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Kimberly & James: A Touch of Joy in a Wounded New York City

Posted on Jun 11, 2013 by in Recent Features, Weddings |

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weddingKim and Jim took the days before their September 15 wedding off from work. They planned to run last-minute errands, check in with their vendors, and savor the delicious anticipation of the upcoming event. On the morning of September 11, four days before the wedding, the two were watching the morning news when the scene of destruction occurring just downtown unfolded horribly before them. After two days of panic, fear, and frantic calls to the couple’s many friends who work in the financial district of Manhattan, the two realized that they had suffered an unspeakable loss. James “Jimmy” Straine Jr., a friend of Jim’s for 17 years, an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald, and a groomsman in the upcoming wedding, was among those missing.

While dealing with their grief, the couple needed to deal with another issue. The wedding was in two days, and they had a decision to make: Could they, and should they, go forward with their plans to tie the knot?

THE BRIDE Kimberly Magioncalda, 24, an employee at Credit Suisse First Boston in the Equity Capital Markets Group
THE GROOM James O’Hoppe, 36, managing director at 360 Networks
THE DATE September 15, 2001
THE SCENE Ceremony at St. Thomas More Church; reception at The Mark hotel; both on Manhattan’s Upper East Side

HOW THEY MET Kim, fresh from college, was working at the Ralph Lauren store in a mansion on 72nd Street and Madison Avenue. Jim stopped in to buy a tuxedo, and Kim helped him out. “We talked for almost an hour,” laughs Kim, “about almost everything but that tuxedo.” In fact, Jim left the store with only a tuxedo shirt. But what he also left with was Kim’s phone number.

THE PROPOSAL Just over one year after their first date, Jim invited Kim along to a cocktail party that didn’t actually exist. He had, in fact, stopped in at the Ralph Lauren boutique where the two had had their first fateful meeting, and asked for the staff’s help in planning a marriage proposal. On the way to the “cocktail party,” Jim lured Kim into the store by claiming that they were running early and that he needed a pair of loafers, anyway. As they walked past the manager, Jim secretly handed off the ring in its blue Tiffany box. After pretending to admire a few pairs of shoes in the nearly empty store, Jim announced it was time to go and walked past the estate jewelry counter. “Look, Kim,” he pointed out, “look at that engagement ring in the jewelry display.” Kim admired the lovely ring, and Jim asked the manager why it was there. The manager, answering Jim’s question, explained that the ring was for “a very special couple, named Kim and Jim, who had met in the store about one year ago.” Then Jim took the very surprised and delighted Kim over to a quiet corner chair, got down on one knee, and proposed marriage. Kim exclaimed an enthusiastic “yes!” and the couple turned to see the staircase behind them lined with women who worked in the store, all happily sniffling. The couple next headed for the rooftop of the Peninsula, where they shared a champagne toast with the parents of the bride-to-be.

THE PLANNING “A New York city wedding is a lot to plan,” comments Kim. The couple had almost eighteen months to get things done, but they were astonished from the beginning to find many vendors already booked for their chosen date. Fortunately, they fell in love with The Mark’s lovely, intimate ballroom and were relieved to find the setting available. “We had fun doing the planning together,” explains Kim, “and Jim was a very involved groom,” helping out with pretty much everything except Kim’s dress.

CHOOSING TO GO ON The tragedy of September 11 effected Kim and Jim in a very personal way. “We had many, many friends who were at the scene of the tragedy and who did get out safely,” says Kim. But the hardest thing to bear was the loss of groomsman Jimmy Straine. The bride and groom were torn between sadness and a desire to not let the tragedy ruin their plans. “Everyone said to us, ‘You can’t let anything come between the love you have for each other,'” says Jim. “Our families were very supportive from the beginning of any decision that was made.”

The couple, at a terrible conflux of despair and joy and still numb from the shock of what had occurred in their city, simply felt at a loss. Kim wondered if they waited, would things only get worse? Would it be years before they could re-schedule their wedding? And, most painful of all, could they feel happiness so soon after the loss of a friend? Then Jimmy’s brother Mike called. “He said we had his support and the support of the entire Straine family, no matter what we decided to do,” says Jim. “He said, ‘I can’t imagine what you and Kim are going through.’ He just lost his brother, and he is thinking about us. That says so much about Jimmy’s family and what they are like.” The two chose to keep their wedding date. Later, Jimmy’s younger brother called and expressed how glad he was that plans for the wedding were on. “That last phone call cleared up any doubt we might have had that we had made the right choice,” says Jim. The two headed into their wedding day knowing that they would be happy and hoping that their guests could, too.

