September 10, 2011, New York Daily News, 'Every September is difficult', says Doreen Noone, who lost fiance at World Trade Center on 9/11, by James Fanelli, Staff Writer,
July 12 was supposed to be the most important date in Doreen Noone's life. Now it's just a reminder of what could have been.
She and firefighter Kevin Prior planned to marry that day in 2002, but he died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center.
Ten years later, Noone's life has played out in ways she never expected.
In 2004, she married Prior's best friend, a man she barely knew before the terror attack.
She also endured a bruising, three-year legal battle with Prior's parents - a family with whom she once grieved and spent the first two 9/11 anniversaries.
The court case was over his FDNY pension. Noone only learned recently that she'd get the money.
"I totally believe that he's with me and that he watches over me on a daily basis," she said of Prior.
"What really confirms this: The day we found out the suit was totally finalized was July 12, [which would have been] our wedding anniversary."
Noone, now 39, met Prior while bartending at her father's pub in Bellmore, L.I.
"He was an amazing person. He was funny, always the life of the party," said Noone, who lives in Lindenhurst, L.I.
Their first date was May 12, 1997, at Gilgo Beach. Exactly four years later, he took her to the same spot. With a bouquet of roses, a bottle of wine and a view of the sunset, he proposed.
On 9/11, Noone was working as a second-grade teacher in a Queens school. Prior was also at work, in Squad 252 in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
As the day unfolded with no word from Prior, Noone grew worried and started sending messages to his beeper.
"Everyone was just trying to assure me that the buildings had fallen by the time he got there," she recalled.
Three weeks later, Prior's body was pulled from the rubble. He died when the north tower collapsed while he was making a second round of rescues.
After the tragedy, Noone grew close to NYPD Sgt. Edward Wheeler, Prior's best friend since kindergarten and his would-be best man.
"He was there for me more than my best girlfriends," Noone said. "We grieved together."
Before 9/11, Noone and Wheeler had barely known each other because he worked the night shift. That made the romance easier.
"If it had been one of [Prior's] fire department friends, I think it would have been awkward for me," she said.
Prior's parents at first welcomed the budding relationship.
"His mom was crying and saying how happy she was - that Kevin probably sent Ed to me to take care of me," Noone said.
She said the rift with Gerard and Marian Prior started when the FDNY awarded her Prior's pension - over $3,000 a month.
The parents challenged the award in Brooklyn Supreme Court and state appellate court, but lost.
On 9/11 anniversaries, Noone visits Prior's grave. She also stops by a memorial bench in Long Beach, L.I., she bought for Prior as a wedding anniversary gift.
"Every September is difficult," she said. "This one will be really bad because it's the 10th anniversary."