Finding ‘purpose in pain’: New book tells the stories of children who lost parents in 9/11

Author Payton Lynch chronicles the stories of her husband and others

Jon Lynch is pictured as a boy with his father Robert. A property manager at the World Trade Center, Robert tragically lost his life during the 9/11 attacks. It inspired Jon's wife, Payton, to write a book telling his story and stories of others who lost parents during the attacks. Courtesy photo. (Payton Lynch)

The conversations were hard, devastating old wounds were opened up and tears were shed.

But ultimately, Payton Lynch hopes that people will find a purpose through all the stories of pain.

When Lynch started dating her now-husband Jon in 2015, she found out that Jon lost his father during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Jon Lynch was 13 years old when his father, Robert Henry Lynch, a property manager at the World Trade Center, died.

Through the initial years of getting to know Jon and then marrying him, Payton Lynch in her mind planted the seeds of writing a book about his experience and those of other children who lost a parent during the attacks.

Last year, with more time available due to the pandemic, Payton Lynch decided this was it: She’d turn her ambition into reality.

The result is a published book titled, “Rise from the Ashes: Stories of Trauma, Resilience and Growth from the Children of 9/11.”

In writing the book, Payton Lynch reached out to an organization called Tuesday’s Children, a nonprofit group that provides healing for families impacted by terrorism, military conflict or mass violence.

The organization put Payton Lynch in touch with 12 children who lost a parent during the 9/11 attacks, and she got to work contacting them for the book.

Of course, the conversations were emotional because of what her husband has been through.

“It was a really challenging place to be in the interviews,” Payton Lynch said. “Each were about an hour long. I would often always have to give myself some time after each interview to spend some time in quiet. I could hear my husband’s stories in each of those stories.”

While all of the stories inspired Payton Lynch, one in particular really pulled at her heartstrings. It was the story of Rebecca Asaro, who was 9 when her father Carl, a New York City firefighter, lost his life during the attacks.

A few years ago, Asaro and two of her siblings became firefighters in New York, following in the footsteps of their father.

Payton Lynch said it was a great example of the victims finding a purpose in their pain, something that’s a common thread in the book.

“Even though their stories were so painful, they saw the purpose of sharing it in hopes of helping others,” Payton Lynch said. “That was something I tried to keep in mind with these conversations.”

Ultimately, Payton Lynch hopes the stories told do more than just inspire those who lost loved ones in 9/11. She hopes the book can be a resource for anyone to draw upon when going through tragedy or hardships.

“My hope is that this isn’t just a look back at 9/11,” she said. “But it’s a look forward into how people impacted by immense tragedy are able to pick up the pieces and really bounce forward from their tragedy. I hope that others realize that this isn’t just for 9/11 surviving children and about what they’ve learned. But we’re all able to tap into that resiliency. The reality is that we’ve all been through something challenging. We don’t get to choose what our challenges are. But we can influence how we move forward from them. I hope these stories inspire others to do so.”

Courtesy photo. (Payton Lynch)

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About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.