For Los Altos Hills resident Lottie Solomon, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 can’t go by fast enough.
Her only daughter, Naomi, was one of more than 2,700 killed in New York City during the World Trade Center terrorist attack. The memory of hearing the news of her daughter’s death remains as fresh as if it happened yesterday.
“It keeps me up at night,” said Solomon, 86, a 35-year resident of the town. “It doesn’t get better. When you lose a child, it gets worse.”
Naomi, a vice president of business development for a small software company, was in a meeting on the 106th floor of Windows on the World in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The first of four terrorist-hijacked planes, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed through the floor at 8:46 a.m. In that instant, Naomi was gone. She was 52.
Later that morning, Solomon’s sons, Mark and Jed, arrived at her home to deliver the tragic news. She said she received word of the 9/11 attacks and her daughter’s death simultaneously.
“It had an unreal quality to it,” she said. “I was in shock for days.”
Her spirit remains
Naomi’s spirit is readily evident in Solomon’s home – a portrait hangs on one wall among several framed photographs from different periods of her life. Books honoring 9/11 victims grace the coffee table, along with a copy of “The Grieving Garden: Living with the Death of a Child” (Hampton Roads, 2008) by Suzanne Redfern and Susan K. Gilbert. Solomon was one of 22 parents featured for the book.
A small, metal square, a piece of steel from the collapsed tower, sits on display. In her hallway is a folded American flag presented to her in Naomi’s honor. Also on the wall is a framed poem from Naomi, written as an ode to her mother less than a year before 9/11.
“Lovable” and “generous” were among the words Solomon used to describe her daughter – a successful businesswoman, driven and hardworking, but also kind and friendly with no shortage of admirers. Solomon recalled how Naomi would invite her entire staff over for dinner and cook it herself.
“I never heard a bad word about her, because there wasn’t one,” Solomon said.
Naomi was in the first graduating class at Gunn High School. The 1971 Stanford University graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in French, followed by a master’s degree in education. She was an accomplished pianist and linguist.
Naomi began her career in the African Division of The World Bank in Washington, D.C. Then Bank of America recruited her, and she worked her way up the corporate ladder to a vice presidency.
Next came a 10-year stint at Chase Manhattan Bank, which took her to New York City. She left Chase for a VP position at San Francisco-based Callixa Corp., working in the company’s New York office. Naomi was with the software company approximately a year before 9/11. A career woman, she was not married and had no children.
Callixa lost three of its top executives and so many of its resources in the tragedy that it had to close its doors for a time before it was sold to German software company SAP in 2005.
As a testament to Naomi’s impact on others, Solomon said approximately 500 people attended her Sept. 23, 2001, memorial service at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, whom Solomon described as a friend, was on hand to present an honorary flag.
Eshoo said she’s known the Solomon family 25-30 years. Mark called her with the news.
“When I received the call, it was a heart-stopping message,” Eshoo said. “He said, ‘I think Naomi is in one of the towers.’”
Solomon said she and her daughter enjoyed a close relationship. Naomi would call her mother virtually every day.
“We were mother and daughter, but we were also friends,” Solomon said.
In one of their last conversations, Solomon recalled Naomi making a confession of sorts.
“You know, Mother,’” Solomon recalled her daughter saying, “‘all these years, I thought I was a disciple of my father. … I was wrong. … I was like you.”
Another sorrowful event occurred three years later when Solomon lost her husband, Herbert, to Parkinson’s disease in 2004. Herbert was a beloved Stanford professor who founded the university’s Statistics Department. The two met while attending Columbia University in New York. Her sons, both Stanford graduates, are successful lawyers who live in the Bay Area.
The news in May that 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden had been killed was gladly received.
“I felt good,” she said. “I felt as if it should have happened.”
Solomon said she received an invitation from New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to attend the city’s 9/11 services marking the 10th anniversary, but health issues are keeping her at home. She said she would probably have one of her daughters-in-law at the house on Sunday to help her get through the anniversary.
“You’re much stronger than you think you are,” she said of dealing with the tragedy. “The alternative is to go insane. … I decided, mentally, I couldn’t lose myself.”
As was the case before 9/11, Solomon keeps herself busy with charity work for the Jewish community. An early member of Congregation Kol Emeth, Solomon donated to its capital campaign and also aided in the building of the new Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto.
A decade later, Naomi’s loving spirit still inspires – and haunts – her mother.
Naomi’s master’s adviser, Professor Elizabeth Cohen, offered an intimate portrait of Naomi as a Stanford student when the Naomi Solomon Memorial Fund was established at the end of 2001.
“She was a very gifted student and a remarkable woman,” Cohen said. “She went on to become wonderfully accomplished. But she never lost her warm, loving quality. She was a person of outstanding moral character and enormous integrity.”
The fund provides scholarships for undergraduate Stanford students.
For more information, contact Gift Processing, Office of Development, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, 326 Galvez St., Stanford, CA 94305-6105.