No Surprises: navigating tragedy with faith, family and the FDNY

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Chapter 1 (rough draft)

A Free Day

Once a month, Bruce and I sat with our calendars to coordinate life. I always ended that sit down with “No Surprises, let me know if it isn’t going to work but no surprises.”  As a mom, wife, small business owner and church volunteer I prided myself on being organized, prepared, in control of my life.

It was supposed to be get-a-few-things-done type of day. With my two daughters back in school, my firefighter husband on duty, and one more week until fall classes resumed at my dance studio, I was free to do as I pleased. The day started as most days did. To be able to ease into my day instead of being thrown into it I got up an hour before my daughters, to shower, let the dog out, get my thoughts together and have my cup of tea.

At 6:30am Meghan staggered into the kitchen, arms at her sides, head down, still half asleep and stood in front of me for her morning hug and kiss on the forehead. At fourteen, Meghan was almost as tall as I was at 5’10”. Meghan, my second born and polar opposite of her older sister, wasn’t a morning person but watch out later in the day she was a force to be reckoned with.

Weeks earlier after freshmen orientation, Meghan had declared “By the time I have been at high school a month, everyone will know who I am. I kept asking if anyone knew Emily and no one did. They are going to know me.” I didn’t doubt that for a moment.

Emily, my 17-year-old reserved, attentive child was starting her senior year and negotiated her schedule to allow for early dismissal. Bruce and I informed her early dismissal required her to volunteer somewhere or get a part time job.

“Mom, don’t forget I have that Red Cross meeting this evening. Are we coming home before that?”

“Probably not. We’ll run errands or visit Nanny & Poppy”

Meghan chimed in “What’s happening to me?”

“Still sorting that out. Daddy will probably bring you home. Let’s go girls.”

The target time to leave the house each school day was 7:15am. My daughters attended Eastern Christian High School in North Haledon, New Jersey thirty miles away so driving them to school wasn’t around the corner or down the block or the other side of town. It was over the river and through the woods to another state we go. Even though school was miles from home it was near to my work making me available for drop offs, pick-ups and emergencies during the day.

As I turned into the circular driveway, I commented “Make sure you have all of your stuff. Em, I will see you at early dismissal time. Meg, I will see you at regular time. Have a good day. Love you.”

Next stop, my dance studio to quickly check the mail and answering machine messages and then home for my free morning. Can’t wait.Finding nothing that needed my attention, I got in my car to leave and the radio came on.

“…a small plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”

As I put the car into reverse, looked over my shoulder and backed up the radio news anchor continued.

“…a second plane has hit the World Trade Center”

 What? I pulled back into the parking space and sat a moment. I turned up the volume.   Maybe that Nelson Demille book I just read is really happening – pilots are being blinded. No, that’s not possible?!

Home seemed like where I needed to be.  I was operating on auto-pilot. As I merged onto Route 208, the FDNY issued a total recall.

“All firefighters report for duty.”

I knew the FDNY doesn’t call firefighters into work via the radio. This was bad, really bad. We must be at war but with whom? As I drove the radio continued to drone on, I started to pray. Lord, protect Bruce. Bring him home.I knew he would be sent down there. Bruce was a firefighter in a Special Operations Command (SOC) unit, a Squad. Squad 41 to be exact. Squad 41 ventured into Manhattan from the Bronx on a regular basis. I have joked that firefighters in Squads (and Rescues) do things they don’t tell their wives. It is bad enough that your firefighter husband runs into burning buildings. You don’t want to know he hung from a building, crawled around in a confided space, or suffered exposure to a biohazard all in the name of an average day in a Squad or Rescue.

When I arrived home, I turned on the television. The news professionals appeared as rattled and puzzled as I was. The images were baffling and then reports out of Washington, DC. What, now?  The images of a plane crashing into the Pentagon flashed on the screen. I started to pray again. Lord, please protect my country. Please protect New York City.

I paced, pleaded, prayed and the television kept reporting additional events. One of the twin towers collapsed, another plane crashed in Pennsylvania, the other tower collapsed.

I remembered in the Old Testament how Abraham prayed for a city to be saved. He asked God if there were one hundred righteous people to save the city and worked down to ten people and finally one person. I figured I had no time to waste so I prayed if there was one righteous person in New York City please save my city. I suggested to God that Dr. Mucci, District Superintendent for the Church of Nazarene, would probably qualify as the one person.

I was worried that my brother and/or brother-in-law might be traveling for business or be in New York City.  I tried to make several calls to my parents in New Jersey and sister in New York. No calls would go through.

