When a bracelet commemorating an FDNY firefighter killed on Sept. 11 washed up on a local beach, the woman who stumbled upon it had no idea it belonged to a family who turned out to be closer than she could have imagined.
The memorial bracelet was made in memory of Michael Otten, an FDNY firefighter who died on 9/11. His widow Marion Otten, of East Islip, gave it to her son Jonathan, but he lost it 10 years ago.
"It was just a bracelet to me back then," he said. "It didn't have such a big meaning as it does now."
Recently, Marlene Quinn was walking on Robert Moses Beach when she found the bracelet.
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"I was walking along and a wave came up. It went away and that bracelet was there," she said.
The bracelet bore Michael Otten's name, and she instantly recognized the name as a local firefighter killed on 9/11. The name also made Quinn think of her own brother, Michael O'Neill, a firefighter who died unexpectedly in the spring.
"I clutched it and held on to it for the longest time," said Quinn.
She found Otten family's address and it turned out the bracelet wasn't the only connection she had to his family. Not only were Otten and her brother both firefighters, they both lived in East Islip and at one time, lived just a block apart.
Her brother also attended grade school directly across the street from Otten's family home, Quinn learned.
Quinn mailed the bracelet back to the Ottens with a handwritten note. Marion Otten initially felt shocked, and then overwhelmed, she said, "because people still remember, think about it."
The two women reunited Friday, convinced the bracelet discovery was fate.
"To think all the poor souls we did lose on 9/11, it's someone from my hometown," said Quinn.
"Why now? Why did it wash up now?" Otten said to Quinn. "You needed it. We needed it."
"There are no coincidences," said Otten. "There's a reason why it happened. It brings us together for whatever reason."