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September 11, 2001

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks touched and devastated every community in the United States. A series of profiles of the victims, published by the New York Times, included this portrait of Deborah Kaplan:

She set up the tent.

Anyone who has tried it knows the frustration of erecting a tent in the woods with children waiting. But during a vacation at Niagara Falls the summer of 2001, Deborah Kaplan snapped together her family's brand-new ripstop shelter without breaking a sweat.

"She was the best at that stuff," said her husband, Harold. "She was the engineer. That was her domain."

It was a peculiar domain for an Orthodox Jewish woman from Brooklyn, one of only three women engineers in her graduating class at Cooper Union. She went on to work for the Port Authority, but Mr. Kaplan said engineering was not her passion. Her family was.

For years, Mrs. Kaplan, 45, worked only part-time. Even after she was transferred from Journal Square in Jersey City to the World Trade Center this spring she took the 3 o'clock train home to be with her four children, he said.

When the family moved to Paramus, N.J., Mrs. Kaplan discovered that the local yeshiva did not give the children the traditional items used to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. She did not complain. Instead, she found a whole-sale supplier of the lulav, a palm branch, and the etrog, a citrus fruit from Israel. She sent forms to parents, took orders, and collected payments.

Mrs. Kaplan was so efficient she ended up ordering lulavs and etrogs for five area synagogues. "If you had to count on someone for anything," said Nina Glaser, a friend, "you knew you could count on Debbie."

Source: Howell Raines, Portraits: 9/11/01: The Collected "Portraits of Grief" from the New York Times (2002).

National September 11 Museum, April 2012
Full image
The National September 11 Museum as viewed from the South Pool in April 2012.
Courtesy ofNormanB/Wikimedia

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "9/11." (Viewed on January 17, 2018) <>.


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