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Five years later, list of goals comforts parents of 9/11 victim
By JAMES MacPHERSON Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press - Saturday, September 09, 2006


Ann Nicole Nelson had a goal to "be a person to be proud of." She also wanted to knit a sweater someday.

The small town girl with big dreams never got the chance to do the latter, or many of the things she wrote as goals on her laptop computer shortly before her death on Sept. 11, 2001.

Five years later, Nelson's list of goals has been an inspiration to others and a comfort for family and friends, say her parents, Gary and Jenette Nelson.

Nelson, 30, a native of Stanley, a town of about 1,200 people in northwestern North Dakota, died in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. She was a bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, working on the 104th floor of the trade center's north tower when it was hit by a jet hijacked by terrorists.

Her mother, Jenette, has worked to keep her daughter's memory alive through a Web site, and writes poetry that she shares with others. She has spoken to small groups on conflict resolution and about her daughter's death.

"It keeps us close to Ann, to share her beautiful, loving, wholesome story that brings a bright light to a dark place," Jenette Nelson said. "The world needs more of that, in my opinion."

Friends in New York packed up some of Nelson's belongings after her death and sent them her parents.

Among the books, papers, clothes and other belongings, was a single strand of Ann's hair found on a jacket. Jenette Nelson said she wrapped it around her finger and placed it in a jewelry box.

Ann's laptop computer was put in a closet and nearly forgotten until Jenette Nelson's computer broke. She was teaching school and needed a computer to write lesson plans. As she clicked around on her daughter's laptop, she found files titled "My Pictures," "Games" and "Top 100."

"I opened up the pictures, and there she was with her big smile," Jenette Nelson recalled. She played games like solitaire on the computer, which she said was therapeutic.

For months, Jenette Nelson didn't bother opening the "Top 100" file, thinking it had something to do with music.

In March, she clicked on the folder "and it was like Ann was in the room talking to me again - it turned out to be her list of values."

The "Top 100" list was numbered to 37. Her goal to "spend more time with my family" was listed twice, her mother said.

"She didn't make it to 100," Jenette Nelson said of the number of goals in the file's title. "She only made it to 37."

Her other goals included: "Keep in touch with people I love and that love me ... be a good friend ... make a quilt ... learn to cook ... learn about art ... Kilimanjaro ... remember birthdays ... appreciate money but don't worship it ... be a good listener ... helicopter ski with my father ... learn a foreign language ... drink water ... never be ashamed of who I am ... read everyday ... be informed ... volunteer for charity .... get a graduate degree ... by a home in North Dakota ... kayak."

The Nelsons said their daughter would have checked off every goal on the list.

"She would have done that and more," Jenette Nelson said.

The Nelsons have shared the list with their daughter's friends, and it has prompted much media attention. They were in California on Thursday, filming a segment for a television talk show to be aired on Monday, the fifth anniversary of their daughter's death.

Gary Nelson, a banker, has made an annual sojourn to New York each Sept. 11. This year, the trip will be more meaningful with the discovery of his daughter's list.

"I think that it probably magnifies and illustrates Ann's behavior and beliefs more than I or anyone else, could," he said.

"There are some very special friendships that Ann developed in New York," Gary Nelson said. "I always make it a point to visit these people - and look forward to seeing them."

Jenette, who retired from teaching this year, said she will spend Sept. 11 quietly with family.

In past years on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she has spoken at North Dakota's state Capitol, and at Minot State University, which formally dedicated its auditorium as Ann Nicole Nelson Hall.

Jenette Nelson last visited New York about two months after her daughter's death.

"I've not felt it would be a good thing going back," she said. "I don't need to go to New York to have Ann's presence around me. I like being in North Dakota."