Recap: The news about the planes hitting the World Trade Center and it being a terrorist attack are horrifying. Libby tries to reach Avi, who she knows was taking the girls to see the World Trade Center. Her parents-in-law and sister-in-law appear, and they are all beside themselves with worry. The differences between them are gone and they are all in this together. She finally hears from Avi, and he and the girls are miraculously fine. Then, Grandma Bea tells her that she wants to tell her something.
I sat near Grandma Bea, wondering what she wanted to say.
“Those burns on your wrist, Libby. The story I am going to tell you will explain those scars.”
I glanced at my wrists.
“When you were three years old, a little younger than Sabrina, your parents took you on a trip. Let me first explain something I never told you. You were born in Israel. Your father was in the Israel Defense Forces, and he was part of the Air Force.
“I was born in Israel?”
Grandma Bea nodded.
Your father got permission to take a plane on your mother’s birthday to take you and her up for a ride. It was just going to be a short ride for fun. It was supposed to be something wonderful, but sadly something went terribly wrong. We think it was terrorism, but it was never definitely determined what caused the plane crash. Something went wrong with the engine and the plane plunged right after take-off. No one was injured on the ground, but your parents were killed instantly. Miraculously you survived. You were in the hospital for almost a year. I came to Israel to be with you, and then I brought you back to my home in Maine.”
There was so much to absorb with this story. “My mother went to live in Israel?”
“Yes, your father came to America one summer to study at the University of Maine and she was there studying and, well, they met and they decided to get married.
“What was my mother studying?” I was hungry for all the details now.
“Journalism. She liked to write.”
“Did my father speak English?”
“Yes, he’d learned English in Israel and his parents were American from New England, which is why he decided to go to the University of Maine. His grandparents lived in Boston.”
“Do they still?”
“No, no they passed a while ago.”
“The burns were from the plane crash?” I asked.
“Yes, you were badly hurt but the worst was your wrists. Miraculously, your face and chest were not burned.”
I looked down at the familiar scars on my wrists.
Now, so many things made more sense to me.
“Is that why I keep having that dream about falling from the sky?”
Grandma nodded slowly. The dream started when I brought you back to Maine. You had it almost every night until thankfully it became less and less frequent.
“Do you have pictures of them?” I asked shyly.
In the past, whenever I’d asked to see photos, Grandma had refused strongly.
“I have an album I will give you the next time we’re together,” she said.
I leaned close and hugged her. “Thank you for being with me that whole year in the hospital and for bringing me home with you and taking care of me.”
“Now, now. Anyone would have.”
I had always felt close to my grandmother and now I felt even closer. Now my parents seemed more like real people to me, and I wanted to know more about them. They were fighting terrorism, and now we were dealing with it in America.
The news announcer’s voice was choked with emotion. “People posted photographs of missing loved ones near the towers. Rescue crews were working to try to find survivors. There were two planes hijacked by Islamic terrorists who wanted to kill Americans. The planes purposely crashed into both towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a fourth plane – headed for the White House or the US Capitol – crashed in an empty field in Pennsylvania as the passengers heroically stopped it. These were the deadliest attacks on American soil since Pearl Harbor.”
He then went on to give a timeline of what had happened. I felt my heart squeeze against my chest.
5:45 AM – Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari, two of the intended hijackers, pass through security at the Portland International Jetport in Maine. They board a commuter flight to Boston Logan International Airport; they then board American Airlines Flight 11.
7:59 AM – Flight 11 takes off from Boston, headed for Los Angeles, California. There are 76 passengers, 11 crew members, and five hijackers on board.
8:15 AM – United Airlines Flight 175 takes off from Boston, also headed for Los Angeles. There are 51 passengers, nine crew members, and five hijackers on board.
8:19 AM – A flight attendant on Flight 11, Betty Ann Ong, alerts ground personnel that a hijacking is underway and that the cockpit is unreachable.
8:20 AM – American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Dulles, outside of Washington, DC, headed for Los Angeles. There are 53 passengers, six crew members, and five hijackers on board.
8:24 AM – Mohamed Atta, a hijacker on Flight 11, unintentionally alerts air controllers in Boston to the attack. He meant to press the button that allowed him to talk to the passengers on his flight.”
I froze. “Grandma, did he say Mohamed Atta and Abdul al Omari?”
Those were the two unpleasant flight students at my flight school. I felt a chill up my spine. I had met them.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of the newly released historical fiction novel, Flight of the Doves (Menucha Publishers, 2023), Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers, 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishers, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).