My dad’s birthday is this week. It is only fitting that this story includes him.
Twenty years ago, my dad called me one morning and said, “Turn on the TV”… “Why,” I said, and he replied, “Just turn it on”. So many others experienced the same thing with friends and loved ones on 9/11/01. Where were you when you got that call, and what were you thinking?
Along with my 8-year-old daughter Jamie, we watched the first tower collapse. As the South Tower crumbled, I started sobbing. And what really shook me up was the feeling that two days later, I was scheduled to be in a meeting on the 98th floor of the South Tower. Jamie looked at me and said, “Mommy, if you were in that building, I would fly a plane across the country and get you out.”
“While you never know what you will do in time of crisis, I know two things about myself. I am programmed to help people, and I am a rule follower. If the Port Authority told us to stay, I would have stayed.
“The building is secure. The safest place is inside; stay
calm and do not leave.”
The plane hit the South Tower at the 77th floor. AON occupied floors above 93.
While I was watching the live news report, people inside the building were calling family members.
“They said the building is secure, don’t evacuate…we saw an explosion ball, something was coming at us”
“We need to get some air…why did I listen to them… we’re overlooking the Financial Center…there’s three of us, two broken windows…Oh God! Oh…” ~AON Vice President Kevin Cosgrove, one of the 176 AON employees lost in the World Trade Center.
Excerpt from “Playing for Keeps”
Fast forward to 2021, and I recently shared an article with my friend Cara. It was the latest Homeland Security Bulletin that read, “Al Qaeda…recently released its first English-language copy of “Inspire Magazine” – the terrorist group’s open-sourced playbook – in over four years.” Ten minutes later, she called me. I said, “Did you see the part about Al Qaeda?” I could feel a pit in my stomach.
Cara replied, “Therese, I’m going to Facetime you. The most bizarre thing just happened. She took me to a grove of oak trees in her backyard…hops over a concrete wall, and says, “Look, look at the number” as she zoomed in on the ground. “Look at the number, its 911”. I’ve had a lot of synchronicities that have occurred as I wrote my “Playing for Keeps” book, but this was eerie.
Cara told me, “All of the oak trees are tagged with numbers. See, this one has a 910 tag on it. Therese, there isn’t a tree for 911, it’s missing”.
Cara lives in Northern California, and all the oak trees on her property are tagged to protect them. So, we both found it odd that the 911 tag was just lying there, and had no tree?
As usual, I asked myself why?
Cara and I have had a friendship of 55 years. Over that time, there have been countless times that we have been on the same wavelength. One of us would call and the other would say, “I was just thinking about you!” We would just laugh. But this one, this one was strange.
When my parents told me that my older sister had passed at 21 (and I was only 15), I just ran to Cara’s house because we had been best friends forever. We always joked that we were switched at birth. We’d say that my father (Gould Allison) must be a second father to her because they really clicked. They would share stories, and he would give her advice as he sat in his rocking chair.
The night before my dad passed, Cara had a family crisis of her own. For the first time she sent my dad a text to help her, but it was the wrong number…
One of the songs that she listened to over and over was that night was “Heart on Fire” by Scars On 45.
Early the next morning, she woke up to a brilliant red (my dad’s favorite color) sunrise. She grabbed her camera to take a picture. Realizing the memory was full, she started to delete photos and came across a photo of her with my dad in London in 2003.
I called her at 9:30 am to let her know about my loss. She asked, “What time did he pass?” “About 5:30 am,” I replied. Ironically, it was the same time that she saw the brilliant sunrise.
The next day, I was at dad’s condo. One of his caregivers was there. She took me to his basket of payer pads, and emphasized, “These were really important to him.” I said, “I know”. Curious, I pulled a random pad from the basket and flipped it to a random page…
“Dear Jesus – I pray that I can hear from Cara so that I may be able to help her.”
And then it dawned on me. Twenty years ago on 911, our nation’s heart was on fire. As always, the music brings everything together. Here is the song Cara was listening to the night before my father passed:
“When you’re standing on your own and you feel you’ve got nobody around you, yeah you know I’ll be the one who helps you from your knees”….the firefighters, my dad, Cara…
I was looking for the perfect song to represent my thoughts about 911 for my Playlist. I think I’ve found it.
Dedicated to the 343 firefighters that lost their lives that day.