Eddie Casinover was a 19-year-old soldier stationed in Europe when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. Christine Briggs was 20, had recently moved to Raleigh, N.C., and was unpacking boxes when her roommate's mother called and told her to turn on the news.
But this year, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Casinover and Briggs will be doing more than simply remembering the past: They'll be looking to their future. After winning a wedding contest, the Pasadena, Md., couple will be getting married this Sept. 11 -- a date about which they admit having had second thoughts.
Casinover and Briggs realize that a national day of grief and solemn remembrance will also become for them a celebration of friends, family, and hope.
"But the more I thought about it," Briggs says, "I was like, 'You know what? If we don't take that day back at some point and start celebrating something else, the terrorists win.'
"We grieve that day every year. I'm honored to share that day with all of the people that lost their lives, the people on the planes, the people in the World Trade Center, and the military. Especially the military."
[ Photos: Images of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero ]
They were introduced by one of Casinover's old Army buddies, got engaged earlier this year on the fifth anniversary of their first date, and had decided to get married next May. They were planning to pay for the wedding themselves, though money was tight. On a whim, Casinover entered Musket Ridge Golf Club's Love and Liberty Wedding Giveaway. The big prize was a wedding hosted by the scenic golf club and a sit-down dinner reception for 150 guests, a package worth about $15,000.
Musket Ridge opened the week before Sept.11, and the giveaway was intended to celebrate the service and sacrifice of the military and first responders. "We noticed this 9/11 phenomenon where a civilian is reluctant to do anything on 9/11 that resembles a party," says Damon DeVito, managing director of Affinity Management, which operates Musket Ridge. "But when you talk to first responders and the military, a lot of them feel the opposite. It's like they've risked their lives defending freedom. … They're not giving the terrorists this day on their calendar.
"When they got bin Laden, we said, 'Look, let's do something about this. Let's give away a wedding.'"
In mid-July, Casinover found out that they'd won. The news could not have come at a better time. "I was convincing her to elope or run to the justice of the peace or something," Casinover, who served with the Army's 101st Airborne Division in Iraq and now works as a consultant with the Department of Defense, says. "She was coming around -- she realized we couldn't afford it. Then, just as I convinced her to go with the justice of the peace, we won this. So the timing was pretty cool."
"I didn't know he did the submission for it," Briggs says.
[ Photos: Mural artists remember 9/11 ]
"The only thing I've ever won in my life was guard duty," Casinover said with a laugh. "I never really win."
"It was just surreal. Even now, it's just kind of surreal," says Briggs, who works as a financial analyst with a wine and spirits distribution company. "Pinch me now, is this really happening? This doesn't happen to people every day."
Casinover plans to wear a tuxedo, and one of his groomsmen may wear his military blues if he's not back from Afghanistan in time to get fitted for a tux, Briggs says. She's already picked out her wedding gown. "Me and my girlfriends, my bridesmaids, we went one Friday afternoon, and it was the first dress I saw on the rack," she says. Briggs has decided to go with an all-American theme.
"Most of the people we hang around with are friends of Eddie's and in the military," Briggs says. "All the girls will be in blue dresses with red shoes; I'll be the white." The couple has asked their guests to make donations to the Wounded Warrior Project.
[ Donate: You can help service members who were injured on or after September 11 by giving to the Wounded Warrior Project ]
They've had only two months to prepare, but things are coming together quickly. In a show of community support and appreciation, several other vendors offered to donate their services to the celebration: Holly Heider Chapple Flowers offered to provide the flowers. Aaren King of MADE Makeup will do the bride's makeup, and Norman Ross volunteered to officiate the ceremony for free. Even two big-ticket items -- the photos and the music -- are being donated for the day, by Cory Brodzinski photography and Jarrod Wronski of Metro DC DJs.
"It's funny, because I know I have such a time crunch, that my decision-making has been super," Briggs says.
But even as all the pieces fall into place, the couple is cognizant of the significance of the date, and what they hope it will come to mean for them and their family.
"I'm just happy to share that day and make it something memorable, not for it to be a day of grief anymore," Briggs says. "Good things will still happen on that day."
Share your 9/11 memories with us on Twitter - #911remembered