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For Parents of 9/11 Victim, It Gets 'Tougher, Not Easier'

O.C. couple still struggle with the loss of a daughter

September 10, 2003|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

When Tom and Melanie Frost's daughter, Lisa, attended Boston University, they would go months at a time without seeing her. But now it's been two years. The 22-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita native died when her hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

"It's been way too long now," Frost said Tuesday afternoon, his voice cracking. "It's been way too long since I've had a hug. Each day, Melanie and I miss her more and more. It gets tougher and tougher, not easier."

The Frosts struggle through the days, devoting much of their time and money to the kind of charities that helped reflect their daughter's personality -- the March of Dimes, local food banks and the Joplin Boys Ranch. This week is especially hard as they brace for Thursday, the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At this time two years ago, Lisa Frost had just finished her summer job at a Boston-based food magazine. On Sept. 11, she was returning home on United Airlines Flight 175, looking forward to a few days with her parents before moving to the Bay Area to look for a job.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Frosts visited a monument for their daughter at Lake Santa Margarita. Beneath the small brick memorial, they placed a sunflower wreath, four "God Bless America" candleholders and a bouquet of mixed flowers surrounding a small U.S. flag.

The Frosts noted that a nearby scrub oak that was planted nearly two years ago in Lisa's memory had never appeared more full of life.

Tom Frost stops by this memorial nearly every day during his jog around the lake, kissing his fingers and then planting them on the stone twice -- a kiss from Dad, another from Mom. Sometimes, he sees a stranger or an old friend of the family's gazing at the monument. Usually, he hands the person a memorial button that features Lisa's college graduation picture.

On Tuesday, two mothers of Lisa's grade-school friends wandered by and shared memories.

"It doesn't seem like it's been two years," Melanie Frost said. "But then sometimes it seems like a hundred years."

To help cope with their loss, the Frosts attend a monthly victims assistance meeting in Los Angeles. They commiserate with the families of other Sept. 11 victims, listen to survivors' accounts of the horrifying day two years ago and receive therapy.

"Talking with other families helps, but it's still very difficult," Melanie said. "The hard part is I'll never understand why it happened. I can't comprehend how people could have such disregard for humanity."

On Thursday, the Frosts will attend a ceremony in Sacramento honoring the California victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Last year, they flew back to Boston and then on to New York to retrace their daughter's last day. "We started her trip again, one year later," Tom Frost said. "We wanted to make a statement."

Next year, Tom Frost said, he and his wife will probably stay home. By then, the Frosts will probably have received a check from the Victims Compensation Fund that Congress established after the attacks. Recently, the Frosts decided to apply for federal money rather than file a separate lawsuit against United Airlines or the Boeing Corp., maker of the jetliner.

"We didn't want to still be going through the process four or five years from now," Tom Frost said. "This way, we'll have the check in our hands within three months, and it'll be tax-free."

The Frosts say they have not yet agreed to the award amount offered by the Sept. 11 fund to compensate them for the loss of their daughter, who graduated summa cum laude with degrees in advertising and hospitality.

"We feel like they are undervaluing her life," said Tom Frost.

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