Woman passes the reins on 'passion project' of remembering 9/11 victims

Lynn Castrianno walks in Memorial Park in Omaha, Nebraska where 3,000 personalized flags honor lives lost in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: WOWT via NBC News)

OMAHA, Neb. (WTHR) — Wednesday marks the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

At Memorial Park in Omaha, Nebraska, more than 3,000 flags serve as a tribute to the day's victims. The memorial was all a "passion project" for a woman who lost her brother that day.

But making it all happen every year isn't easy while she's still grieving her brother. So she's handing the project over to local group to plan, organize and execute.

Lynn Castrianno's brother, Leonard, worked in finances at the World Trade Center. He was working on the 105th floor of the north tower when hijackers flew planes into the buildings. Leonard was one of nearly 3,000 victims that day.

"We've never heard any word on DNA that was found of my brother's," Castrianno said.

The "Tribute of Flags" was born out of grief. For 15 years, Castrianno would mark the occasion with 3,000 flags, each personalized with a name, job, and city of residence.

"To be honest, all the days leading up to it, I fell like I'm holding my breath," Castrianno said. "And then on the 12th, I can exhale."

Castrianno is experiencing two firsts this year: letting someone else bring the memorial to life and attaching a personal note to her own brother's flag.

Castrianno said she's wanted to personalize her brother's flag for years, but she never had the emotional energy to do it.

"This year I do," she said.

That's thanks to the Rotary Club of Downtown Omaha, which took over the tribute.

This year, Castrianno finally gets to reflect without the burden of planning the memorial. She'll also have time for a snack.

"On the 11th, I remember him with Oreos," she said. "My brother was about balance. he started to do a lot of working out and weightlifting and avoiding all those bad foods. But he loved Oreos. You can't live life without balance, so we honor him with Oreos."

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