The Globe and Mail

  Article Search
   Quick Searches     Tips


Business Impactarrow
The Investigationarrow

What happened?arrow
In New Yorkarrow
In Washingtonarrow
In Canadaarrow
Around the worldarrow
Eyewitness accountsarrow
Wall St. paralyzedarrow


A twist of fate, a dream destroyed
Cindy Barkway had a fairy-tale life, with her husband, David, PETER CHENEY reports in the last of his series of Sept. 11 survivor profiles. Then a stroke of horrible luck took away their happy ending
Thursday, March 14, 2002

He was the kind of man who took care of things: His life-insurance premiums were paid; the house was renovated, and the cars had both been serviced. Now Cindy Barkway's kitchen table is stacked with papers that never seem to stop arriving. Six months after her husband's death, she is still dealing with the details.

Of course, the paperwork isn't the hard part. She finds herself numbed, walking around as if in a dream. "Sometimes it feels like it's happening to somebody else," she says. "It feels like this couldn't possibly be my life."

The life she had known seemed perfect. Now she's a widow at 32. Visiting her home on a tree-lined street in Etobicoke, in the western part of Toronto, it seems as if her husband, David, might walk through the door any moment. His car is parked in the driveway; the wedding photos are still on the living room mantel.

Next to the fireplace is a folded American flag and a jar filled with ashes from ground zero, where David died last Sept. 11. Cindy sits in the living room and remembers that day, and how a weekend getaway to New York turned out to be their last time together.

"I don't know what to say about it," she says. "It's like it's impossible to explain."

The children are upstairs. Her mother and her mother-in-law have both arrived to give a hand. She has had all the support she could ask for, but none of that helps with her crushing grief.

She looks out the front window onto the street she and her husband chose as the place to raise their children. Jamie is 2½ now. He seems to be gradually forgetting his father. "At first, Jamie asked a lot for his dad, which I found hard. Now he asks less. I find that hard, too."

The baby, who is named after his father, was born in January, four months after David's death. When he was born, she was elated. Then she began to cry because her husband wasn't there to see his new son. She sums the experience up in her understated way: "It was a difficult day."

Until September, the couple seemed blessed. They met in their teens at Carleton University, where David was taking a degree in business and Cindy was studying English. David was from Cornwall, Ont., the son of an Anglican minister. He was a joker and an athlete; she had "a huge crush" on him right away.

They dated for eight years, and married in 1997 at the Appleby College Chapel in Oakville, Ont. By that time, David was already well on his way up the corporate ladder. He had landed a part-time job at Canada Trust before he graduated, then translated it into a job at head office when he got his degree. He soon became a trader with a Toronto brokerage, where he excelled.

Cindy had always wanted four children, but David wasn't sure; he worked long hours and often spent evenings and weekends entertaining clients. But after Jamie came along in 1999, David became a convert to parenthood. Cindy put her own career on the back burner to take care of the children. In the spring of 2001, they decided it was time for another.

Everyone knew David by his nickname, Barky. He loved practical jokes, action movies and spending time with his son. He was under constant pressure at work, but at home he was relaxed. That was one of the qualities Cindy loved about him most.

"He never brought it home," she says. "He left it all in the office."

They had bought a beautiful new home in the Kingsway, an upscale Toronto neighbourhood. The house had an airy family room in the back, a beautiful kitchen, and a garden for children to play in. David had just bought a navy-blue Land Rover. He could afford it; he had been promoted to managing director of Capital Markets for BMO Nesbitt Burns. He had just turned 34.

Their September trip to New York was supposed to be a celebratory fling before the new baby arrived. David was going on company business, but he had a light schedule. They cashed in some air miles and bought a ticket for Cindy too. They flew down on Sunday, Sept. 9, and settled in at the Times Square Hilton. They went out for dinner, went shopping and did some sightseeing. On Tuesday morning, David left at 7:40 for a breakfast meeting downtown. Cindy bade him goodbye.

There were no premonitions. It was a parting like any other. A short time later she grabbed a cab and headed toward SoHo to do some shopping. As she travelled south, she noticed a large cloud of smoke in the sky, but didn't think much about it. A few minutes later she saw a television tuned to the news.

She was stunned. But she had no idea that David was in the building; he had told her only that his meeting was downtown. She had started walking back toward their hotel when the first of the towers fell, sending a plume of dust and flame into the air.

The streets were jammed. Cindy wanted to call her mother, but there were lineups at every pay phone. By the time she reached Times Square, footage of the planes flying into the World Trade Center was playing on giant screens. Everyone was screaming.

Cindy relates this much of the story with her composure intact. It has been some time since she has had to tell it.

She is sitting in an overstuffed chair in her living room. Sunlight streams in through the front window. A clock ticks in another room. She pauses, then begins to cry.

At the Hilton, she checked to see whether David had returned yet. He hadn't. She kept watching the news. Her heart began to pound. When she left the room for a few minutes to go to the lobby, she left a note for her husband: "I'll be right back."

At 11 a.m., someone from David's office called. He had sent a message on his Blackberry pager saying that he was on the 105th floor of the North Tower. "We need help," the message read. "This is not a joke."

Cindy kept up hope. She knew that many had escaped from the towers and imagined him wandering the streets, looking for her, or lying in a hospital bed, waiting for her to arrive. She spent the day by the phone, waiting for the call that never came.

Six months later, she has been comforted by the kindness of others. Her husband's office has provided everything from money to help with financial planning. A group of miners in Newfoundland held a fundraiser and sent her several thousand dollars. A Grade 5 class in Muskoka set up an education trust fund for her two children. A seniors club cancelled their Christmas party and gave the money to her instead.

In the living room is a painting of an indoor putting green that the company is planning to install in David's former office. It will be named Barky's Way.

All this has helped. "It's made me realize that along with the horrible people out there, like the ones who did this, there are a lot of great people. I've seen such goodness and kindness in people that it's helped me stay optimistic. I've felt a lot of love."

Still, she misses her husband now as much as she did six months ago. She remembers that someone once told her that a woman needs three husbands: one to be her lover, one to be a father to her children, and one to grow old with. "David was great at the first two," she says. "And I was looking forward to the last one."
Cindy Barkway

Age: 32
Profession: Homemaker
Family: Widowed; sons
Jamie, 2, David, two months
Lives in: Toronto.
On Sept. 11: Was on a trip to New York with her husband David, part business, mostly pleasure. He had a morning meeting on the 105th floor, North Tower, World Trade Center. She was unaware of this until a co-worker called her hotel hours later. Never saw her husband again.



Life Goes On

Voices From After the Fall, The Facts Behind the Fear, and the preview of a new Discovery documentary filmed at Ground Zero.


   (RealPlayer required)

  • Six-month Memorial for Sept. 11 - U.S. President George Bush speaks from the White House. "The terrorists will remember Sept. 11 as the day their reckoning began," he said.

  • In Canada - Relatives of Canadian victims of the World Trade Centre attacks wonder why there's no six-month memorial here at home. video reports

  • spacer

    Copyright © 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
    Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page