Ten years ago, I sat down in the house of a woman who had lost her son on September eleventh. She’d been out grocery shopping that day and hadn’t heard the news. She came home to a message from her son, who worked in one of the towers. “He told me a plane had hit the building, but that he was fine and not to worry,” she said. “He told me he loved me.” She paused. “Would you like to hear it?”
She’d saved the message, of course. She’d tried to call her son back that day, but he hadn’t answered. The message was on a digital machine, and I remember being glad, because it wouldn’t wear out. She could listen to it over and over and over again.
After I listened, she showed me her photo albums, pictures of her son as a little boy, as a handsome man. I stayed as long as I could, because I could see she wanted to talk about him, wanted to remember, wanted to pass those memories along to whoever would listen so that her son, who died, would come alive again in her words and in the minds of new people, people he’d never met.
I went home and I wrote my story. I never saw the woman again. A few years ago, I looked up her name, and I found out she’d passed away. I saw what the obituary said, the disease it named, but it was wrong. She died because her son did.
I wish I’d seen her just one more time, so that I could tell her I think of her on beautiful fall days, when the air is crisp and the sky a brilliant, heart-breaking blue, so beautiful you think that nothing bad could ever happen. I think of her, and I remember her son, the one I never met. He was funny and brave. He was handsome, with dark hair and eyes, and he had a nice voice. He loved dogs, and his mother. I carry his memory with me, and now I share him with you. I think his mother would have liked that.