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A man's grieving comes full circle

9/11 widower to get remains, wedding ring

Laura Lee Morabito was on a plane flown into the World Trade Center. Laura Lee Morabito was on a plane flown into the World Trade Center.

After his wife, Laura Lee Morabito, was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks and there was no trace of her remains, Mark Morabito gave his cherished wedding ring to her nephew, born just months after the plane she was traveling in hit the World Trade Center. Morabito then retired from his job as a currency trader and dedicated his life to raising money for charity and performing other acts of kindness.

Now, Morabito, 45, formerly of Framingham, is getting back her remains, just identified this week, and her wedding ring.

Although his wife's hand was pulled from the ashes of the north tower six years ago, with the ring on it, medical examiners in New York City were able to identify her remains only via a match with DNA samples submitted by relatives. They used a technology implemented earlier this year.

Last Wednesday, Morabito received the call that his wife's remains were positively identified.

"I waited so long, I had actually given up all hope, then out of the blue this call came, and it almost floored me," Morabito said yesterday in a telephone interview from his home in upstate New York. "When an airplane traveling at 500 miles per hour hits a building, and you have a massive fire, you assume everything was vaporized."

Morabito said he should get his wife's ring within days, but he won't disclose what he plans to do with it. He picked out the ring, which has three bands and a pear-shaped diamond, before he proposed to her in 1993.

Morabito is planning a funeral for his wife, working out the details with her brother in San Francisco. Morabito already created a gravesite for his wife in St. Joseph Cemetery in Auburn, N.Y., including a black granite headstone with two large crosses, signifying the twin towers.

Laura Lee's father, Lawrence Defazio of Factoryville, Pa., said in a telephone interview yesterday, "We hope the rest of the people that incurred the same heartache and sadness will have the same type of closure."

There is another gravesite for Laura Lee in Factoryville, and like the grave in New York, it contains none of her remains.

"We put the ashes from ground zero in the grave," said Defazio, who described his daughter as an outgoing person who was very affectionate.

For Morabito, his wife's death and the outpouring of support he witnessed for the families of the Sept. 11 victims prompted him to dedicate himself to helping others. He gave to charity all but 25 percent of the money he received from the federal government's victim's fund, and has sponsored golf tournaments for a hospice and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, raising more than $100,000.

"I was spurred by how the public reacted to 9/11," he said. "If you don't give back, what sense does life make? The last six years, they have been very difficult for me. Losing a best friend, the person you're married to, it's devastating. I'll never get her back."

Morabito said he has dated since his wife died, and is in a relationship with a woman who "is very understanding. She knows what I'm going through, and it takes someone very special to accept that."

Laura Lee Morabito was a national sales manager for Qantas Airlines and was on her way to a business meeting when the plane was hijacked.

"After her death, I've tried to live my life to help others," Mark Morabito said.

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