Terilyn Esse called off Christmas in 2001. There was no point of it. No joy. Her husband of one year had been killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Her baby boy, born six weeks after his father’s death, wouldn’t know the difference anyway. Her family planned to hole up in Vermont for the holidays.
“I was in survival mode,” Terilyn says from the kitchen of her Sasco Hill Road home in Fairfield. “I got up and got dressed only because I had a baby to deal with.”
So when the librarian from Beardsley School in Bridgeport called inviting the young mother to a Christmas assembly in her baby Jack’s honor, Terilyn left it to her family and friends to decide.
“She was numb. We thought this could help her,” remembers Terilyn’s best friend, Susan Lafevre of Naugatuck.
On assembly day Terilyn trudged up the stairs of the 100-year-old school, hugging her infant to her chest with her parents by her side. She didn’t know Beardsley School. She knew a sketchy story about how her Uncle Tony went to the same boat club as the school librarian, who in turn got a few people together at the school on Jack’s behalf. She didn’t know that Baby Jack and his family were celebrities on their first visit to the school. Upon the family’s arrival, a group of children came bounding in from recess, held outdoors on a fenced-in slab of asphalt. “They shouted, ‘They’re here, they’re here!’ They surrounded us as if we were movie stars. It was mayhem,” Terilyn recalls, her blue eyes bright and shiny at the memory.
A teacher whisked the family backstage while the audience assembled: students, teachers and lots of big shots, including the school superintendent and the mayor.
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