A day etched vividly in my memory

So much has happened in these last twenty years – a mix of happiness, sadness and pure joy. In June of 2001 our youngest daughter, Meg, was married. It was a beautiful wedding that reflected the caring and the specialness of Meg and her husband Brendan. In the summer weeks that followed we often reflected on the happiness of this occasion. And then came September 11.

Jerry and I had been in Massachusetts for the funeral of a dear cousin. As we were approaching New Jersey on the return drive we decided to stop and visit our Aunt Bette , a truly amazing woman. In her upper 90’s Aunt Bette was still full of the spark and enthusiasm that had made her a very successful art teacher and then art supervisor in the public schools. It was such a fun visit that when she asked us to spend the night we happily said “yes.” Next morning we were sitting at breakfast with Aunt Bette when the woman who was her daytime companion and helper arrived for work. She asked if we had heard of the plane crash into the World Trade Center some place in Europe, she was not sure exactly where. Jerry and I looked at one another – we did not know of any World Trade Center in Europe. Our thoughts were of the World Trade Center in New York City where our son Jerry’s law firm had its offices. With Aunt Bette’s permission we turned on her TV. We were quickly horrified to learn that this terrorist attack was taking place in New York City. Two buildings collapsed – one was the building housing our son’s offices. It was now after nine o’clock and we knew that our son when possible got to work early. We were frightened. For the next several hours we tried reaching Jerry on his cell phone. We called our four other children. Everyone was worried about Jerry but relieved to hear from us. Since the decision to spend the night with Aunt Bette had been a last minute decision our family expected that we would be back in Virginia and they were concerned when we didn’t answer our home phone. In talking with the children we learned about the attack on the Pentagon. These were hours of prayer for the safety of our son and for all those effected by the terrors that were unfolding. And they were hours of fear of the unknown.

As so often happens with prayer when our prayers were first answered it was not in the way we expected. Around noon we got the inspiration to check the answering machine on our home phone. There was a message from our son Jerry. After hours of no cell phone service because of overuse he was finally able to make calls. He told us that he was in Jersey City. He had been able to catch a very overcrowded ferry from lower Manhattan. A friend called him when the ferry docked and they set up a meeting place in a local restaurant. The friend was going to take him to his home. But we finally got through to Jerry on his cell and made plans to meet up with him and take him back to his family in Brooklyn. This turned out to be a bit complicated because a number of roads were closed but we finally made it back to Brooklyn and united Jerry with his family. Though this took several hours it was an unmitigated joy to feast our eyes on this precious son we had feared lost.

After their wedding Meg and Brendan who had met in their jobs as Jesuit Volunteers in Portland, Oregon returned to their work in Portland. On September 12th Meg and a friend went for a long walk after work. They finally decided they were too ambitious in their exercise plans and they had better call Brendan for a ride home. They stepped into a convenience store while waiting for Brendan. Meg spotted the local newspaper, THE OREGONIAN and was taken aback to see a featured article about the plane crashes into the World Trade Center that started off ” Jerry and Peggy have five children………” The article then went on to talk about our family and in particular about our son Jerry whose office was in one of the downed World Trade Center buildings. The author of the article was a sports writer, Chuck, who also was a dear and special friend of our son, Jerry. They had met at the University of Virginia and to this day are still close friends. Meg was so touched on reading the article to learn that Chuck when he wrote the article did not know that Jerry was ok.

Though Jerry was usually to work early, September 11, 2001 was such a beautiful day in New York, Jerry decided to walk his children to their near by grade school and then to go on and vote in the New York City primary. So often in life we make simple decisions that have powerful consequences. This certainly was one of those times!!! On September 12, 2001 Jerry wrote a reflection on his past 24 hours. It is powerfully and beautifully written. He posts it every year. We must never forget what transpired on September 11. Jerry’s post is a powerful tool to make sure we do not forget.

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