This is an excerpt from my book THE UNEXPECTED that I read today and was moved by it. I hope you feel the same way.
A man dressed in a nicely fitted suite walked through the door seconds after Carl. This gentleman, looking rather frank and serious, walked up the main corridor as the speaker stopped, and the rest of the room turned to look at this man. He carried nothing (as nothing was permitted in this room) but he strolled casually, yet with an important stride toward the president. He was proud to be the one to be able to approach the president, so he did not show the fear knowing there were laser sights attacking his back; ready to fire if he were to make a false move.
“Mr. President,” he began cordially. Andrew waved this aside.
“What!?” he asked, worried of the news.
“There has been an attack on Fort Lauderdale, and the Golden Gate Bridge,” the man stated, looking at the president sternly. “Mr. Beggins has requested your presence.”
Andrew stood. The president of the United States for only three hours leaned into the microphone that protruded from the wooden desk in front of him.
“If you will excuse me I must attend to a matter.” He remained calm, keeping his composure and charisma more than any one. “There has been an attack on Fort Lauderdale and the Golden Gate Bridge.”
The attending advisers looked down in disbelief. It was their new version of the September eleven happenings of 2001. Some had been there for this; others had only been in high school at the time. They had never thought an event like this would ever take place in their life again. Andrew himself thought of this time being only fifteen years old and sitting in his middle school class. He had immediately begun praying. He remembered crying as he watched the footage; he remembered his mother’s stories of her friends that were there. He remembered hearing of his father’s death as he ran up the stories to try and save a few hundred people only seconds before the towers collapsed.
Andrew, in his surge of emotion, repressed this and walked sternly from his desk with Mr. Riggel closely by his side. Now as they walked, Andrew remembered sitting in front of the television and quickly writing each of the names they named on a pad of paper until his hand had tired. He still continued to write as the names came, wanting to make it a point to pray for the families that lost loved ones. He had remembered thinking the pain in his hand was nothing to what the families were experiencing.
It was just then, as his hand was too tired to write any more names, when he heard his father’s name. He remembered sitting there watching his mother in tears in their trailer at 511 Spruce street. She couldn’t even keep up with the names that came rapidly from the reporter’s mouth. She prayed. Oh, she prayed. She prayed until her lips were blue for those poor people. She sat praying with the tears flooding down her face at the sight of this happening. She prayed as usual, and she prayed in tongues, all while having a heart for those people. He just got done writing a name that sounded like one of his friends when they said, “Ray Rakford”.
He wrote the first letter before he finished hearing the name. He snapped his head around to look at his mother. She had a Disney glass in her hand filled with some orange juice, but she didn’t care about that. She never looked so strange there on the couch, struck as if by some evil force. It reminded him of the look of a fearful child, as they would be soon possessed by some awful demon. Sick in the face, sunken eyes though wide, rattled hair and, of course, a jaw that hung low. Hung to the extent that it could naturally go and then some. She didn’t care about the praying any more, she just stared at the television. There on the side of the screen only for a few seconds did it say, “Ray Rakford: Firefighter NYFD.” The image was replaced by a name that Andrew still wrote down. He had to pray. He couldn’t stop just because his father’s name appeared. Now. NOW! The pain rippled through his body and tore at his brain.
Andrew’s pace slowed somewhat as he walked with Mr. Riggel.
“Are you all right?” Mr. Riggel asked.
“Fine,” Andrew responded, still intelligent and serious as ever.
NOW! He KNEW! He wrote faster, as his mother stared at the television and a surge of emotion made its way from the pit of his stomach and lingered now in his throat. He could literally see her color changing. He could see her start to faint. Now was the time to pray, he had to be strong. How could he feel like this after not seeing his father for years? Now he could say goodbye and his dad would hear him. This thought pulsed harder against his brain and pushed on the backs of his eyes. His lungs constricted as he fought this urge, he struggled to hear the other names. Now he knew what those other people felt. NOW! He couldn’t let those feelings overtake him. He had to write the names faster. He had to get all of them.
She cried, she wailed, he could hear her struggle for breath as she screamed! He STRAINED to hear the names. He HAD to hear the names. Fred Azar, he wrote. James Smith, he wrote. She cried. Henry Longafeller, he wrote, as his own tears now came. He couldn’t be selfish. There were more people in the world. He continued to get the names as she crawled to him and pulled him into a hug. He couldn’t get any more names. He could still feel the pencil in his hand, and felt the beating of his heart. It thumped hard and long. It seemed slow, yet full of strength and adrenaline.
“R” was all he wrote for his father. He never said a prayer for “R.” He looked at the letter and said, “I love you.” That’s all. Never anything more, this was one thing that he could not deal with. One pain that was too much for Andrew to feel. He remembered that “R” and always kept it with him.