Renee's mom still hopes

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By JENNETTE BARNES
Several times a day, Lillian Tetreault listens to the voice of her daughter, Renee Newell, who was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first airplane to hit the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
“I feel such a void in my heart. I just have to hear her voice,” Tetreault said with a cell phone to her ear.
She was standing in a crowd of mourners Friday, most of them airline employees, following a memorial service in the main lobby at T.F. Green Airport. Tetreault listens repeatedly to the message her daughter left before boarding the plane for Las Vegas.
“I talk to her, too,” the grieving mother says. “I tell her, ‘Your week is up. Where the hell are you?'”
“You want to listen to her?” she says, handing the phone to a reporter.
Suddenly, the cell phone rings. Tetreault scrambles to answer it, but there is no one there.
She still holds out hope, against staggering odds, that her daughter will call.
“My family is starting to worry about me,” she admits.
Tetreault has suffered more than her share. As a girl living at home in Connecticut, she lost her mother in the Hartford circus fire of 1944. Her sister later died in a car accident. Now, she is devastated not only by Renee's death, but by the way it happened.
“I could see if it was a regular plane crash,” she said.
Tetreault and Renee's husband, Paul Newell, joined other relatives and airline workers for the public memorial service.
Renee, 37, lived in Cranston and was a customer service representative at Green for American Airlines. She is well known among regulars at the Crow's Nest Restaurant, where she worked when her family owned the business.
In the airport lobby, the piano that sat idle the day of the attack filled the terminal with gentle hymns and patriotic tunes. Near the piano, a table was heavily laden with bunches of carnations to be passed out to the mourners. At the center, a framed photograph of Renee at the American Airlines counter was flanked by two vases of red, white and blue flowers. Family members stood with their arms around one another.
A number of workers in American Airlines uniforms wiped away tears as the Rev. Gary Lemery asked the crowd to “remember Renee and all those others who were murdered” as a result of the airplane hijackings.
During musical interludes in the service, Renee's mother wept openly.
Her co-workers remembered Renee as cheerful, nearly always smiling. Some were too upset to speak without difficulty.
“She had a sense of humor, an eagerness to laugh,” said Rick Oldrid, an employee of Worldwide Flight Services, which holds a contract with American Airlines to manage the ramps outside American's gates.
“This raises your consciousness of things in your personal life,” he added. “There's no guarantee when you step out of bed in the morning that you'll be back in that bed at the end of the day.”
“She was a great person and a great mom. She always had a smile at work,” said Joanie Beisel, who lives in Saunderstown and worked with Renee at American.
Molly Stubbs of East Providence, a Southwest Airlines employee, also knew Renee. Stubbs called her “high spirited” and “a go-getter.”
By the time the lobby began to clear, Renee's mother had regained her composure enough to talk about her daughter's cell phone message and her desire to visit the crash site to be close to Renee.
“She is greatly missed. She will always be with us,” Tetreault said.
Renee's Mass of Christian burial will be held Sept. 29 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Rocco Church in Johnston.
“Maybe there will be closure then,” said Tetreault.
Donations in memory of Renee Newell will go to the Rhode Island Alzheimer's Association in honor of her father, a victim of Alzheimer's, and to a scholarship fund for students from St. Rocco's School, where Renee and Paul Newell's eight-year-old son, Matthew, is enrolled. Citizens Bank is collecting donations for the fund. Donations can be made in person at the bank or mailed to P.O. Box 3764, Cranston, RI 02910.

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