In Memory of Laura Ragonese: Maria & Michael Ragonese

Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.

MARIA & MICHAEL RAGONESE
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Every day is still a struggle for Maria Ragonese, who lost her best friend and sister-in-law, Laura Marie Ragonese-Snik, on Sept. 11. Laura worked for AON Consultants on the 101st floor of the south tower and was one of the many who didn’t escape. Maria, a 38-year-old secretary, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and today lives in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. She and her husband, Mike, have a 6-year-old daughter named Briana. On the morning of Sept. 11, Maria was in her office when she heard a plane had struck the first tower. As she writes, “I work in a resort, so I ran down to the pub where they had the big screen TVs to see what happened … all the time thinking that Laura was in there.” Meanwhile, her husband was on his way to work in Seacaucus, New Jersey, and could see smoke coming from the towers as he sat in traffic on the highway. “He had the radio on and remembers them breaking into Talk Radio with the news that the WTC was under an attack of some kind. He started crying realizing his sister was inside.” Mike wrote his letter in May 2002. Maria’s contribution is taken from the eulogy she wrote for Laura in October 2001. Maria also wrote the following introduction.

Loving Thoughts in Memory of Laura Marie Ragonese-Snik

Even as we write this tribute for Laura, it is hard to put into words how special she was, how much we miss her, and how grievous this loss is for us.

Michael was Laura’s friend, protector and confidant from the time they were children. She came into the world small and meek, and Michael, sensing she had special needs, always stayed close by in case she needed her big brother to help her out. Since they were only 11 months a part, I believe there was also a very powerful spiritual connection between them. This got stronger as they grew into teenagers and then adults. Laura looked to Mike for strength, stability and confidence. He looked to her for support and inspiration. They had so much in common, especially their love of music, singing and dancing. Theirs was a unique relationship based on mutual love and respect.

Laura came into my life when I was 11 years old. We have been many things to each other. We’ve been companions, sisters-in-law, and finally the very closest of friends. There is no way I can adequately express all that she has meant to me throughout the years. She was so proud of the relationship her brother and I shared. She so often told me she hoped she would find a love like ours. God heard her prayer and 10 years after her divorce, she met the love of her life: John Snik.  Michael and I became fast friends with John, and over the two years they dated, and the four years they were married, we shared many special times together as couples … times Michael and I now cherish beyond words and ache to have again.

As I said, it is so very hard to put into words what a big part of our lives and our souls Laura was. We hope when you read the tributes we wrote for her, you will know that Laura was not just “a name” or “a number”; she was a real person who was loved by everyone who knew her. She mattered in this world and in the lives of others.

For My Dear Sister Laura

Eleven months younger than I to the day, our earthly journey was in parallel. Now, you have moved on to the higher place, and though I feel your spirit, I long to see your face.

When I think of you (and it is often), I remember all the wonderful things about you (and there are many). Your zest and enthusiasm for life, your “can do” attitude, that beautiful smile, and that voice – it came from the tip of your toes – I miss that most of all.

The years we spent singing and dancing together, all the wonderful music and the love of the theatre that we shared … I just don’t know how to find that love again without you.

I am angered by the event/people that took you from me (and from our family), but I know you did not live your life in anger. You focused on the good in everyone and never judged people by their mistakes. You loved with no condition and that, my dear sister, is the true lesson and the most precious gift you have left us all with.

I miss you more than words can say. I know that you are in a happier place and looking out for us all. I send all my love to you everyday and every way I can think of. I will love you and be your older brother forever.

Until we sing and dance together again …

Love, #1 brother, Michael

Laura:   My Cheerleader, My Best Audience, My Touchstone, My Mirror, My Sidekick, My Buddy, My Partner in Crime …

My family and friends always refer to me as “the writer” or “the one who has a way with words.” It’s ironic though, when I needed those words most, at the Memorial Service for my sister-in-law and best friend, they seemed to fail me. When they looked to me to contribute to her eulogy, my eloquent words were nowhere to be found. Perhaps it is because there are no words to encompass a friendship that has spanned 27 years of my life. The kind of friendship where you can just look into each other’s eyes and know exactly what the other person is thinking and feeling. That’s how it was with Laura and I. We were “connected” on so many levels that, most times, words were unnecessary to express our thoughts and feelings. She was the one person who knew me better than I knew myself.

There isn’t a place in my life where I cannot find Laura. I can find her at the beginning, when we were teenagers signing each other’s Year Books, dancing at each other’s Sweet Sixteen Parties, and cheering each other on at our Graduation ceremonies. I can find her as we grew into young adults, when I fell in love with her brother Michael and we were so excited that on top of being friends, we were going to be sisters-in-law. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding and she was a bridesmaid in mine. I was there, step by step, with Laura as she prepared to give birth to her son, James, and she was the first one in the hospital room the day my daughter Briana came into the world. Like I said, there isn’t a place in my life where I cannot find Laura. There are so many memories, that to write them all down, would keep you here for hours. They are as endless as the love I have for her.

A long time ago, when we were just teenagers, Laura and I made a vow. We told God that when it was time to die, we wanted to leave this world together, because neither one of us wanted to be the “one left behind.” I’ve thought of that often since the morning of September 11th, because now I am the one left to carry on. And although I feel like screaming, “It’s not fair!” I know she would want me to be brave and walk forward.

“Tuesday Afternoon” by the Moody Blues was Laura’s favorite song. The words are ethereal and talk about becoming one with the beauty of nature, the trees, the sky and the “voices beyond.” Ironically, September 11th was a Tuesday, so now I know that my beloved friend became part of her “Tuesday Afternoon,” and for all of us left behind, it will be “Forever Afternoon.”

I love you … Your Buddy, Reasy (Maria)

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