“All circuits are busy, please try again later.”

Suddenly my telephone rang.

“Mom, where is Daddy?”  It was Emily.

“I don’t know.” I must hold it together until Bruce is home.  “I don’t expect to hear from Daddy. He doesn’t usually call when he is on duty. We will call the firehouse later if we haven’t heard from him by the time he is off duty. Okay? Find your sister and I will pick you both up at early release time. I love you. See you in a little while.”

People have asked me “why didn’t I get my girls from school when I first heard about the attacks? Why drive all the way home?” To be honest it never dawned on me to get them from school. I think I believed that if the girls were at school, Bruce was on duty and I was at my dance studio or home. It was all normal. And I desperately needed for it to be normal. For it to be all right.

The phone rang again.

“Hi, it’s Barbara. Is Bruce on duty?”

It was my sister who I hadn’t spoken to in a very long time. Since Barbara lived in California I guess we had never mentioned the house rule of not calling to ask me if Bruce was on duty when you hear of a fire on the television or radio. Who would have thought she would know about a fire in NYC?  I was grateful to hear her voice.  Bruce will be so surprised that Barbara called. I can’t wait to tell him.

My thoughts of getting something done or being free to do as I pleased were forgotten. I wasn’t sure what I should do. The television didn’t seem to have any new information. I couldn’t make phone calls. As much as I wanted to be home earlier, being home now felt isolating.  It wasn’t even early release time, so I couldn’t pick-up Emily and Meghan or so I thought.  I decided to drive back to my studio to see Carol. Carolis my best friend and business partner. She is my person. We can talk for hours or we sit with a cup of tea and not say a word. Through life’s mountains and valleys, she has walked with me. We double dated in our teens and twenties. We stood up for each other when we got married. When I started my business, New School of Dance Arts, Carol taught for me. After the first year I asked her if she wanted to be my business partner. At the time there was one hundred dollars in the studio checkbook, I told her if she matched the hundred dollars we would be equal partners in the business. Her hubby, Tony, calls us “partners in crime.” Tony and many others chuckled at our lack of business savvy “that’s not how you buy into a business” but Carol and I were business partners since 1976 so I guess we have done something right.

I retraced the same route I had driven earlier. But this time as I approached the top of Skyline Drive, I noticed there were cars parked on the shoulder. People standing outside their cars. What are they doing?  As the road reached the crest of the mountain, my question was answered. You can see the New York City skyline. Looking far to the right you see lower Manhattan. There was a big cloud of smoke where the building had been. Had I seen the towers earlier?

I entered the studio to find Carol sitting at the table with brochures, registration forms and schedules arranged in front of her.

“Your Dad called more than once. He wants you to call him.” were the first words out of her mouth.

I put my purse on the gymnastic mats and reached for the wall phone. A brief conversation with my Dad ended with a promise to stop by after I had picked up the girls.  Carol and I discussed all that we knew about the attacks. We switched gears to focus on studio stuff -what classes we needed to confirm, cancel, etc.

“I will call you when I hear from Bruce.” I walked out the door. Not realizing that I won’t walk back through that door until Monday October 1 when classes finally began.

Over the past three years I had regularly dropped Emily off or picked her up at school but rarely entered the building. Having been an ever-present parent during Emily’s preschool and elementary school days (I taught at the same preschool and elementary school she attended), I had made the conscience decision to step back and allow Emily to be her own person minus the role of Miss Ann’s daughter.

“Hi, I am Ann Van Hine. Emily has early release. I also want to sign out Meghan.”

“Of course, let me see what class Meghan is in. Emily should be heading this way to sign out.”

The ride to my parents’ house was full of questions with no answers but assurances of love and faith. We arrived at my parents’ home nine miles away to find my Dad sitting at the far side of the dining room table giving the impression he was holding court. My Mom was not thrilled with my Dad’s favorite spot, she wanted her table back for meals, but it had become his desk. My Dad tried to reassure my girls that Bruce couldn’t have gotten from the Bronx to Lower Manhattan before the towers collapsed. My Dad is an engineer and physicist so thinking things through logically was what he did but even as my Dad explained his reasoning I knew he was wrong. My Dad wasn’t tuning into the fact Bruce was in a Squad and would have been dispatched earlier rather than later.

Days later my Dad mentioned that he hadn’t tuned into the Squad dynamic and asked, “why didn’t you correct me?”

“I couldn’t correct you in front of the girls.”

