DESPITE MEMORIAL, DON'T CALL STAR ORTIZ A WIDOW
By ANDREA PEYSER
October 15, 2001 -- STAR ORTIZ didn't want the memorial service. Her husband, she tells herself, is not really dead.
But the parents of her husband, Paul Ortiz, have cried and prayed and hoped for a month. It was enough.
Waiting for a miracle had taken too great an emotional toll. They needed to bury their son in spirit, if not in body.
On Saturday, Paul Ortiz Jr., 21, a father, son and loving husband, was memorialized at a Jehovah's Witness meeting hall on the Lower East Side.
Star, also 21, joined Paul's friends and family in remembering the man with the dazzling smile. But emotionally, she was not really there.
"I still have hope," Star told me, as if hope alone were enough to bring Paul home.
"When they pick up the last piece of rubble, if they find something that says he's dead, then I guess I'll give up hope," she said. "They have not told me that yet."
The terror attack on the World Trade Center has carved deep emotional fault lines through families. With nearly 5,000 people still missing in the rubble, perhaps never to be recovered, denial has won a strong foothold in the minds of many.
Yet for other relatives, clinging to the hope that their loved ones somehow lived through the attack is too painful to bear.
Paul's father "just wants closure," said Star. "That's what he needs in order to keep going with his life.
"I need hope."
Last week, Star took daughter Rebecca, 9 months old, to the family center at Pier 94 and filed for a death certificate that she doesn't really want.
The volunteer lawyers were kind to Star. But some of their questions tore her up.
"He asked me if I was the last person Paul spoke to," said Star.
"I would have loved to have heard his voice one more time!"
The last time Star heard Paul's voice was early in the morning of Sept. 11. Paul was on his way to install computers for his employer, Bloomberg, at Windows on the World. He leaned over Star in the bed of their Brooklyn apartment and kissed her goodbye as she lay half asleep.
After the plane struck the tower, Paul called his father to say he was OK.
"I think he didn't want to worry me," said Star.
Star felt she might lose it when she was asked at the family center: "When was the last time you spoke to him?"
"I held myself back," she said. "I did not cry."
In her lap, Star cradled Rebecca. The child looks so much like her daddy. Star is certain Rebecca understands what's happened.
Star still hopes that Paul will be found, perhaps wounded and incoherent in a hospital. Perhaps still alive in the rubble.
Star arranged to have Paul's death certificate mailed to his parents.
"They feel they've got to have it," she said.
Star doesn't even want to see it.
I need more BOE letters, KMs and other material. Those who can send it to me - please do! The new section will be interesting!!
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