A Widow's Walk

A Memoir of 9/11

A Widow's Walk

On September 11, I dropped my son off at his second full day of kindergarten. The sky was so blue it looked as if it had been ironed. I crossed the street, ordered coffee, and sat to wait for my husband to meet me. It was our eighth wedding anniversary and Dave and I were about to begin a new chapter in our seventeen years together. Sipping coffee, I watched as a line of thick black smoke crept across the sky from Manhattan, oblivious to the fact that my life was about to change forever.

On September 11, 2001, Marian Fontana lost her husband, Dave, a firefighter from the elite Squad 1 in Brooklyn, in the World Trade Center attack. A Widow's Walk begins that fateful morning, when Marian, a playwright and comedienne, became a widow, a single mother, and an unlikely activist.

Two weeks after 9/11, the city attempted to close Squad 1, which had suffered the loss of twelve men. Known for her feisty spirit and passionate loyalty, Marian, who was still reeling from her profound loss, began to mobilize the neighborhood to keep the firehouse open. From this unlikely platform the 9/11 Widows and Victims' Families Association grew. Over the next twelve months, Marian struggled with the tragedy's endless ripple effects, from the minute and deeply personal -- she wonders who will play Star Wars with her son, Aidan, and carry him on his shoulders; to the collective: she works to get families and widows necessary information about the recovery effort and attends private meetings with Governor Pataki, Mayor Giuliani, Senator Clinton, and Mayor Bloomberg.

Through it all, Marian's irrepressible humor is her best armor, as well as evidence of her buoyant strength. Written with great heart and humanity, A Widow's Walk is a timely opportunity for remembrance and a timeless testament to love's loss and the resilience of the human spirit.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 448 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743298247 | 
  • September 2006
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Reading Group Guide

Widow's Walk
Marian Fontana

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Marian’s memoir is incredibly sad in so many moments and hilariously funny in others. What is the role of humor in her story? What is the role of humor in grief and in healing?

2. Marian experiences both a very personal loss, but also a public loss. September 11 was a national event and Dave’s death became part of the history and legacy of that day. On page 114 Marian writes, “What happened to our husbands and so many others has made privacy impossible.” In what ways is Marian’s loss the same or different than if Dave had died on a regular day in the line of duty?

3. In the year after 9/11 Marian witnessed an astounding outpouring of concern and generosity from people all over the world and also encountered people who were insensitive and obtuse about her loss. How do you explain these wide disparities in people’s reactions to September 11? Are some people genuinely compassionate and others not? Do you think 9/11 affected people who lived near the tragedy or had a connection to New York more than other people?

4. Marian and Theresa feel bad when they realize they are getting different treatment as widows of firefighters. Kathleen, who is with them, refers to their checks as “blood money.” Do you think the families of non-firefighters were treated fairly after 9/11? H see more

About the Author

Marian Fontana

Marian Fontana, an accomplished comedienne, actress, and writer, is the president of the 9/11 Widows and Victims' Families Association. She lives with her son, Aidan, in Staten Island, New York.