Emily and I discussed the Red Cross meeting. She called to see if it was still on and the answer was no. We hung out a little longer and then decided to head home.  As I drove up Route 17 in my rearview mirror for a brief moment I saw the New York City skyline. I saw the smoke and I willed my girls not to turn around. When we got home, we turned the television on for a short time. We tried to do our daily routine. Time slowed or stopped or something, but it wasn’t moving as in a normal day.

By the late afternoon, I spoke with my sister-in-law, Bobbie, Bruce’s sister. She was at my mother-in-law’s home in South Jersey about three hours away. One of my greatest fears had been how would I tell Bruce’s mom something happened to him?  My father-in-law died ten years prior, my mother-in-law lived alone, and Bobbie lived in Kansas but on September 11, 2001 Bobbie just happened to be in New Jersey for a friend’s child’s wedding. So as all this was happening my 82-year-old mother-in-law was not alone. Thank you, Lord.

Around 7pm, I went into my bedroom to call Squad 41. The answering machine picked up. I left a message “Please have Bruce Van Hine call his wife.” I didn’t wait long before I called again. “Please have anyone call Bruce Van Hine’s wife.”

I called my folks. I told my Dad that no one was answering the phone at Squad 41. When my ever-calm Dad said, “call every number you have for the New York City Fire Department until you reach a human being” I was freaked. I grabbed the FDNY phone list off the back of the basement door and headed to my bedroom out of ear shot of my girls. I glanced down at the list, saw Bronx and dialed. It was Bronx Dispatch. The firefighter who answered explained that this was the number to report fires and kindly suggested that I keep calling Squad 41.

Eventually I got through to someone at Squad 41 who said “No one is here. They went to look for them. They will be in touch when they get back.” This can’t be happening.

Around 10:00pm I decided we should all get some sleep so Emily, Meghan and our 130 lb. Rottweiler, Buster, piled into my bed. I had a feeling that someone was coming to the house and didn’t want to be in my pajamas, so I stayed dressed. I laid with my girls until they were asleep. Then I got up.

I paced, prayed and made a cup of tea. Growing up a “cup of tea” was the quick fix for whatever was happening. A cup of tea could calm you down or cheer you up. My Mom is British so making tea was a ritual. I followed that ritual as I boiled water, heated the pot, steeped the tea and placed the tea cozy over the pot. I poured the milk in the cup first, added one sugar and poured the brewed tea. I sat on the couch cradling my warm cup of tea in my hands and waited for what I didn’t know but I waited.

At a little before midnight, I heard a car pull up, a car door close and then another. Even though the street light allowed me a glimpse of who was heading to my house through one of the three small windows in my front door, I decided I didn’t want to know. I held my breath and waited. Maybe they aren’t coming here.Please don’t be coming here. There was a light knock on the side door. Whoever it is knows we use the side kitchen door instead of the front door. Standing outside were two men – Charlie who was Bruce’s lieutenant and another firefighter, the identity of that firefighter changes in my memory.

I positioned myself between the kitchen and living room leaning with my shoulder against the doorway. Hopefully the house will hold me up if they say something bad. Polite greetings and then silence. I couldn’t stand the suspense “Just say it”.

Charlie whispered, “They are unaccounted for.”

Unaccounted for? wait? what?

In an almost out of body experience I heard myself say “I have no doubt God can get me through this, but I don’t want to go through this.”

I don’t want to. How many times through the years had my own kids and my students said those exact same words? How many times had I chimed in “most of life has nothing to do with what you want to do? I don’t want to pay taxes or do laundry, but I do.”

There wasn’t a sense of dread. There was a sense of this is really happening. Now what?Charlie, the other firefighter and I sat at the kitchen table as Charlie filled me in on what they knew which wasn’t much. Charlie offered assistance, a prayer, a hug and they left.

I locked the door and tiptoed down the hallway towards my bedroom. I hoped and prayed that the girls were asleep and hadn’t heard the exchange with Charlie. They seemed to be asleep, so I went back into the kitchen to make a few calls.

I called Debbie who is a pastor but first and foremost she is one of my best friends. I asked her to contact Pastor Steve and other friends in the morning. As we spoke I glanced out the window and noticed a man walking down the street. There was a moment I wondered if it was real and commented to Debbie “there is a guy walking down the street.” It reminded me of a scene from a movie – the late hour, the single streetlight glowing. It felt eerie. Years later in conversation Debbie mentioned the guy walking down the street and added “I think it was Bruce checking on things.”

I called my parents. Shared what I knew.

