Thousands are expected to flock to Ground Zero this Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, but Marian Fontana won’t be among them.
Instead, the 9-11 widow and her son Aiden will go to Prospect Park, which Firefighter David Fontana, who died in the attack, treated as his second home.
“We never go to Ground Zero,” Fontana said. “Aiden and I have a ritual. We go to his grave at Green-Wood Cemetery and put flowers down then we go to Prospect Park where he proposed to me.”
Fontana, a member of Park Slope’s elite Squad 1 died with his team as they ran into the crumbling towers to rescue civilians. He was quite fond of the Prospect Park — so much so that he thought it would be a perfect spot to pop the question, even during a Nor’ Easter.
“David kept saying, ‘Let’s go outside,” Marian Fontana remembered. “There was no one in the park, not even skiers and I told him, ‘This is crazy! Let’s go back.’ but he wanted to go a little further. Finally he chose this pine grove off the big field and got down on one knee. I thought he was joking around and pushed him back, but then he pulled a ring on his pocket. I was completely shocked.”
Marian Fontana, a Park Slope resident who moved to Staten Island a few years after Sept. 11, but is now planning a return to the borough, likes to focus on these memories rather than the ones surrounding her husband’s death: he had just finished his shift when he answered the alarm that brought him and his fellow smoke eaters to the World Trade Center. He and 11 of his squad mates never returned.
Just before leaving the station, Dave told Fontana that he would meet her at Connecticut Muffin on Seventh Avenue in 10 minutes so they could celebrate their eighth anniversary. The two had been married on Sept. 11, she said.
The terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center left Fontana widowed and her son Aiden, then five, fatherless.
But she turned travesty into triumph using the raw emotions she felt over 9-11 to fuel her writing. Five years later, she completed, “A Widow’s Walk: A Memoir of 9-11” which she saw as a testament of that tragic day and the year that followed.
Fontana just recently completed her second book, “The Middle of the Bed” which she describes as a memoir on single parenting and jumping back into the dating world.
“I’m dating, and I’ve been involved in a couple of relationships,” she said, talking about her decade-long search for companionship. “I was even engaged once, but I can’t say that I found ‘the one.’ You try to approach each date with an open heart and a lot of faith, but it’s not an easy road.”
Fontana said she’s reminded of David each and every day — her son Aiden, now a teenager, looks a lot like him, she said.
“Aiden is built just like him,” she said. “He’s even surpassed Dave by an inch already. And his expressions are very sincere and compassionate, like Dave. I just wish Dave was here to see it and experience it with me.”
At one time, Aiden only wanted to be a firefighter. But now that he’s 15, he’s thinking about another profession, Fontana said.
“He wants to be a rock star,” she said. “He loves the guitar, plays music and writes songs. He still mentions being a firefighter and has a great respect for the job, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Even though he was just five when David died, Aiden still remembers his father, Fontana said.
“He remembers snapshot memories, like biking in Prospect Park with David and sitting on his father’s shoulders,” she said. “He also keeps a lot of Dave’s stuff in his room.”
Fontana’s memories are much clearer, but after 10 years, those remembrances have changed somewhat.
“When I think about him, it’s definitely not as painful,” she said. “Today, I think about him fondly. I like to tell Aiden funny stories about Dave.”
“I’ve tried to move forward,” she said. “I don’t like the phrase moving on. I think about Dave all the time and I try to live a happy life, but sometimes doing both can be tricky.”