(WTAJ) — As the years pass, the deep wounds of September 11, 2001, slowly become scars. They will always be there, but it’s how we choose to remember this day that makes all the difference.
“It never is easy,” Jack Grandcolas, who lost his pregnant wife, Lauren, in the 9/11 terror attacks, said. “It’s just moving forward and healing is really what it is all about. That is what you try to do is eventually get away from the bad memories about it and think of the good memories, about Lauren.”
Twenty years ago, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas came together with strangers to defeat hate. She was one of the 40 passengers and crew members on board United Airlines Flight 93, a passenger plane that was hijacked by terrorists who were headed toward the nation’s capital.
The passengers and crew members aboard took a vote to try and regain control of the plane to stop it from reaching its target. They were able to stop the terrorists by crashing the plane into a field in Shanksville, Somerset County, about 80 miles from Pittsburgh, Pa.
“She earned a hero badge for sure,” Jack said. “They all did. They did the most American thing in that they voted and they also planned their revolt so that when they attacked the hijackers they did it over a rural area, which to me was so selfless on their part. They had hope, a percentage chance that they might wrestle control of the plane, but they were darned sure it was not going to kill anyone on the ground.”
Lauren was headed back home to California after going to her grandmother’s funeral in New Jersey. She boarded United Airlines Flight 93, a plane she wasn’t even supposed to be on.
“She never got to an airport early and on this day she did and got put on the earlier flight, which she was delighted about,” Jack said. “I mean she phoned home and left me a message saying she’s on the earlier flight, what time she’ll get in and she’s looking forward to being home.”
The second message she would leave that day would be much different.
After learning about the hijacking, she made a final call to loved ones before reaching her final resting place.
“And she said, you know, Jack, pick up honey, okay, I just want to let you know there is a little problem on the plane,” Jack explained. “I mean even in the moments of her peril, she wanted to comfort me, leave me the message that I want you to go on if I don’t get through this, don’t let them get to you too. And she said, I just love you more than anything, know that, please tell my family I love them too, goodbye honey.”
Jack said that while he was listening to this message he looked up and on the news was the crash site in Shanksville, Pa.
“At that very moment they changed the details from a plane that came out of O’Hare to a plane that came out of Newark and it was United Flight 93,” Jack said. “That’s when I knew there’s no way anyone could have survived that and Lauren was on that plane.”
Jack’s loss that day was twofold. Lauren was 3 months pregnant with their first child.
“We were going to have a child who would be 20 in April,” Jack said. “There was that difficulty in losing that child, which I would find later on, over the last 20 years was harder than expected.”
Jack can imagine Lauren’s leadership on that plane as she helped stop terrorists from reaching their target.
“So I can imagine her tapping her watch and maybe telling Jeremy Glick since he’s a judo champion, here’s what we should do and Jeremy you should lead the way, but we don’t have much time guys so let’s organize, let’s plan, let’s execute.”
Although the scars from September 11, 2001 will never fully go away, sharing the memories of our heroes makes the healing process a little easier.
“I know Lauren would have been grateful to have given her life to inspire others, that’s for sure,” Jack said. “You’re dealt certain cards in life and you have to play them. You have got to try and move on in their memory and Lauren’s memory really made it possible for me to move forward.”
At the time of her death, Lauren had just gotten a publishing agreement for her book, You Can Do It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls, which is a self-help book for adult women. Her sisters were able to complete and publish her book.
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