Happy Birthday Leah - New York Times Bestselling Author, J. Sterling

Happy Birthday Leah

The other day I posted one of my original blog posts about Sal Calabro. Today I want to introduce you to Leah Oliver, my birthday twin.  I hope you enjoy getting to know her just as much as I did.  xo

**Originally Posted in 2010**

Two years ago when I originally posted this, I was blessed to have Leah's dad Walter stop by the blog and comment on it. *waves hi to Walter*  Walter, your comment touched me. The fact that you found this blog about your daughter and took the time to talk to me, a stranger.... I can't tell you how much it meant to me.  Thank you for having the strength.

He also alerted me to a couple newer articles about Leah. They're quite beautiful, so I'm sharing them here.


Happy Birthday Leah. I wish you were still here to celebrate, my birthday twin. xo  and Walter, if you find this blog again this year-  give yourself a hug from me. A big one.


When I first participated in dc roe's 2996 challenge, I got to learn about a brave firefighter named Sal calabro. it was truly my pleasure to honor him, get to know him, and write about him. i was grateful for the project because it introduced me to someone I wouldn't have known otherwise. on that day when so many of our lives were changed forever, he was a hero. and he paid the ultimate price. i can't believe his family has had to live these past 8 years without him. it breaks my heart.

When dc sent out the email that he was doing the project again, I signed up without hesitation. and this time, I got Leah E. Oliver.

The first thing I noticed about Leah was that we shared the same birthday. September 12th... the day after "the day." I stopped for a moment before I read any further about her to just kind of appreciate the randomness (and not so randomness) of it all. What was the likelihood that the person I would get to write about would share the same birthday as me?

The more I read about Leah, the more I found myself smiling and thinking that we would have totally been friends. Everyone said the same things about her. How warm she was... her amazing smile.. she made everyone feel welcome.. she was always positive and smiling and happy. Everyone who knew her talked about how much they loved her and her laugh. What a great way to be remembered.... always happy. I can only hope to be so lucky.

Leah Oliver

I don't think you'd guess by this gorgeous picture of her, but she loved to go on motorcycle rides with her dad. A passion that they shared with one another. There is a memorial page up for Leah where her father has written the sweetest most heartbreaking letter to his only daughter. the following is part of what he wrote:

"Life is about not knowing. Surely the last few weeks have proved that to all of us. But bringing Leah into this world is one thing I know for certain I’ve done absolutely right in my life. I love all my children equally, and I’m equally proud of each of them. Leah was just that little bit special because she was my first. As oldest children often do, Leah marched through life with a sense of purpose, determined to be successful. And she exceeded my expectations all along the way."

Leah grew up in Dartmouth, Massachusetts and went to college at Columbia university. it seems like Leah's life was just getting started. She had a new boyfriend (in an old friend) and had recently started working at Marsh & McLennan in the world trade center. She couldn't wait to show her mom the view from the 96th floor.
The 96th floor.
I guess you can only imagine how and why she didn't make it out that day. She loved her co-workers and felt like she had the job of her dreams. Things were falling into place for this 24 year old.


Never to turn 25 because the following day would not come for her.

She left behind so many family members who miss her. A boyfriend who has had to move on without her when he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with her. It's hard for me to write about someone who was so young and whose life was just getting started. Because you read about the person they were and you want so much more for them. You know how much they could have had and then you get angry that all of that was taken away. Imagine how I'd feel if I had the pleasure to actually know Leah in real life??

September 11th still hurts. Sometimes I think I'm ready to deal with certain aspects of it. Like a TV special about 9/11 will be on and I'll record it so that I can watch it later at my own pace. But then I'll go to turn it on, and within the first 30 seconds, I'm already in tears and I can't take it. I'm not ready. It's still too raw. And it's been 8 years. and I didn't even know anyone who lost their life that day personally. (i know people who knew people) It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. And it breaks my heart to know how much my life has changed since that day, and I wasn't even directly affected. So many other people have had to live each day since without their loved ones in their life. And all I can say is that I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that Sal's boys have had to grow up with only a memory for a father. I'm so sorry that Leah's family has to go on without her. I'm sorry she never got to have her 25th birthday. but I can promise you that I will forever think of her on our day from here on out.

there is a scholarship set up in her name... there are tributes to her where you can read more about her. I wish I could have known her.. but I'm glad this project introduced me to her. And now to you.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post!!!! I have tears streaming down my face as I've read about beautiful Leah! My heart is shattered reading about such a young promising life taken way too soon! What a beautiful way to honor those who lost their lives in 9/11!

    Thank you to the families for sharing their stories and thank you for taking part in such a wonderful cause that allows those lost to live on through words and memories!!!

    Happy Birthday Jen & Leah!!