“We will drive up.”

“No, it is too late. Come tomorrow. I’m okay. Love you.”

I checked on my daughters again and realized Emily was awake.  I motioned to her to come into the living room. We sat on the living room floor. Within moments Meghan and the dog appeared in the doorway. They joined us on the floor.

“Charlie was here. Daddy is unaccounted for.”

We cried.

We hugged.

We prayed.

We got back in bed.

Once the girls were asleep I got up.  I made another pot of tea.

“Sorrow lasts for a night but joy cometh in the morning” kept running through my head. I needed to see the sunrise. I waited for the new day. I waited for the darkness to be replaced by light. I waited until the sun had risen and then I laid down to sleep. There was another day…

Valentine Roses

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On the first Valentine’s Day after September 11, 2001, Bruce’s firehouse, Squad 41, sent me one dozen long stem red roses. They send a dozen roses to each of six widows from Squad 41. It was an amazing gesture.

I cried because of their kindness.

I also laughed because those were the first Valentine’s roses I ever received.

For each of the twenty-one years we were married, I told Bruce “don’t buy me roses on Valentine’s Day. They are too expensive. The price is inflated. Buy me flowers any other day but not Valentine’s Day.”

He did buy me flowers on random days.

And I am grateful 🙂

 

 

It’s coming…

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It seems to lurk in the shadows but I always know when it is coming. I bet you didn’t know that it  falls on the same day of the week as Christmas. So in January when I look at the calendar to confirm what day of the week Christmas is, I know what day of the week September 11 is. This year it is a Monday. Next year it is a Tuesday. Those years are practically hard because September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday and it is too easy to relive the moments as they fall on the same day of the week as they fell in 2001.

As the first anniversary approached there was a sense of what was the right thing to do, what were the expectations, my dear friend Carol said “do what you want to do?” That was the best advice anyone could have given me. In the first years that meant Emily, Meghan and I were together just the three of us. In the years since “do what you want to do?” is still my standard. I don’t go to the National Memorial on that day because personally I don’t think I can take on the grief of all those people. This year first thing in the morning, I am speaking at a Jewish school in Manhattan, then venturing up to the Bronx to Squad 41 for the memorial mass and then home for Greenwood Lake Fire Department’s yearly ceremony. All of those are things I want to do, all of those things seem like the right thing to do.

There was a time when the anniversary felt like a large dark being waiting to pounce on me. I came to realize what I was fearing was a shadow. Bruce dying in the line of duty couldn’t happen again because it already happened on September 11, 2001. I also came to understand that if I was looking at September 11 the sun/Son were behind me so the shadow was in front of me but if I looked at the sun/Son the shadow was behind me. Walt Whitman expresses it this way:

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

Since I have been volunteering with the 9/11 Tribute Museum, the weeks and days leading up to the anniversary are a time I worry for lack of a better word about my fellow docents. Those that had experiences that I can’t imagine. Those that saw things no one was ever supposed see. I hold them and their stories close. I pray for peace, rest and healing for friends whom I never would have known if it hadn’t been for September 11, 2001 and our determining to tell our stories. In the Broadway show, Come From Away, there is a line towards the end that states how I now view September 11, 2001:

“We honor what we loss, but we commemorate what we found.”

On September 11, 2001 “we” lost many people and many dreams but “we” found that together “we” could go on. In the past week or so the people of Houston have lost much but they have found each other. At this time in our nation we need to find our way back to being “we” instead of us and them. So as September 11, 2017 approaches, could we honor what has been lost (opportunities, lives, dreams) in our country and strive to find a way to move forward together not as clones or mindless beings but as human beings who disagree on issues, who look different, who believe different things but stand together to educate our children, feed the hungry, aid the sick, shelter the homeless and at least offer a cup of water or a listening ear as needed.

I ask you to never forget and always remember the way we treated each other after September 11, 2001. My apologies to those who were not treated well even then but I believe we can do better.

The Sphere

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Underneath that white sheeting is the Sphere. The Sphere that was sculpted by Fritz Koenig and sat in Tobin Plaza at the World Trade Center from 1971 to 2001. The Sphere that is one of the few remaining pieces of the original World Trade Center that still exist. Personally I don’t have a connection to the Sphere. I didn’t see it everyday as I went to work but I have friends who did. Last week the Sphere was moved from Battery Park where it set since 2002 to its new home in Liberty Park. I have friends who are upset by the media saying it came home because to them it didn’t come home. It doesn’t sit on the National September 11 Memorial as many believe it should.

