9-11 victim’s sister continues legacy

Posted 9/7/10

The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, devastated millions of Americans as they watched them unfold live on television. That day, one Colorado family …

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9-11 victim’s sister continues legacy


The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, devastated millions of Americans as they watched them unfold live on television. That day, one Colorado family lost a part of themselves.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the terrifying news nine years ago. Ellen Sleevi had just dropped her three children off at school and returned home when she got the call. It was her older brother, and he asked if she had seen the news. She turned on the television set to see the North Tower of the World Trade Center in flames. Her first thought was her little brother, Chris Faughnan, a bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald who worked on the 103rd floor. The American Airlines jetliner had struck between the 93rd and 99th floors.

The images were too much. In a complete state of shock, Sleevi went into the shower and wept. Then, out of nowhere, she heard a voice: “We have to take him now.”

Sleevi broke down and pleaded for her little brother. When she came out of the bathroom, she saw that the North Tower had just collapsed.

Faughnan, a 38-year-old father of three, was among the 2,752 people killed in the attacks on both of New York City’s trade center buildings. Now his family is carrying on his legacy, which is one of compassion, positivity and love.

Faughnan, a graduate of Arvada High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder, was one of eight children. His wife, Cathy, who now lives in Lafayette, Colo., created a scholarship foundation that awards money to the Arvada High School senior who shows the potential to have the most positive impact on the world.

Sleevi, a Parker resident and owner of Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli across from Park Meadows mall, is donating all of her proceeds from sales on Sept. 11 to the Christopher Faughnan Scholarship Foundation.

Sleevi remembers her younger brother as a quiet guy, a “brainiac” who always wanted to be the athlete. A strong-willed man, he “would always stand up for what was right,” Sleevi said.

“We always said Chris encompassed the best of all of us [siblings],” she said.

It took her two years to come to terms with the fact that he was gone, even though the family immediately left Sept. 11 and drove to New York, their home state, and stood next to the rubble of the towers. Police officers who were standing at checkpoints did not need to verify their identities. They just knew, and some of them held Faughnan’s family as they cried.

Witnessing the aftermath was difficult, particularly for the eldest son on the family, Tom, who was charged with removing bodies from the remains of the buildings.

“It was like a war scene,” Sleevi said. “Everything was still smoldering.”

Only one thing is known of Faughnan’s final minutes: he made one last phone call to his 5-year-old daughter, Juliet. The next day, as family members held each other and shared memories of Faughnan, his 3-year-old daughter sat next to her mom and said, “Dad isn’t coming home, is he?“

But Sleevi knows he is still with the family, watching over everyone as he always did. Every year, on his Oct. 31 birthday, they release balloons into the sky with birthday cards and messages of love.

His family also rides every year in the CU Buffalo Classic bike ride in Faughnan’s honor. It is one of the many things the family does to cope with their loss. Even nine years later, the wounds still seem fresh.

Faughnan’s oldest daughter, Siena, wrote a poem years later that captured her raw feelings. It starts, “Whoever says that time heals the wounds that death makes?“

In the days and weeks following Sept. 11, Sleevi was overcome with grief, but also overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends, family members and people across the country.

“If I wanted the message of 9-11 to be anything, it would be that love is so much more powerful than hate,” she said.

That is why the family continues to live their lives in honor of Faughnan. The scholarship foundation is an extension of him and empowers young people to make a profound impact on society in his name.

“He was always trying to make the world a better place and we’re trying to fill those gaps,” Sleevi said.

Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli, 8283 S. Akron St., is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 11, and all proceeds from that day will benefit the Christopher Faughnan Scholarship Foundation.


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