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Your Father's Voice
Letters for Emmy About Life with Jeremy â" and Without Him After 9/11
By Lyz Glick, Dan Zegart
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2004 Lyz Glick and Dan Zegart
All rights reserved.
I remember the morning after your father died.
When I awoke, I was upstairs at Grandma and Grandpa's house in the Catskills, a big, old, white clapboard farmhouse. I was in the brass bed and you were in your crib, right next to me. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was a pile of your daddy's clean clothes in a wicker basket. On the night table were a couple of his favorite CDs. I just started wailing. I could hardly get my breath I was crying so hard.
I sat up, put on my robe, trembling. The bedroom door was closed. I hoped I hadn't woken up the whole house. It was very early. Light was pouring in, the golden light of the sweetest part of the morning.
A close friend who lost her mom and dad in childhood had called the day before with advice: Get up quick, she said. Don't lie around in bed ... thinking ... remembering ... crying ...
It was good advice and I've followed it ever since, but I never counted on seeing so much of your dad's stuff lying around. So I managed to swing my feet onto the floor and wobble over to the railing of your crib, but I just kept crying harder and harder, because the daddy who loved you so fiercely, as fiercely as any man ever loved his tiny baby girl, was gone forever.
As I looked at you there, tucked under your little blue blanket, a mobile of white lambs turning slowly above your head, I was sick with anxiety, thinking you would know only a sad mother. I didn't want to imagine what it would be like for you to grow up without ever knowing your father. I felt like you'd truly lost both your parents the day before.
You were still tiny, just three months old. Born prematurely, you were small even for that age. So small! Who would protect you? Who would make you grin like your daddy did?
You lay on your back, eyes closed. Just then, from the bottom of a dream, you let out a delicate sigh, as though finishing a thought. Your cheeks crinkled up and you smiled ever so slightly at me. I cannot explain it, but at that moment I felt the power of something higher pulling me into something bigger than my pain. Your little shadow of a smile just took me over — like the sunlight from that window had gotten inside and warmed me. Like your father's energy was burning through the window. Your smile made me feel good enough to believe that maybe life could be good again. And then I remembered that the last time your father spoke to me, he said that for him to be at peace he needed us to be joyful.
By the time you're old enough to read this, everyone will know the story of the men and women who tried to take back United Flight 93 from a gang of assassins who had already murdered people on the airplane and were bent on using it to kill a lot more people on the ground. What your father did in his last minutes of life made him a legend. You've heard that legend. Now I'm going to tell you your daddy's story. I mean the whole story of your very own father. Not just the ending, the part where the rest of the world found out about him. Because the truth is, the ending wasn't the best part or the worst part, it was just an ending.
I know your daddy wanted you to have his story. Pieces of it were scattered all over the place, as though it were inevitable that someday I'd go out and find them. Some were scribbled on legal pads in his room at home, or were tossed into the bottom drawer of the desk he had when he was a little boy, or were imprinted on film at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Some were little secrets his friends knew about him and never would have told me if he hadn't died. The world is seeded with traces of him. And in the year since he left us, I've been piecing it together, sometimes just by sitting here on our front porch thinking, like I'm doing now, looking out over Greenwood Lake while you sleep in your crib. And sometimes way off in places I didn't know even existed.
Since you're still too little to understand all this, I've put these letters into a book, like a birthday present you can't open for a long time. This is the master key, a gift of meaning. Here is your daddy's story.
* * *
As the days rolled by after September 11th, I told myself that I'd done the hardest thing already: I'd said good-bye to your father, my soulmate, the only man I've ever loved.
I'll tell you more about our last telephone conversation later because its meaning will change once you know the whole story. But I can tell you that when your father called from Flight 93 and told me it had been commandeered by some "bad men," we knew exactly how to speak to each other, and we kept our heads — except for when he said, "I don't think I'm going to get out of this." He started sobbing so quietly that only I, who knew him so well, would have known he was crying. It made me feel terribly helpless because, except for the night you were born, I'd never heard your father cry.
Emmy, what I need you to understand is that your daddy and I managed to say enough to each other in twenty minutes on the telephone to bring our life together to an orderly conclusion. It didn't matter that in the few moments I had been awake I'd learned that airplanes were being rammed into the very center of government in Washington and the tallest skyscrapers in New York in an attack orchestrated by bloody-minded fanatics; or that four of those men were on Flight 93 and we both suspected, though we would never admit it to each other, that your daddy was probably right and would not survive.
