Newark International Airport bustled with people going on that last minute vacation, or holiday as Da would say, but my wife Kathryn was 4 and a half months pregnant. As a San Fran native she was determined to visit relatives before the busy holiday rush began. As I embraced her I kept an eye on the board. I wished I could go with her but work needed me for a few days more so I was following her in a few days.
She cuddles into me and looks up, ‘United 93, on time’ kept flashing on the screen so I took her for a snack, as we were eating the ‘Now boarding’ began to flash on screen. Making our way to the gate Kathryn grinned and kissed me goodbye. “Looking forward to you joining me in a few days.” She grinned, I didn’t think I could let her go but held her hand until she went into the gate. One last look back and she went, grinning to her plane.
Climbing into the car her perfume scent was lingering, as if it knew I’d be missing her already, taking a deep breath I conjured up my wife’s image in my mind. Her beautiful brown hair that she straightened so diligently everyday blowing gently in the breeze, her honey coloured eyes that shone love for anyone she was close to, that beautiful smile that she kept only for me.
Once at work I sat at my desk and turned on the computer. Everyone was crowded around the TV that was at the front of the office. “Anything interesting?” I enquired before Jack, my best friend who kinda looked like Joey from friends, ushered me over.
“You don’t wanna miss this!” I looked at the TV, a plane had crashed into one of the famous twin towers in New York. The blaze was incredible and I could see people hanging out of the topmost floors and waving things like scarves in a desperate attempt to get attention. I was very glad that Kath was well on her way to San Fran by now.
As I was engrossed in the news story the telephone rang, someone would pick it up, I knew that, “Hey Jerry!” It was Ollie, I had told him my name was Jemmy on my first day but he had misheard and now forever called me ‘Jerry’ which wasn’t wrong but I didn’t like it, “It’s your wife.”
I frowned but took it anyway. “Kathy? You know you shouldn’t be calling from the plane…” my scolding was stopped in its tracks as Kath sobbed. “Baby, what is it?” My heart was going at a rate that would make a humming bird seem dead by comparison.
“They have control of the plane…” She sniffed and let out a shaky breath. “I’m so scared..” As I shushed her and tried to reassure her Becky screamed and drew my attention away.
“Oh my God! A second plane has just crashed into the other tower!” My heart shattered and then reassembled only to jump into my throat.
I bellowed down the phone “Kathryn?!?!” There was a second that felt like forever.
“I’m here honey.” She was sniffing and crying. “I love you, I have to go, there’s other people who want to use this to talk with their families. I love you. It was so good to hear your voice.” Then there was silence on the other end, I frantically tried to redial but everytime I did I got the operator telling me I couldn’t be connected. I threw the phone down in frustration.
I was excused and sent home for the day when it was shown over the news that Kathy’s plane had crashed into a field, there were no survivors. As I drove home the car still smelled of her perfume but I was in no mood to take a deep breath, I was numb as I pulled open the door to our house, climbed the stairs and looked into our baby’s half-done nursery. But as I entered our bedroom I heard Kathy’s voice hurrying me along that morning; “I’m gonna miss my flight and it’s all gonna be your fault!” She had giggled as I had wrapped my hands around her then. What I wouldn’t give to be able to wrap my hands around her now.
I collapsed on our bed and pulled the pillow to my nose, it still smelled like her...I don’t mean her perfume, it just smelled of pure Kathy. The organic shampoo I hated the price tag of, her homemade bread, the smell of the garden she so lovingly tended. As I breathed in the tears that had been threatening all day fell and I pulled that pillow close and held it as I broke my heart.
The days blurred, I drove up to Pennsylvania and spoke to the police. They had found a pregnant woman in the wreckage and needed me to identify the body of the woman I loved and was looking forward to bringing a baby into this world with.
My breathing was so quick when he pulled back the sheet off her face, after nodding he put the sheet back on her and I embraced my wife’s cold body and cried. In the hotel I thought of my parents, pulling out my cell I called mom.
“Mama? I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch in a while. Kathy and I...we...we were…” I am sobbing at this point. “Mama, she was going home for a bit before the baby got here and then...they got her plane mama…yeah, the one that crashed into the field.” It’s my mom and I cannot keep anything from her. “She called me mama...she was so scared and I couldn’t do a damn thing...no mom, don’t. You and da have work. Don’t come visit me...mama….” She had promised that she and Da would visit and stay with me until the funeral.
At the funeral Mama took charge and I’m glad because when I saw the coffin I lost it in public. There was too much potential in that coffin that was never realised, and a life that should have been lived but was cut off too soon. Da pulled me aside when the wake started.
“There’s no shame in the tears, lad. That’s yer family yer burying. But I think there’s more tae it.” I looked away, he was so right. “Are ye feeling guilty that ye couldna do anything?”
“That I couldna be there...that she was scared and I couldna be there to hold her hand.” I slipped into my natural Scots accent with Da. “She only got to hear my voice and I think about how I kissed her before she got on the plane I wish I had told her I loved her like she did me but I didna and now she’s dead and I can never say it again and I hate myself fer that!” The sobs take over and my Da pulls me into his arms and lets me sob. I feel a hand at my hea and realise it’s mama. “I want granny and granda…” I look at both my parents and plead with them silently. Da looks at mama and she nods and he nods.
“Alright lad. We’ll go and see yer granny and granda.”
We don’t go for a few weeks and a memorial, a temporary one, is formed in the field where my worst nightmare came true. I want to see the memorial and mama and da agree to go with me. Kathy’s name was all over the media as she was pregnant at the time of her death and there’s a little pile of flowers and cuddly toys left for the woman who had taken my heart and the baby who had never taken a breath. I picked up a teddy and read the message attached; “So sorry that hate robbed you of your life before it began.” Jamie from Texas must have really been moved because they left a bunch of crocuses as well.
I hate myself because I couldn’t bring anything, not even gas station flowers which she never minded. “I want to name our child…” Kathy and I had discussed names and her choice for a girl was really beautiful, “Hayley.” I closed my eyes and I hugged mama. The press had left us alone as much as possible but I spot them across the field. “Let’s go back to the hotel.” We walk back to the car and da drives us back to the hotel and we start making plans to leave for the ridge.
Mama and Da and I arrived in the Carolina Wilderness, Mandy called but she has her hands full with the new baby. And we get a cart and start our journey home.