How do you write a tribute to a person you’ve never met? I signed up to do a tribute on 9/11 to one of the fallen in the World Trade Center. I randomly received Jean Marie Collin. As the name popped up, so did her picture. I cannot describe the feeling I got when I saw that face looking back at me and knowing that this was once a person that had a “normal” life, carrying on day by day like all of us do, and was suddenly gone. I can only imagine the hole in the hearts of her mother and father and those who loved her.
Combing through the searches of her name gave a picture of a successful woman who cared about her work and the people around her. Over and over, the tributes read like this:
“I did not know Jean, but I remember her warm, big smiles” – Pfizer employee.
“We will never forget her, her beautiful smile, and her warm laughter.” – a niece.
“I have a picture of Jean in my office (at Pfizer), which reminds me of her beautiful eyes and wonderfully contagious smile.” – Pfizer employee.
“She always had a smile on her face when you saw her. I will always remember her with those beautiful blue eyes.” – Pfizer employee.
“I keep coming across Jean’s emails which always remind me of the pleasure of working with Jean and her humour.” – Pfizer employee, U.K.
Jean did not work at the World Trade Center. She worked uptown, had traveled the U.S. and the world, and was only there for a presentation to an insurance group. She was there by coincidence. There is an entry on Legacy.com from a woman in California- she evidently did not know Jean, but received a name band with Jean’s name on it as a remembrance to the fallen. The woman who gave it to her did not know that Jean was a risk manager. She says, “coincidentally, I am a risk manager too. I want her family to know that not one day goes by when I do not wear her name on my wrist with pride. I tell this story and the “coincidence” surrounding it to all I meet.”
I was out walking my golden retriever tonight, watching her galumping around so happy and full of life, trying to figure out how I was going to write this and do justice to Jean and her family. And I thought it was a coincidence that she should be given to a 55+ wheezer, former smoker who just kicked the habit one year ago. I still get to go out and feel the wind in my face, see the sunsets, enjoy the sensation of the rain or snow. Dog and I get to go out almost every day, and I try to run and usually am fighting to breathe after less than a quarter mile and then walk again. Yet, by coincidence, here I am writing a tribute to a woman who, in her 20’s, decided that,in addition to the demands of her work and education, she would take up running and compete in a marathon. She ended up completing three NY City Marathon’s!
The demands on Jean were of her choosing, evidently, as she stayed with Pfizer for 23 years. According to a biography of her at Voices of September 11th, “at age 19, Jean began working as a secretary at Pfizer, Inc. headquarters in New York City…After a few years, she became familiar with Pfizer’s business and various management disciplines and Jean felt that she had the capability to handle more responsibility and challenging assignments. So, she made a major commitment to advance her education and to gain business skills…Jean’s true measure as a unique and determined individual was demonstrated as she undertook and completed an eleven year educational journey that saw her progress from an introductory business program, to a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and finally to a Master Degree of Business Administration in Strategic Management. Throughout these many years, with full-time work responsibilities, family, social and recreational activities, Jean displayed the patience, vigor and persistence to do what was needed to develop professional skills and to advance her business career…At Pfizer, the rewards for Jean’s hard work and development into a motivated business person became evident through a series of promotions whereby Jean progressed from secretary to cash management work, to financial analysis, to risk management and eventually to the position of Risk Manager. In this latter position, Jean was responsible for Pfizer’s property insurance at its many facilities around the world. The position required Jean to travel extensively. She became well known throughout Pfizer’s operations as well as with insurance carriers and related companies who transacted business with Jean and Pfizer. Her pleasant demeanor and kindness to others were hallmarks of her business dealings.”
Kindness and caring were evidently an integral part of her personality. Again, the tributes on various sites tell the story of a woman that people felt glad to know:
“Jeannie, I think about you every day. You took me in as your roommate when I had no place to live. And you were my dearest friend for…11 years…” – a friend.
“Jeannie was not only my Aunt, but a second mother and confidant to me and my brother.” – a niece.
“My memories of Jean was of a very loving and caring person.” – Pfizer employee.
I will let the person who wrote her bio finish:
With a life so full and a place in her heart for everyone, Jean deserved a long and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, on 9/11/01 Jean was making a presentation to an insurance group at the World Trade Center and was tragically taken from us in the disaster of that day. There is no way to fathom why; Jean worked uptown and was only there for the presentation. In 2001, Jean had traveled around the world. One could not imagine that a short trip downtown would place her in harm’s way.
Jean’s passing has left a void in many lives-and one that may never be filled. We treasure her spirit and seek assurance that it will live on. At a memorial service, Jean’s friend Don suggested that family and friends dwell on the positive and remember three important dimensions of her life: a wonderful and friendly person, a remarkably accomplished woman, and an especially pretty girl.
I don’t know why, but I kept thinking of an old hymn that apparently has unknown as the author. Rest in peace, Jean. The thoughts and prayers of many people are with you.
I am weak, but Thou art strong; Jesus, keep me from all wrong; I'll be satisfied as long As I walk, let me walk close to Thee. Just a closer walk with Thee, Precious Jesus, hear my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be. Through this world of toil and snares, If I falter, Lord, who cares? Who with me my burden shares? None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee. Just a closer walk with Thee, Precious Jesus, hear my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be. When my feeble life is o'er, Time for me will be no more; Guide me gently, safely o'er To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore. Just a closer walk with Thee, Precious Jesus, hear my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.