Senko Fund Raiser

After the life-changing event of 9/11, Linda Grosskopf—editor of the weekly rural ag newspaper Agri-News, searched in vain for three months for a family personally impacted by the tragedy that she and her loyal readers could help. Just be accident, Linda saw the following Knight Ridder story in the December 11, 2011, Billings Gazette:

Good life imploded...

The credit card bill was a ghostly reminder of the worst day of her life. There was an unfamiliar charge for $99.95. At first, Debbi Senko was puzzled. Then enraged. The phone order was made on the account of her husband, Larry Senko. In October.

Larry Senko died September 11, 2001, on the 102nd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. In the rubble, rescue workers found two items of his: a work badge and a credit card, both of which were returned to his wife in late September. Two other Visa cards were not found. Studying her Visa bill when it arrived in early November, Debbi came to an unsettling but unavoidable conclusion. Someone must have found one of the other cards and placed an order on October 15. “It was appalling, absolutely appalling,” she said. And it happened again on November 29. The third of her husband's credit cards had a charge for $99.95 from the same company, a website shopping service.

As Debbi grapples with the loss of her husband and the enormity of raising the couple's 21-month-old son, she is bogged down by the minutiae of dealing with sudden death. The credit card problem was just another mundane headache in a season of mundane headaches for the 35-year-old mother. Senko must deal with the most pressing item on her list: Decide her next move in life. She and her 34-year-old husband were building a life, not planning for death. Married for four years, they bought a big house on a half-acre lot last year in an expensive development not far from the Delaware River. Debbi says she probably will have to sell the house and return to work. Before marrying, she was a special education teacher for 10 years. Debbi knows it is unrealistic to think she could keep her new house on a teacher's salary.

Taking a deep breath, Linda promptly called the telephone operator and, due to the uniqueness of Larry Senko’s name, was able to get his phone number… It was nothing short of serendipity that Linda read about the tragedy in Montana and that Debbi answered the phone that morning on the East Coast!

After some initial explanations, Linda asked Debbi if she and her small son would like to be “adopted” by a bunch of ranchers. She said YES. She also shared a few of the details about her husband.

Larry Senko, who grew up in Donora, Pennsylvania, was an area vice president in charge of the recruiting department for Alliance Consulting, which had an office on the 102nd floor of the North Tower (Tower #1). Larry loved playing music on his guitar, driving fast cars, and hanging out with his friends. Larry was well liked and admired by those who knew him because he was innately kind and would offer the shirt off his back to anyone—friends or strangers. Larry was at work on 9/11 and went missing with Tower No. 1’s collapse.

Linda shared this story with her Agri-News readers, and before it was all said and done, they sent in about $14,000, which was used to create a 529 college fund for Ty. Debbi has stayed in touch with Linda, and when Debbi heard of Project No. 2—the Koenig kids—she sent $500 to add to their fund. It is Linda’s very fond wish to be able to meet Debbi and Ty one day.