It was a well organized reflection in time that briefly memorialized several of those lost in planes and the World Trade Center Twin Towers on 9-11 when John Freeman of Ripon staged what appeared to be a scripted but yet candid recollection at a morning service club meeting Friday.
A much respected jurist and president of the Salida Rotary Club, Freeman mentioned those lost on that day in Manhattan and the emptiness still felt by the families and especially the some 3,400 children who lost a parent in the senseless attacks.
He singled out three adults who lost their lives that day: Ceecee Lyles, Brian Sweeney and Melissa Hughes. They had left hurried last minute voicemail messages for their spouses from the scenes of the horrific events 11 years ago.
Freeman had planted three role-playing Rotarians seated in the room with scripts representing those exact messages that had been left by the trio about to die in the various infernos. He softly told of the individuals and the sources of their calls and the fears of each with the Rotarians responding from their seats repeating what each had said in their voicemail message.
Ceecee Lyles – flight attendant and hero of United Flight 93 and former police officer – left the following message for her husband with the Rotarian’s voice seeming to come out of the walls in a meeting room that could have heard a pin drop, saying:
“Please tell my children that I love them very much. I’m sorry baby. I wish I could see your face again.”
The impact on the Rotary meeting was obvious – no one spoke as Freeman continued with the second victim’s message. Brian Sweeney – a firefighter who died in Tower Two – had also spoken to his wife using her answering machine that was repeated Friday by a male Rotarian.
“Hopefully I’ll talk to you again,” he said, “but if not, have a good life. I know I’ll see you again someday.”
Melissa Hughes of San Francisco, who died in the World Trade Center, had left a message on her husband’s answering device with a woman Rotarian repeating her final words.
“Sean, it’s me. I just wanted to let you know I love you and I am stuck in this building in New York. A plane hit, or a bomb went off. We don’t know. But there’s a lot of smoke and I just wanted to let you know I love you.”
The theatrical presentation was unexpected and had a visible impact on everyone in the room at the Holiday Inn Express. So many of those who lost their lives that fateful day in September 2011, have stories on line that can be searched out through the use of Google.
While many of us occasionally remember the dynamics of the day, families, and especially children will never forget the shock and depth of their losses.
Rotarians – several from Manteca and Ripon – stood and sang “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.”