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Eileen shared her story in our 2008 Annual Report.
"I have three girls. My husband also had three children. We were like the Brady Bunch. Two of my daughters have the Families of Freedom Scholarship, the third is in the process of applying for hers. My husband, Bob, was a police officer. He was the only Lieutenant that died with the Port Authority during the World Trade Center attacks.
"Even when my husband was alive, our family was strapped; we had a lot of bills and I never thought I would be able to afford law school, though it was always a dream of mine. When I received money from the Victim’s Compensation Fund, it had to stretch between all four of us, since the Fund does not cover stepchildren.
I met my husband while I was working in the ER as a nurse; he was a cop that brought me patients. While working in the ER, I saw injustices, like the dumping of patients, and I wanted to fight for their rights. Bob always told me I had the smarts to become a lawyer, but I never thought we could afford it and, to tell you the truth, I didn’t always believe I could do it. Plus, we would never take away the savings for the kids’ college.
"I was probably one of the first spouses that took advantage of the Families of Freedom scholarship, as I went to law school in 2002. I know people hear rumors that the rescue workers got a lot of money, but they didn’t. Scholarship America was the only organization that allowed me, a spouse, to go to graduate school on a scholarship.
"After taking the LSATs, I enrolled in Seton Hall Law School in 2002. But my mother passed away right after that. (She had moved in with me to help out with the children after Bob died.) It was tremendously hard, but I only missed one semester with my mother’s death. I just recently passed the bar.
"I can’t thank Scholarship America and the Families of Freedom donors enough. I’ve always really wanted to do this and I’m extremely happy with my decision. Had I known how hard it was going to be physically, I’m not sure I would have done it. But I was always encouraged along the way, and now that I’m done, I don’t know what to think of it because it’s so new!
"If I could talk to the donors who contributed to the Families of Freedom Fund, I would tell them that whatever they gave in any amount or in any form will never be forgotten. It will always be appreciated because it really did help this family. It was one of the more important needs that had to be addressed in our family, and Scholarship America was the only organization that had the foresight to think this far ahead.
"Now people need to better themselves, and not just use it for their children’s education. It’s time for spouses to wake up and do something and go into whatever their niche may be. My own widow friends are all thinking of going back to school. Becoming a lawyer has been on my mind for the past 10 years, but a lot of spouses haven’t thought of it until now. We all need a fresh start, and Scholarship America is giving us a way to make that happen.
"Right now I’m working as an independent contractor, but I am relocating to Florida to be closer to the rest of my family. Seven years after Bob has died, I’ve had it up here, and my mental health just cannot take another story about 9/11. I’m burned out and I want to be me again. I want new things, new people, and new experiences. I’m not brave, and it’s scaring me to move, but I’m ready to begin a new life."
"The Families of Freedom Scholarship sustains the memories of all those lost or suffering due to 9/11. It is so humbling that donors, who are seemingly strangers, can show such kindness and compassion. Scholarship America gives me strength and hope for a better future."
The Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund benefits financially needy dependent children, spouses, and domestic partners of 9/11 victims. If you are eligible to receive assistance, you'll need to complete a one-time registration; after that, you will need to submit an application each year.
Use the "Planning Ahead" Estimated Award Calculator to stimate what the family is expected to contribute to the student's college expenses, and the amount that may be awarded to you for the upcoming academic year.