Last Wednesday as I supported a 9/11 Tribute Museum walking tour and saw the Sphere in its new spot for the first time, I was struck by a few thoughts I wanted to share. I was glad for my friends. Many fought long and hard to preserve it. Well done. I wondered if sitting where it does it isn’t a statement to the fact that we can’t really ever go home? And then again sitting as it does overlooking the Memorial is it watching over or guarding its original home?  Finally once it is uncovered the damage it displays will speak volumes to what happened on September 11, 2001 in a way that the beautiful plaza doesn’t.

So to the Sphere I say “Welcome home to the neighborhood! Glad you could join us.”

According to a fellow docent, it will be unveiled in the near future. I look forward to seeing it.

 

 

Remedial class

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I have often commented to friends that I am pretty sure I am in the remedial class when it comes to learning life lessons. Seriously if there is such a class I am in it. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is just the way it is. For example, last year in Children’s Bible Quizzing we studied the book of Exodus. The story of Moses with the burning bush is one of my favorites. Moses out in the wilderness doing his job of tending sheep and God shows up. Take your sandals off. Holy ground. “I AM WHO I AM” All great stuff.

What stuck with me last year was Moses asking “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God responding “I will be with you…” I loved that response. God didn’t say “Moses, you were the Hebrew baby in the basket, you were the young man in Pharaoh’s court, you are a murder, the shepherd.” He says “I will be with you.” This was an aha moment for me. Really that is what it is all about God is with us. Immanuel means God with us. I mentioned it to friends. In conversation with my pastor, he commented that Moses actually asked the wrong question. Moses should have asked “who was God?”  Yeah, right. That is worth pondering, too. The main thing still goes back to God saying “I will go with you.” I was passionate about this. I pondered it  I excitedly  shared this new understanding when I spoke at Le Tourneau and College of the Ozarks. Good stuff.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I have been invited to share my September 11 at a hearing on terrorism. Did I mention the hearing is in Brussels, Belgium at the European Parliament? An amazing opportunity but I am pretty sure they have the wrong person. No, a real invitation to speak arrives via email. Then a telephone call. All confirmed by September 11 Families Association. This is legit.  I am humbled by the opportunity but remember I am the ballet teacher. This is a “running with the big kids” event. I am a sit on the floor with kids person.

Yesterday I emailed some friends to ask them to pray for me as I embark on this amazing adventure and as I sat in my study I thought “who am I that I should speak at the European Parliament.” And then it clicked! I asked the wrong question but answer was still the same – “I will go with you.”

 

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getting back in the groove

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groove

Sometimes with writing (blogging) as with other things in life you just seem to fall out of step. A new commitment to babysit my grandson two days a week, add to that a couple of speaking engagements and interviews, increased travel to visit my mom and blogging fell to the bottom of the pile. I missed blogging (and I have some other writing I need to work on) so here is my public announcement that I am picking up my pen (well not really because I type) and putting my random ramblings on paper (screen) on a more regular basis. 🙂 I am getting back in the groove.

First up is a few quick recommendations for visiting the September 11 Memorial. Recently people from all parts (former high school classmates, pastors, etc.)  of my life have been asking “can you explain the difference between the Memorial, Tribute Center, One World Observatory and Museum to me?”

So here goes:

  1.  9/11 Tribute Center, 120 Liberty Street is 5 small galleries and walking tours of the September 11 Memorial Plaza. The daily walking tours are the crown jewel of the Tribute Center. Survivors, downtown residents, family members, first responders and volunteers during the rescue/recovery give 75 minute walking tours that include the history of the original World Trade Center, timeline of the attacks, rebuilding, symbolism of the Memorial and most importantly their personal story 9/11 Tribute Center tours started in 2005 and the galleries opened in 2006. This is who I volunteer with.  tributewtc.org
  2.  The National September 11 Memorial is open daily from 7:30am – 9:00pm. It is an open plaza. You don’t need tickets to visit. Take the time to walk around at least one of the pools so you can experience the size of the buildings. Pools are within the original foot[print of the building. The row of trees behind you when you are at the pool marks the walls of the original buildings – you are standing in the original buildings. The Memorial opened on September 11, 2011.  911memorial.org
  3. The National September 11 Memorial Museum is open Sunday – Thursdays from 9:00am – 8:00pm and Fridays – Saturdays from 9:00am – 9:00pm but last entry is 6:00pm/7:00pm respectively. You need to purchase tickets online. Allow at least 2 hours to visit and be kind to yourself. The museum has a lot of amazing artifacts. It is arranged with a in memoriam section and a historical section. Don’t miss the video from NASA. The Museum opened in May of 2014.  911memorial.org
  4. One World Observatory is open daily from 9:00am – 8:00pm with last entry at 7:15pm. One World Observatory is the observation deck of the new 1WTC. You will need to purchase tickets. It opened in May of 2015. oneworldobservatory.com

 

My thoughts:

You will get more out of visiting The National September 11Memorial if you do a 9/11 Tribute Center walking tour.

