Skip to main content /US

A grandmother's trip ends suddenly, awfully

By Christy Oglesby

(CNN) -- Everybody called her "Grammy," but her name was Thelma Cuccinello, and she was 71.

Hanging on the quilt rack in her home in Wilmot, New Hampshire, are pieces of cloth -- waiting for Grammy to assemble. It is labeled "Emily" and slated for the youngest of Cuccinello's 10 grandchildren. Completed personalized covers wait for her other grandchildren, the names proof of a grandmother's love: Patrick. Shane. Keith. Bryan. Caroline.

"She'd put them away in different places of the house," her daughter, Cheryl O'Brien, recalled Wednesday, a day after her mother's flight slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. "She was saving them for when they were older."

Her care extended to Albert, her husband of more than 50 years and O'Brien's father. "There are meals now in the freezer for my dad, labeled for each day for the week she'll be gone," O'Brien said.

Cuccinello was on her way to visit her 75-year-old sister in California. They'd lived on opposite sides of the country for much of their lives but alternated visiting one another, O'Brien said.

Tuesday, it was Grammy's turn to make the trip.

"She wanted to spend more time with her sister because she was getting older and wasn't sure how much more time they would have," O'Brien said.

Cuccinello had lived in Lexington, Massachusetts, most of her life before moving to Wilmot 10 years ago. Still, she often returned to Lexington, usually squeezing in a visit to nearby Bedford, where her daughter and grandchildren lived.

"If my kids cut their fingers, she was there," O'Brien recalled.

O'Brien's proximity to Logan International Airport was another plus. Whenever she traveled, Cuccinello would arrive at her daughter's home the day before the flight, spending a night with her brood before heading skyward. Monday was no different.

Nor was Tuesday morning. Daughter took mother to the bus before daylight. She had a confirmed seat on American Airlines flight No. 11, scheduled to lift off from Boston at 7:59 a.m. Destination: Los Angeles.

"I was the last one to see her," O'Brien said. "I got to kiss her and say 'I love you' and 'Have a nice trip.'"

Back to the top