THE CEREMONY To her surprise, Kim was not the least bit nervous as she started down the aisle at St. Thomas More Church on the afternoon of September 15. “Terrorists had attacked our city,” she says, “and so I was not going to get nervous about marrying the man I love.” Kim walked down the aisle with only three of her five bridesmaids, because two were unable to fly to New York. Jim, of course, was missing a groomsman in more ways than one.

The ceremony was a traditional Catholic service. The couple and priest Father John Boehning had decided to honor Jimmy Straine, and all of the other victims of the terrorist attacks, with a prayer that fell during the normal service. “We didn’t want to start or end the ceremony on a sad note,” points out Kim, “but we very much wanted to acknowledge our loss and the loss that everyone was sharing.” 

In the receiving line after the ceremony, the couple was surprised to see the familiar faces of people they knew only as acquaintances — neighbors with whom they had exchanged only brief greetings over the years. “Like most New Yorkers, we didn’t really know the people who lived in our building,” says Kim. “But we had told one person about the ceremony, and word got around. Several couples came to show their support of us.”

THE PHOTOS After the service, photographer Jinsey Dauk took the wedding party to some of Manhattan’s great spots to shoot photos. Jinsey had also lost several friends and acquaintances in the attacks, and she found that it was a relief to step away from her sadness and enjoy the couple’s happiness. “My job is be supportive of these guys, whatever they decide,” says Jinsey, who had worried that it would be impossible to gain access to her downtown apartment, now off-limits, to retrieve her cameras and equipment. The wedding party stopped outside the Ralph Lauren mansion for a photo, of course. They also took pictures on the steps at the Met, and along the island on Park Avenue. Wherever they went, New Yorkers reacted with joy at the sight of a bride and groom. Old ladies hugged them, cabbies cheered, and passersby applauded. “I think everyone was just so glad to see something that was happy,” guesses Kim.

THE CELEBRATION At the swank Mark Hotel, guests dined on hors d’oeuvres and then moved into the main room to dine on an appetizer of ravioli in a porcini cream sauce, a frisee salad with goat cheese and peppers, and an entree of filet mignon. There was no seating plan. “I had worked on the seating plan,” says Kim. But because flights had been cancelled and planes were grounded, only 78 of the 110 confirmed guests could attend, and the plan seemed superfluous. But the place felt full and the crowd was more upbeat than the couple had dared hope. “Everyone had been glued to the television for four days,” says Kim, “and I think this chance to dress up, come out, and celebrate was just what we all needed. It got crazy,” she laughs, “people had napkins on their heads. The men tossed Jim and my Dad into the air.” When the reception ended, a group that included the groom and the bride in her wedding gown headed for the cocktail lounge to keep celebrating.

PERSPECTIVE Was the wedding different than it would have been because of what had happened in New York only four days before? It was, but not entirely in the ways that one might expect. For example, the bride’s bouquet was not the arrangement of pink roses edged with white sweet peas that she had wanted. Roses, which are not in season in September in New York, could not be delivered in the colors and varieties Kim had wanted, so the floral designer had to work with what she could find. The same was true of the tulips Kim wanted, and many other blooms. At any other time, for any bride at all, this would have been a huge disappointment. Kim points out that she simply did not care. “Before this happened, I would worry about whether it would rain on my wedding day. But after all that has happened, I could not have cared less about the weather. I had so many good friends who could not come to my wedding,” Kim explains, “but they are alive and well and that is all that matters to me now.” The bride’s parents have offered to host a one-year anniversary celebration especially for those loved ones who could not attend the wedding.

THE HONEYMOON Having taken the plunge and tied the knot, the bride and groom saw no reason to change their honeymoon plans for ten days in Hawaii. They found their hotels about 30% booked, leaving plenty of room for privacy on the fabulous beaches. Kim was delighted to meet several other couples who had also just been married, and who had also found their weddings to be not only beautiful, but full of joy. The couple returned on a Thursday. On Friday, they attended a memorial service for James Straine Jr., which Jim describes as a “celebration of Jimmy’s life.” Jim was an usher at the service.

–Lisa Carse of “TheKnot.com”
Photographs © Jinsey Dauk