If you are not from “around these parts”, do a 9/11 Tribute Center walking tour of The National September 11 Memorial and go to One World Observatory.

If you have children do a walking tour and then decide if The National September 11 Museum is appropriate for your family. Remember to your children September 11 is history, to you it is current event.

All four places are worth your time and money but you need to pace yourself so do a walking tour (& galleries) your first visit, the museum another visit and the observatory another time.

The Museum is artifacts and information.

The walking tours are stories and inspiration.

The Observatory is cool views.

 

 

https://missannsays.com/2014/05/18/national-september-11-memorial-museum/

https://missannsays.com/2014/05/13/travel-tuesdays-s2e2-911-memorial-museum/

 

 

 

 

coincidence??

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At the beginning of last week a couple of cancellation notices for Tribute Center tours appeared in my inbox. I decided to take those two tours as I wasn’t scheduled to give any walking tours this week or next. But let me give you a little back story that plays into this story. A friend who is now a Pastor in Irwin had invited me to speak to his congregation. So on September 12 I drove from my daughter’s home to the Irwin, PA which is just outside of Pittsburgh. My friend had mentioned that maybe on Saturday afternoon, we along with his wife and three young children could drive to Shanksville, PA to the United 93 Memorial. I agreed that I would like to visit the Memorial again as I had been there in August of 2011. I had seen the Memorial Plaza but the rest of the Memorial and the visitor center were not completed until this September.

I arrived in Irwin a little later than originally expected but after a lovely late lunch we drove the hour to Shanksville. My friend and his wife asked if I could explain a little bit about United 93 so their children would understand where we were going. Their adorable children are very young – 2 1/2, 6 and 7 years-old. In the simplest of terms I spoke of bad men taking over a plane and how the people on the plane knew the bad men were going to do something really bad and hurt many people so they tried to stop them. I said the plane crashed and that was very sad. We talked about what a Memorial is.  I mentioned also that it is safe and fun to go on airplanes.

When we arrived we walked through the new area. A National Park Ranger informed us we had arrived too late to go in the visitor center. Since I am not one to “play the 9/11 card” it was sometime later when I realized this may have been the occasion to say “I am a 9/11 family member.”  The weather was not the best and we were getting cold. Anyway we drove down to the Memorial Plaza area. My friend again asked if I could explain so his children understood. In the Memorial Plaza area there are posters that show photos of the 40 people killed on United 93 as well as other information. I called the children over to show them the photos of the passengers. I pointed to Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick and commented that these were two of the men that helped to take the plane back. I comment that all the people were brave. I mentioned that these two people went to my cousin’s church (actually my husband’s cousin’s church).Look! All the people in the photos are smiling that is how their families want to remember them. My friend’s 7-year-old  daughter, Sarah * said “this lady is wearing flowers.” I looked and realized the woman was from Hawaii. And upon further investigation we realized there were two ladies wearing flowers, two ladies from Hawaii. I talked about leis and how beautiful the ladies looked. How far away Hawaii is. I mentioned let’s look for this lady’s name when we go up to the wall. Sarah read the name “Christine”. As we walked towards the wall we stopped and looked on the shelves where people left remembrances. “How many flags?” “How many bracelets?” At one point the children were running ahead. My friend was concerned that they weren’t showing respect or were disturbing other people. I said “They are being children. Children are our hope. As a 9/11 family member I am fine with the way they are acting. Now if they were 10 or 12 years old that would be a different story.” When we arrived at the wall we found Christine’s name there were flowers in front of her name.

Fast forward to Thursday as I finish my tour a woman comes up to thank me. She is obviously upset and I ask if she is okay and she mentions she lost a good friend on flight 93. In conversation I realize her friend is Christine. I tell her of a little girl named Sarah who paid respect to her friend Christine. We hugged. And not for the first time and I pray not for the last time I was blessed by the amazing “coincidences” God allows me to experience.

*Sarah is not her real name. FYI: I was able to share this story with my friend and we are all amazed and will never forget Christine.

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