Since Amy was killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Toyens have treated each Sept. 11 as a quiet family day.
“We usually like to spend the day alone – the three of us,” said her mother Dorine, referring to her, husband Martin and daughter Heather. “We don’t usually like to be with lots of people.”
Amy’s father Martin said the idea was always to shut off the television, the news, and get away.
But this year, Martin and Dorine will join other families in attending The 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, which will be dedicated Sunday. They will go with Amy’s fiancée at the time of her death, Jeff Gonski, his wife Stephanie and son.
“This year will be different. ... It will be right there,” Martin Toyen said.
The Toyens want to support Gonski. It will also be their first time at the site.
“We felt the site was that of destruction and murder and did not want to go down there until such time was an appropriate memorial to the victims,” Martin Toyen said.
Heather Toyen will not be going to the New York ceremony and said spending the day with thousands of strangers, looking at the site, is not something she wants to do.
“It’s not my idea of how to remember somebody so I’m choosing to stay home,” she said.
Heather Toyen will, however, be in the public eye locally as she has agreed to speak at the Candlelight Vigil in Canton Sunday evening.
Toyen said she will reiterate the message for people to be thankful for what they have, be kind to each other and put things in perspective.
It’s a sentiment her mother agrees with and one the family says people have too quickly forgotten after coming together after 9/11.
“Remember life is short and you never know when it’s going to end,” Dorine said.
At the time of the attacks, Amy Toyen was just 24, living in the Boston area and preparing for her wedding.
A couple of weekends before 9/11, Dorine had taken Amy shopping to buy her wedding gown. And marriage and children was the topic of the last conversation between Amy and Heather.
In 2001, Amy Toyen worked for then Thomson Financial in Boston and was chosen to demonstrate software at a conference in the North Tower.
Her flight the night before had been canceled so she arose early that Tuesday morning and arrived in New York shortly before 7 a.m.
Her parents knew she was going to New York but didn’t know where.
Later that morning Martin Toyen was at work when a colleague turned on the television in time to see the second plane hit.
“We were just watching it and then it dawned on me that Amy was going down to Manhattan for a trade show,” he said “But she never told me where she was going.”
It took several hours for the pieces of the tragic puzzle to begin to fall into place. By that afternoon, the family knew the situation looked bleak but held out hope.
Sadly, their worst fears were confirmed.
And now, 10 years later, the country is placing renewed emphasis on the day and remembering those who were murdered.
“It is so hard to believe that a decade has gone by,” Heather Toyen said. “It seems like yesterday but at the same time it seems like a really long time ago.”
“What’s been going through my head is wondering what her life would have been like during these 10 years,” Martin Toyen added.
What the family does know is that Amy was a person who was always looking to help others.
The 1995 Avon High School graduate was involved in numerous activities to help others, whether it be welcoming new students to school, “rocking” for "Dollars For Scholars” or volunteering at her temple.
At Bentley College, where she graduated in 1999, she carried on the tradition.
Her father remembers one year when her roommates were saddened by the lack of a place to hang their Christmas stockings.
So Amy painted a fireplace mural on the wall of the dormitory.
“She didn’t do it for herself, she did it for the other young ladies,” he said.
On a more serious note, she also stood up to bigotry when it became an issue on campus, Martin Toyen said.
And she was one of several students a resident artist portrayed on the walls of the Bentley student union. The mural contains the words the students had passed out on fliers, “This is our home; bigots not welcome.”
“She was out doing that in the community, in the school,” Martin Toyen said. “The fact is that she volunteered to pass these out - did not want to see bigotry and racism and discrimination at all.”
And although the family is saddened that some of the compassion people found in their hearts after 9/11 has faded, they have also been blessed over the years with the kindness of others.
Amy Toyen’s memory lives on through several scholarships and perhaps most visibly through the bronze statue of a six-year-old Amy that sits at the Avon Free Public Library. It was sculpted by Canton artist Marilyn Parkinson Thrall and incorporated Amy’s love of books and Teddy bears. The funding came from the Avon High School student government.
Martin Toyen said, “It was to us a very moving and very warm tribute from the town - from the citizens in the community to do what they did.”
The Toyens have witnessed other acts of kindness as well
People leave flowers and notes at the statue every year, usually on Amy's birthday and the anniversary of 9/11.
“Whether people knew Amy or not, the notes are very touching,” Martin said.
Heather said her neighbors were very supportive of her when they heard about Amy's death, planting Rose of Sharon bushes in front of her Canton home, baking her cookies and bringing her meals.
And someone leaves a chrysanthemum at the end of the Martin and Dorine's home in Avon every year as well.
“I think it means more because it is anonymous,” Dorine said. “Whoever’s doing it isn’t looking for thanks. It’s just, 'We’re thinking of you.'”
And as the family so often thinks of Amy there is so much to remember.
She loved playing the piano and never had to be told to practice. Her paintings still grace the walls of her parents’ home. She loved Teddy Bears. She loved to travel. She loved theater and the arts.
Heather Toyen would often accompany her sister on trips to New York City and a year before she died the two and Gonski spent time in England together.
“That was really nice just to have that as part of my memory,” Heather Toyen said. "We enjoyed each other’s company.”
And through it all there was her radiant smile, perhaps an outward showing of her kindness.
“I think for everyone the one thing to remember is her smile,” Martin Toyen said. “She had just an amazing, photogenic smile."