9/11 victims' kin finding joy in free trip to Austria
Vanessa Gera
Associated Press
Jul. 12, 2003 12:00 AM

VIENNA - It's a balmy summer night, and an unlikely scene is playing out at the ornate Schoenbrunn Palace: children whose fathers were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are jumping rope and dancing with their mothers to pop tunes like Mambo No. 5.

The event, and the visit to Austria, are courtesy of an Austrian businessman who wanted to help some victims' families get a break from their grief. He teamed up with a New York City police lieutenant to make it happen.

"Since coming here, I've smiled, I've laughed, I've danced," said Anna Rasmussen, a mother of three from suburban Chicago who lost her husband in the attack on the World Trade Center.

Rasmussen, 40, and her daughter, Taylor, 9, were among eight women and 16 children visiting Vienna this week. Partying and sightseeing with the others, she said, made them realize they're not alone in their pain.

The gathering was put together by Karl Altenhuber, whose Vienna company organizes conferences for corporations and says he wanted to help victims' families.

"I was in New York two weeks after Sept. 11 when my wife called me to tell me how well my 1-year-old son was doing. At that moment, I happened to be looking up at a poster showing babies of the victims," he recalled.

His company, Eventive, began finding sponsors and raising money for the trip.

Instrumental in locating the families was Lt. Jay R. Fagan, 43, a New York police commander who participated in the rescue effort. Fagan, who helps victims in his spare time, said he decided to leave his own family at home because he didn't want to remind the victims' children of their loss.

Rasmussen and other mothers said the trip gave them a chance to bond with others who have suffered.

"At first my daughter didn't want to come, but since being here she told me, 'You know what, Mom? There are other kids like me, who have this same grief,' " she said.