Early September 2001 must have seemed like a dream come true to 30 year-old Alona Avraham. Israel in September is hot, and dusty, a nightmare of bombings and shootings, where every day could be your last. Boston, in contrast, was a sunny, cool vision of peace and beauty.
Alona arrived in Boston on August 30, and spent ten days visiting friends there... she went whale watching, shopping in Cambridge, with the changing of seasons and the cries of the coxswains on the Charles River as her backdrop. When she talked to her mother, she enthusiastically related her adventures, as well as plans for picnics and sightseeing with her friends.
On September 10, Alona called her parents and told them of her plans to fly to Los Angeles to visit her aunt and uncle for Rosh Hashanah. She would be home by Yom Kippur, she told them. She then gave them her flight information- United Airlines flight 175- talked about her excitement to see California, and said goodbye. Peretz and Miriam Avraham would never speak to their daughter again.
When news of the attacks reached the Avraham family in Ashdod, Israel, they feared the worst. As soon as they were able to travel safely to the United States, they came, with photos of Alona pinned to their clothes. In this way, they hoped that someone would recognize their daughter as one of the survivors and end their nightmare. They left New York disappointed, but they did not give up hope... as long as there was no evidence of her death, they could continue to believe she might be out there, somewhere. Still, as is the custom in the Jewish faith, the family sat shiva* for 7 days, always hoping that it was not needed.
It was late 2007 when the family received word that some of the recovered remains from the South Tower of the World Trade Center matched their daughter's DNA. It was both a relief and a reopening of old wounds: they would relive the anguish again, but at least they would have something of her to bury, a place to visit their daughter and pray. Miriam Avraham asked that the news not be released until the remains arrived in Israel. They arrived inside a box, placed on a stretcher and draped with an American flag. All that remained of her little girl, fit inside a box.
Little more is known of Alona's life. She had completed her MBA and was an industrial engineer at Applied Materials, known for working long hours. She was the eldest of three children, leaving behind a brother and sister in addition to her loving parents. She was independent, religious, and loved to travel. Her fateful trip was her first trip to the United States, where she particularly enjoyed the cool weather, low prices, modern cities, and the respite from the violence she experienced back home in Israel. She looked forward to making many return trips to the United States.
She was a young woman who had dreams and plans, like so many of us, and who was ripped away from her family and the world far too soon, and far too violently. Let us keep her in our memories and never forget the loss we all experienced that terrible, dark day.
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*sat shiva= a seven-day period of grief and mourning in the Jewish religion, reserved for the closest members of the family (mother, father, daughter, son, brother, sister, and spouse). Most regular activity is halted, hence 'sit' shiva.