The brief conversation took place Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, following the deadly impact of American Airlines Flight 11 at 8:46 a.m.
"Somehow he found a working phone," she recalled. "He said: 'I'm still here,' meaning he was still in the building. He told me he loved me."
And then the line went dead.
Anthony M. Starita, 35, was one of 685 Cantor Fitzgerald Securities employees-and 12 Westfield residents-lost on that dreadful day. Anthony and Diane Starita had moved to Westfield from Staten Island, NY, in the late 1990s and became parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish, along with their children Kaila and Jason.
"It's a day for us to be together as a family," Diane Starita said during an emotional interview last month at Holy Trinity. "We've all gone on with our lives, but it's amazing how easily you're brought back to the memories of that day. My children and I have a good life, but there are times when it's hard for me to be 'in the moment.' He's missing, but he's still with us.
"We've been blessed to share Diane's burden," Rev. Msgr. Joseph P. Masiello, Holy Trinity pastor, said. "She's allowed us into her heart and her life. Anthony was a man who was dedicated to his family. Through our faith, we come to live with rather than fight against the tragedies of life, and hopefully ever more peacefully."
Holding back tears, Msgr. Masiello said the days following Sept. 11 were overwhelming. "The human side of me wanted to run away and hide," he confessed. "Everyone was afraid. The fear of the unknown was almost as devastating as the initial loss." He cited Deacon Thomas A. Pluta as being his "tower of strength" during this period of turmoil.
As he confronted his fears, Msgr. Masiello began to pray, reciting the words of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew: "Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
"I was humbled by the goodness of our people here at Holy Trinity," Msgr. Masiello said.
"The community took care of us," Diane Starita said, expressing her gratitude. "That was the only way we survived. My brother once told me to 'learn to make friends with the demons.' I have no answers. I know some day I'll be reunited with Anthony."
Her most difficult task in the wake of Sept. 11 was to tell her children that their father would not be coming home. Though it takes its toll, she welcomes the opportunity to tell her story as a tribute to her husband, as a solemn bearer of history.
"But then, every year, I wake up on Sept. 12 and feel relieved that I got through it again."