She was born Phyllis Gail Rozas, the only daughter of Clement and Mabel Rozas, on April 14, 1948. Her father was a U.S. Navy pharmacist’s mate during World War II. After the war he worked as a state police officer before buying a small farm in Chataignier near his father’s.
Phyllis grew up on the family farm, along with her older half brother Daniel Lafleur and younger brother James “Jim” Rozas.
There was a four-year age difference between Daniel and the others, and as a result, the two younger siblings were close, Jim Rozas said.
All three attended Chataignier Elementary and High School, and spent much of their spare time helping out on the farm.
“We all worked on the farm. We did whatever we had to do. We grew mainly cotton, sweet potatoes, corn. We had cattle and pigs,” Rozas said.
“She was a very independent person, very caring; she liked to help people out. She loved animals, primarily cats and dogs,” Rozas said.
Phyllis graduated high school in 1966, and married D.A. Guillory of Chataignier shortly thereafter.
“He was a nice young man, it just didn’t work out,” Rozas said.
After the divorce, Phyllis enrolled in the University of Southwest Louisiana, majoring in microbiology.
It was there she met her second husband, Randy Talbot, and left college before graduating to move with him to Waco, Texas, where husband and wife both worked for Culligan Water Softeners.
The couple had one child, Keith, born in Dec. 1971, but the couple split after approximately five years of marriage, leaving Phyllis to raise her son by herself.
“I must add she did a fine job; Keith grew up to be a fine young man,” Rozas said.
Mother and son settled in Mesquite, Texas, outside Dallas, and went to work for Marsh, USA, an investment brokerage firm and subsidiary of Marsh and McLennan Companies, Inc.
At the same time, she completed college, earning a degree in Business Administration in the late 1980’s.
“She was very intelligent, very driven; she was very motivated to be successful,” her brother recalled. Rozas said Phyllis did well at Marsh, and quickly rose through the ranks.
She was promoted to vice president in the mid 1990’s and was transferred to the corporate headquarters in Manhattan, at the World Trade Center North Tower.
“She loved it there,” Rozas said. Her window looked out across Manhattan and gave her a view of the Statue of Liberty.
The last time Rozas saw his sister, she told him she was looking forward to retiring and moving back south so she could be closer to her family.
On the morning of Sept. 11, Rozas said he was mowing the lawn of his Youngsville home. His wife Janet, a physical education assistant, came home early and told him the World Trade Center had just been struck by a plane.
“I was in shock,” he recalled.
His wife drove to Mamou to get his mother, and the three anxiously watched the news all day.
It was horrible, not knowing what was going on, Rozas said, but it helped that his son-in-law, Oswaldo Aguirre, was in Manhattan on business.
“He’s the last one to have seen her. They had supper together just two nights earlier,” Rozas said.
Since all planes were grounded, Aguirre could not leave, and so he stayed to look for his wife’s aunt, take care of her apartment and her cat, and relay information to the authorities and Phyllis’ anxious family.
“He’s a really fine person, and he really helped out a lot. I’m sure it was hard on him to be doing that, much less being stuck there,” Rozas said.
“We always had the feeling that maybe she got out of the building, and she’s somewhere, maybe in a hospital and it could take several days to find out that she’s still alive. That was our main feeling. But as time passed, that faded away and we began to realize she didn’t survive,” Rozas said.
Rozas said they knew she was in the building at the time, because she had sent her boss an email from her office.
Marsh and McLennan’s offices in the WTC North Tower incorporated the 93rd to 100th floors. When American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the building at 8:46 a.m. that Tuesday, it struck somewhere between floors 93 and 99. No one present in the Marsh and McLennan offices at that time survived the attack, and are believed to have been killed instantly.
Keith went to New York as soon as he was able to retrieve his mother’s belongings and brought her beloved cat Snickers home to Phyllis’ mother, who took care of the cat until its passing a few years ago.
“It was terrible for him,” Rozas said. “He grew up with only her.”
Keith now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife Margie and their two sons.
It was terrible too, for Phyllis’ mother Mabel, then 82, who kept hoping that somehow her daughter had survived and was unaccounted for. “To me, that was the worst, the absolute worst. I knew how bad it was for my mom, but there was nothing I could do, except to be there for her,” Rozas said.
Rozas also had to pass the news to their father, living at Eunice Manor and suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is tell my dad she had been killed,” Rozas recalled. Clement Rozas passed away a few months later.
A memorial service was held for Phyllis in Lafayette in November, 2001, but it wasn’t until approximately six months later, that a portion of bone was found, and through DNA testing, identified as belonging to Phyllis.
“A policeman came to Keith’s house in the wee hours of the morning to notify him they had found remains,” Rozas recalled.
“At the time, I kind of resented it because it brought all these feelings back up, but now, I guess it was a good thing because it helped to provide closure for the families,” Rozas said.
A second memorial was held, and Phyllis’ remains were brought home and laid to rest at Mt. Calvary Cemetery on Hwy. 190 east of Eunice, where her father was also buried.
Even in the midst of tragedy, Rozas said he has a great deal of respect for the first responders who risked their lives at Ground Zero that day.
“You’re hearing now about rescue workers getting ill, and I don’t know how severe it is, but I just hope those people get all the help they need, because they deserve it,” Rozas said.
Rozas said that New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was like “a rock” through the whole ordeal. “It was a comfort to have him in charge. He really impressed me with how he and his employees handled the situation.”
Rozas said he is impressed with the way the government has been dealing with terrorist threats since Sept. 11.
“They’re doing as much as they can to prevent something like this from happening again, but when you’ve got people willing to die for a cause, it’s really, really difficult to prevent them,” Rozas said.
“I just can’t understand what possesses people to kill a bunch of innocent people. It’s alien to my way of thinking,” Rozas said.
The 9/11 terrorists deprived Phyllis of spending more time with her mother, or seeing her father one last time before he died. The most tragic part, Rozas said, is Phyllis never got to know her two grandsons, both born after Sept. 11, 2001.
She was taken too soon from everyone, Rozas said.
“What I learned from this is how fragile and precious life is, and how important family and friends are,” Rozas said.