DERBY, CT (WFSB) - In the years that followed the 9/11 attacks, people learned to adjust to a new way of life.
There were new security procedures everywhere.
People grumbled about the inconvenience; for some however, the aftermath has been an ever-present burden to bear.
That includes Amanda Gregory Carpenter of Derby.
"I've had a lot of happiness come into my life through my husband, through my children," Carpenter said.
Carpenter is a devoted wife and mother of three children. She's also an accomplished Human Factors Engineer who took a break from her career when her twin boys came along. Her life seemed picture-perfect.
Her life, though, carries a pain few people can truly understand. She is a child of 9/11.
"I was really proud of him," Carpenter said. "I was proud that he worked in the World Trade Center."
Carpenter's father, Donald Gregory, worked as a bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald.
From her childhood home in Ramsey, NJ, she said she could see the twin towers on a clear day.
"I remember even throughout high school, I would look up when I would see that skyline and know that my dad was up there," she said.
She said for her father, family was everything.
"In his suit having worked a long day in the city, starting at 6 in the morning, he would come straight to the baseball field or softball field or to our basketball practice to coach our games," Carpenter recalled.
Her story of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 began the day before when she called home from college in Florida to speak with her father.
Gregory had just returned to Cantor Fitzgerald after heart bypass surgery.
"He said, 'I want to walk you down the aisle. I want to hold your children. And so I'm going to take care of myself,'" Carpenter said. "And so when we got on the phone that night on Sept. 10, my dad said 'I'm taking care of myself' and I said 'dad I love you.' [He said] 'I love you, too.' And I remember very specifically hanging up the phone that night and pausing at my desk, it's a very vivid memory of pausing at my desk, and just feeling like 'I'm glad I said that.'"
Just hours later, her father was gone.
"I didn’t know the towers had fallen until I called my mom and said 'when are they going to go and get him?'" Carpenter said. "And she said, 'Amanda, they’re gone.' And I didn’t know what she meant. She said 'they fell. They’re gone.' So that’s when, that’s when I knew."
Carpenter said she somehow survived those first few weeks. She returned to Embry-Riddle University. She found comfort and support there but soon realized in her journey through grief that she was wading through uncharted waters.
"People didn’t know how to deal with that kind of traumatic loss," Carpenter explained. "It was kind of a first experience type thing."
Still, she said she soldiered on, completing her master's degree and landing her first job in Iowa, then a position at Sikorsky in Connecticut.
It was then that she heard about an organization called Tuesday's Children. It was established to help the 5,000 children who lost their parents in the 9/11 attacks.
"Once I moved back and recognized the name Tuesday’s Children and knew I had this ability to do a triathlon, I kind of felt a calling to do it, and also knowing I could do it in my father’s name," Carpenter said. "It was a turning point for me in my grief process in that I felt like I pay it forward for the support my family received immediately afterwards from Tuesday’s Children, Red Cross and so many other families and local communities."
Carpenter said she continues to give back. When 20 first graders and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012, she volunteered to help. She shared what she learned.
"I know that their road is long, still," she said. "But I do hope for every family going through tragic loss and grief processing, that they can see some hope that happiness can come into your life."
Family is where Carpenter said she finds her happiness. Through pictures, she is keeping her father's memory alive for her children.
She said her daughter already knows him as Grandpa Don.
She said it's been a grueling 18 years.
However, she said she has grown stronger and can now offer advice for everyone.
"I think we all need to try to remember the positives that came out of that day, and how the country came together," Carpenter said.