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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My brother was one of the New York City firefighters who were missing in the World Trade Center disaster. For two months my family agonized about his whereabouts and what happened to him. One night my mom told me about the "pennies from heaven" letters in your column, and I began wishing that Mom could find a penny with my brother's birth year on it -- or some other sign that he was at peace.

In late November, I got a phone call from my sister-in-law that my brother's body was found. When she was given his belongings, she was surprised to see his Saint Florian necklace, which we had never seen him wear. (He must have put it on only when going to a fire.) He had a couple of dollars in his pocket -- and one penny.

When I relayed this news to my mother, she jumped up and said, "That's my sign! He's at peace." I sometimes wonder if we are just looking for signs, but as time goes on and I speak to other families in our situation, nothing feels coincidental. -- SUZANNE AULETTA, HOWELL, N.J.

DEAR SUZANNE: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your beloved brother. He was not only a hero, but also an innocent victim in a war we are committed to win. If the penny brings comfort to your mother, then it has more than served its purpose.

DEAR ABBY: I am 25 and am engaged to a man I have been with since I was 16. We have lived together for more than six years and have accumulated lots of furniture and household items. I'm beginning to think he is not the right man for me, but fear it will be difficult to leave him. His parents gave us most of our stuff, and I'm afraid if I leave him he will feel he has the right to keep everything they gave us.

I am also having an affair with a married man I work with. He says he loves me but won't leave his wife. In the meantime, I don't want to hurt my fiance, but don't know what to do. Should I tell him the truth about my relationship with the married man? What about the furniture? Does he get to keep it? -- CONFUSED IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

DEAR CONFUSED: Don't waste any more time obsessing about the furniture. Tell your fiance the truth -- and the furniture distribution problem will become a lesser priority.

DEAR ABBY: My son's baby monitor is picking up conversations from my neighbor's cordless phone. On more than one occasion, my husband and I have heard my friend "Mary's" husband, "Pete," talking suggestively to a woman late at night. It's obvious it's not Mary he is talking to.

Mary just told me they are selling their home and Pete has asked her for a divorce. He said he "just doesn't want to be married anymore." I feel tremendously guilty over this and am dying to tell Mary that Pete is not as innocent as he's making himself out to be. I want to expose him for who he really is.

Two problems: I don't want to cause Mary any more heartache, and the way we found out is sort of sleazy. I know their divorce is none of my business, but I feel that Mary should know the truth. Should I tell her what I know? -- HEARING "BABY" TALK IN THE BABY'S ROOM

DEAR HEARING "BABY" TALK: The marriage is over. Why protect the guilty? I see no reason to conceal the truth from your neighbor. Tell her that you've been hearing more than baby-talk over the baby monitor -- and that her husband has been having one heck of a party on the party line.

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