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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

A Daily Gazette life blog
Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture

White Rose

Diane “Dani” Moore Parsons would have celebrated her 71st birthday on Monday.

Parsons, who lived in Stillwater, passed away young at 58. She also passed away tragically — she was inside the World Trade Center in New York City when terrorists flew hijacked airplanes into the 110-floor twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Frank Tatum, Diane’s son, remembered the birthday. He was glad to hear other people remembered it, too.

On Monday afternoon, Tatum received an email from the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. Staffers have recently begun placing white birthday roses at the names of people whose names are inscribed in stone walls. The message came with a photo — a white rose at the name of Diane Parsons.

“It’s a quiet gesture of remembrance that feels meaningful to us, and seems to touch our many visitors,” wrote Jan Seidler Ramirez, chief curator and vice president of collections at the museum.

“We thought that you might like to see a picture of the rose that is standing honor guard today at your mother’s name on the South Tower Pool,” Ramirez added. “Many hundreds of visitors out and about on the Memorial Plaza this afternoon, pausing to pay their special respects at her name.”

I interviewed Frank in 2011, for a 10-year-anniversary story we published about local 9/11 victims and their surviving relatives. Frank, a candid and casual guy, was a great interview. He said his mother spoiled her pets and even took care of animals around her Stillwater home.

“She had special wildlife peanut butter that she fed the squirrels, and she had like the fattest squirrels I’ve ever seen hanging around the house,” Frank told me in 2011.

By now, Parsons would have been retired. The squirrels and birds would have enjoyed daily feasts.

“My mom would have been 71 — of course she would have looked much younger, she always did,” Frank told me in a Facebook note. “I don’t think the memorial had my contact information until we visited a few months back.”

Frank said he was “incredibly touched” by the email.

Just looking at the photo can put you in a melancholy mood. But it’s a great way to give each person who died on Sept. 11 special attention once a year. Ramirez is right — I’ll bet bunches of people were drawn to the single rose on the black wall.

Once they learned the significance, I’ll bet more than a few said a silent prayer for Diane. And wished her a happy birthday.

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