talent of listening to people that she had just met. She would talk [to them] about their lives."

And, she would talk to co-workers about her life and how she dreamed of being transferred to work in Paris. Her family would tease her, saying she should explore other options, that she should visit London first. But Paris had a special place in Mary Jo's heart.

Mary Jo was taken away well before her time, but she embraced life and had a vivacious spirit that we remember today. They say it doesn't matter how one dies, but how one lives. And Mary Jo lived her life to the fullest and touched everyone she met during her young 34 years.

She would have been 42 years old this year. She might have published her poetry. Had a family of her own. Taken that trip to London. Maybe even moved to Paris. But a group of people who didn't know Mary Jo, or her father Michael Kimelman, her mother Terre Wallach, her sister Dara Berliner or her brothers Michael and Scott Kimelman, set off a chain of events that took the lives of Mary Jo and 2,9995 other victims 8 years ago today.

Today we remember and honor Mary Jo. I hope that Mary Jo's family has found some comfort, and I know that she is watching over them with that same vibrant spirit she had here on earth. We will never forget you. May you rest in peace Mary Jo.


To read more tributes to the victims of 9/11, visit Project 2,996 and Friends of Project 2,996.


  1. It's the little things that really connect us with each of the victims. I was an English major in college and became a fan--and amateur author--of poetry. I wish Mary Jo had lived to publish some of her work.

    Thanks for your comment on my tribute to Joshua and spreading the word about the project!