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Sugar Grove Family Watches Wreath-Laying At Ground Zero

Jeffrey Mladenik was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. (CBS)

Jeffrey Mladenik was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Relatives of 9/11 victims gathered around their televisions in the Chicago area Thursday.

Among them: The family of Jeffrey Mladenik in Sugar Grove.

Mladenik was on board American Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. He left behind a wife and six children, some of whom he never met.

Sue Mladenik points out a tiny photo of her husband, Jeff. He’s one of the 3,000 pictures that make up a poster of the Twin Towers, part of the shrine that fills a corner of the basement.

Jeff was a vice president of a publishing company.

“It’s hard to watch because obviously I’m watching my husband being murdered.” Sue Mladenik told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker.

When Jeff died the couple had three biological children, ages 16 to 21, and had adopted a 4-year-old girl from China. They had planned to adopt others, so even after Jeff was gone Sue added two more to the family.

“He never got to see Grace grow up. He doesn’t even know the youngest girls. … It’s been a very difficult 10 years,” his widow says.

Watching President Obama’s lay a wreath at Ground Zero Thursday brought back memories. Their daughter Kelly is now 31.

“My father was everything,” she says. “He had a great sense of humor. He’d make corny jokes. I just know I’m a better person because of him.”

The Mladenik family has visited New York in the past to take part in a 5-K race to commemorate 9/11.

Sue plans to take all the children back on the 10-year anniversary.

“I don’t want the kids to ever forget their father and that his life was important,” she says.

As for the demise of Osama bin Laden, both mother and daughter say they had been waiting this day for 10 years.