Home / Top Story / Mom of 9/11 victim killed inside Pentagon holds on to son’s art

Mom of 9/11 victim killed inside Pentagon holds on to son’s art

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Sunday, September 11, 2016, 3:13 AM

Merrilly Noeth plans to spend this Sept. 11 at home, alone, surrounded with happy memories.

Her son, Petty Officer Michael Noeth, was one of 125 people killed inside the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building after it was hijacked by five terrorists.

The 30-year-old was a graphic artist commissioned to paint portraits of all the chiefs of naval operations throughout U.S. history.

“I have wonderful, wonderful memories,” his mother said. “And I have a legacy most people don’t have.”

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Merrilly Noeth’s son, Petty Officer Michael Noeth, was one of 125 people killed inside the Pentagon

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

In the first years after the attacks, Merrilly Noeth, 71, would trek to Ground Zero on the anniversary of 9/11 to read the names of the fallen. Four years ago, she stood behind soundproof glass at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. She was there to witness for herself a hearing for five accused terrorists charged in the attacks.

She still wants justice, but Merrilly Noeth says she no longer wants to linger in grief.

“I want to dwell on celebrating his life,” she said. “The reason I do it is because my son would have a conniption if he thought I’d be making a profession of mourning.

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Petty Officer Michael Noeth was a graphic artist.

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

“He wants me to live a life. He doesn’t want me to cry in public.”

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She still lives in the one-bedroom Jackson Heights apartment where she raised her son with her mother’s help. She divorced when Michael was young and his father, an Air Force member, was never part of his life, his mother said.

The walls of her home are now filled with Michael’s paintings. The artwork runs from self-portraits to abstracts to water colors.

“There’s nothing that he didn’t do,” his mother said. “He would paint on a piece of firewood if he didn’t have anything else.”

Photographs of him show a young man with light blue eyes and an easy smile, in wire-rimmed glasses. In many pictures, he is wearing a “U.S.S. Wasp” cap for the amphibious assault ship on which he served.

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In the Navy, Michael was sent to Kosovo, where he would sketch out in rough drawings the troop, plane and ship movements for top staff at daily meetings, to help them visualize and design strategies.

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One of Noeth’s artworks. In many pictures, he is wearing a “U.S.S. Wasp” cap for the amphibious assault ship on which he served.

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

He had a lighthearted, offbeat side, too. In a picture a friend drew of him, he has his face scrunched, his mouth and nose slightly out of joint.

His mother treasures these images. The last 15 years have been a challenge without her only child.

She was awarded a “lot of money” from the Victims Compensation Fund, but most of it went to pay for medical bills for her mother, who passed away in January.

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Needing money, she took a job three weeks ago as an insurance agent for Aflac.

“I can now at least look forward to a time when I’ll have some kind of life for myself,” she said.

Her grief never truly subsides.

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“I have wonderful, wonderful memories,” his mother said. “And I have a legacy most people don’t have.”

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

“Does the pain go away? No,” she said. “But you learn to balance the pain and the joy. He was so joyful and left so much joy. It is very hard to put that aside. The two mix together.”

Michael received a sailor’s sendoff from the bow of the U.S.S. Russell as it headed toward the Gulf Coast after 9/11. He served his first tour on that ship.

“I have a video and still pictures, but have never opened either one,” his mother said. “I can’t stand to look at it.”

SEPT. 11, 2001 FILE PHOTO

In this Sept. 11, 2001 photo, the south side of the Pentagon burns after a plane crash in Washington, D.C.

(TOM HORAN/AP)

She knows the exact coordinates of where his remains were lowered into the sea.

“I have the chart of where it was in the ocean,” she said. “That’s where I am to be buried.”

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