I've received about five emails now, reminding us to fly our flag on September 11th. Most people probably think we're strange—John raises our flag daily, weather permitting, and lowers it at the end of the day. As a veteran, he's proud of that flag.
We arrived home on 9.10.2001, from an anniversary cruise to Alaska with my sister and her husband. Jeremy, our middle son, called me from Portland shortly after the plane hit the first tower. He was up early, typical for him as part of his work as a member of the Culinary Arts school he was attending.
Our youngest son, Benjamin, was in NYC at the time, on a mission. I'll admit to having a personal struggle with him going. Our beliefs had diverged incomprehensively to me. I wasn't even supposed to have his home phone number, but we had caller ID, and it registered when he called home for his permitted Father's Day call. I had written it down, but had never used it. I just wanted to feel that I had it if there were ever an emergency. When the second plane hit, I dialed the number. When he answered, I burst into tears.
"Mom? You're not allowed to call me. Hang up! Mom? What's wrong?"
I was finally able to calm down enough to make him understand what was going on. They didn't even know. They were listening to inspirational music while doing their morning scripture readings. After we hung up from a much too brief conversation (he promised to call later, and it was much later when he finally did) he and his roommate(s) went to their roof and stayed to watch the towers collapse. Then their neighbors insisted they return back into the apartment building.
One strange thing happened that afternoon, and I want to make it clear that I don't believe in coincidences. I'll backtrack and give a bit of history. Ben and I had seen Forrest Gump together when it was in the theatre seven years before. That day he gave me one of the best compliments a parent can receive. Walking out of the movie, he asked me if I remembered when Forrest tells Jenny that she was always there for him. Of course I remembered that scene. It was beautiful and amazing.
"That's the way it is with you and me," he said. "Even when you're not right there with me, I know you're there to help if I need it."
I was speechless. Sometimes people say things that you never forget—never want to forget. He was only thirteen at the time, but had managed to touch me so deeply that the echoes of his words would always remain in my heart.
On September 11, 2001, as a country sat staring at the devastation transmitted nationwide through our small screens, the mail was delivered. Among the stack of catalogues and bills was a postcard from Ben. It contained a short note, dated four or so days earlier, telling of his visit to the twin towers. The picture on the front was a proud image of the Twin Towers, standing tall over Manhattan. From the antenna on the roof of Tower One, Ben had pasted a cartoon-like bubble with the simple message: HELP!
No. I don't believe in coincidences. I was meant to receive that postcard the day it arrived. There was tragedy, but my son was alive. I had heard his voice. He had been in The Towers days earlier, but not when they went down.
We don't get a road map through life, and few answers we don't discover on our own—and even those aren't definitive. We do, however, get our share of miracles.