by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
August 23, 2005
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- When we die, we're dead, deceased. We have expired. We have breathed our last breath. We'll leave it to those checking identification on our person to communicate that news to our loved ones. Perhaps, there was a glitch in the security geared to protect our lives and limbs; or, perhaps, we are hit by the proverbial truck. But at that point, we are truly out of the picture.
Yet, there are disasters, man-made and otherwise, that often threaten our feelings of well being. Almost four years ago, I watched with horror the disaster on Sept. 11 - a date as embedded in the calendar of our minds as the Fourth of July.
I continue to feel the dreadful loss, reliving the scenes of skyscrapers slowly imploding, billowing smoke hiding the point of impact while at the same time I was proudly applauding the acts of heroism that swelled up from our grass roots; we all rushed to do what we could, honoring the dead and comforting the living.
Further transcripts of final words spoken that morning are being released and I continue to be impressed hearing those last conversations speaking love, acceptance, faith and serenity.
At the time of those terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, cellular phones had reached the stage of popularity where they were as much a part of everyone's gear as their wallets. (I assure you, I'm not selling cell phones; I can't even operate the three I have, but I can call out, and I can answer the phone if it rings. Beyond that, I keep the battery charged; that's it.)
But, I do keep it with me; and, not just in the car but on my person - not all emergencies are on the side of some out-of-the-way road. It gives me a measure of security, never more so than after witnessing the aftermath of the July 7th transit system bombings in London. The survivors could immediately call their loved ones and reassure them they were all right, or not all right, but alive and able to get on to the task of helping others.
In today's world where violence and the threat of it is prevalent, there are still people in all parts of the world able to keep their heads in an emergency. They have pocket-sized security in the tiny little instrument in their pockets. They can be instantly in communication with those who count and just knowing that is what keeps panic to a minimum.
Apparently, such was the case on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. It was because lawyer and television commentator, Barbara Olson, talking on the phone to her husband, former solicitor general, Ted Olson, we were able to learn within an hour of the first strikes that Muslim terrorists had taken over the plane. She was asking for instructions on how to advise the crew.
Another call, one that put "Let's Roll" into our vernacular, was between passenger, Todd Beamer on the Boeing 757 flight 93, and Lisa Jefferson, a GTE 911 operator on the ground, who listened to what he was saying as he tried to call his wife, and then told him about the World Trade Center and the Pentagon terrorist attacks.
Todd told her the passengers were talking about ways to overpower the hijackers and after hearing what she just said, he said out loud, the phone still open, "Are you guys ready? Let's roll" ... sounds of a scuffle, then nothing.
Our history of disasters and crashes is rife with stories for which we have no explanation. Not this time. Those phone calls told the story before the planes hit their targets. Two civilians trying to connect with their loved ones told us all that the rest of us needed to know. They reached out and touched us all.
The whole idea of cell phones is mind-boggling. However, I haven't allowed my brain to become addled over anything new since I first saw a television screen broadcasting over a DuMont program bringing live news from Washington to New York. It was through the storefront window of an electronics shop and I remember thinking, if they can do that, they can do anything.
That was 60 years ago, long before telephones cut their cords for in-house portables. And decades before cellular telephones.
Whether it's an invention, a discovery, an event or a surprise, I can almost see it coming as a natural outgrowth of something that came before. I see each unveiling as a further way to communicate with each other. They become ever more simple ways to bind us securely to our love connections.
In truth, whether it's around the world, around the town or around the room, it's love that is fragile. It's love that has to be protected from harm. And, in moments of extreme emotion, whether disaster or delight, our need to somehow get through to the important people in our lives is paramount.
The War on Terrorism being fought for the most part in Iraq is the first time in our history that military men and women deployed to battle zones could have almost daily contact with their families - either by phone or Internet.
In a book titled "Accidental Soldier," John Crawford of the 101st Airborne wrote of calling home and their conversations were not unlike any man calling his wife and children in the "How was your day?" vein.
Her day's frustrations were having to clean and mop up after a dog's accident on the rug. As he listens, he's thinking about his clean-up duty on the sewage-ridden streets of Baghdad.
Cell phones alerted us to the War on Terrorism and now cell phones keep the military families connected over unbelievably clear lines, though a world apart from each other.
Those initial phone calls from the aircraft on 9/11 were the last ones the callers ever made. They even knew that as they spoke.
In the present day calls, those answering at home can never tell if the call will be the last. They start with "I just called to say I love you," and end with, "well, I'll call tomorrow night, I love you."
The words in between are just chatter, his day, her day, just something to keep the line open. Just something to keep the love secure.