Later, reporters asked me how we were able to help each other so effectively when we should have been paralyzed by fear. I told them I didn't know, and I didn't. Maybe now I have a better idea. I know that the most important thing about that last telephone call wasn't the information I gave your father about what had happened in New York and Washington, although your daddy needed to know those things before he could decide whether to try to break into the cockpit and kill the hijackers; it wasn't even the few minutes we were able to spend talking about you and the future we would never have together. It was a few words said over and over, like a chant we repeated until it hung like a frozen rope between us. We said, "I love you." We said it so many times, I hear him saying it still.
I think your daddy always suspected he had a higher purpose. I don't believe it was any accident that Jeremy Glick was on Flight 93, although an accident — a fire at Newark airport — put him there, rather than on the flight he was to have taken the day before. It wasn't mere luck that an airline passenger with precisely the right physical skills to abort one of the 9/11 terror missions happened to be on the only plane hijacked that day where there was an opportunity to do so. There were four, five, six, maybe a dozen other passengers who fought the terrorists on Flight 93, and they all had plenty of nerve. Only your father had been taught the art of hand-to-hand combat from boyhood. To put it crudely, he had been trained to kill.
Emmy, your daddy was thirty-one when he died, had been married to me for just five years and knew you barely three months, yet I consider us blessed. He and I left nothing unsaid or undone and your father managed to give us everything we'll need to live out the rest of our days.
Of course, you've got to have a little luck. That's what Glick means in Yiddish — luck. I should point out, however, that the original Yiddish doesn't specify what kind. But if you meet the love of your life in high school, like I did, you've started off on the right foot.CHAPTER 2
Strong and Sweet
I remember your daddy's hair.
It was what I noticed when I first laid eyes on him in ninth grade, on the first day of school, in early September 1984. We were in the same biology class, and I sat down next to him at a long lab table. He had an enormous Afro. It was too big for his head, like a bowl sitting above his ears, a real bush of curly dark-brown hair. And I thought to myself, What is up with this kid's hair?
I was feeling terribly insecure. First day of school, you don't know anyone. I had tried to sit with my brother, Pieter, at morning assembly but he didn't think it was cool to sit with his baby sister, so he ditched me.
And now I was sitting next to this kid who looked like an escaped cannibal.
But he was very sweet, made me feel comfortable right away. He said his name was Jeremy Glick — Jer to his friends.
I kidded him about his hair.
"My strength is in my hair," he said. "Just think of me as Samson with an Afro."
"I'm going to cut it off. Then I can do anything I want with you," I said.
We both laughed. He had a quick, crooked smile.
Our friendship was immediate and intense. He was funny. He had an agile mind. He was cool on his own terms. He wasn't a loudmouth or a druggie, and driving a Porsche and wearing the right shoes weren't any more important to him than they were to me. The teachers respected him, and as I got to know him, I began to realize that other kids looked up to him, even older kids. He didn't come on like a tough guy, but he was already the biggest kid at Saddle River Day School, a narrowly built six-footer who wore an earring shaped like a hatchet. We'd eat lunch together and snag odd moments during the school day to be with each other.
If he was a giant, I was a nymph: four-foot-ten and eighty pounds. I loved the fact that when I talked to him, he paid attention with his heart. And that he was protective — you never felt safer than when you were with Jeremy. I think he loved how different I was from him, that I was a lithe little thing who seemed made to be protected. And that I was warm. He craved warmth. We thought the same things were funny. Pomposity. People who were utterly unaware of how ridiculous they were — like men with huge potbellies wearing tiny shorts.
He went out for soccer and lacrosse and wrestling, at which he excelled, not surprisingly, since he had been one of New Jersey's top judo students from the age of six. He was a little shy and mumbled so badly that sometimes you barely caught what he said. Jimmy Best, who also was in our biology class and became friends with both of us, mumbled just as badly, and they had whole conversations I couldn't understand.
Jer was a mumbling fifteen-year-old gladiator with dark hair and eyes and slightly olive skin who eventually stopped mumbling and began to come out of his shell. I wasn't the only girl interested in him: Strong and sweet is a rare combination. I remember visiting my best girlfriend Diana Dobin and her toddler-age sister and their mother. I showed up in their kitchen with this extremely large-framed young man with a hatchet earring and a Mohawk (the Afro wasn't radical enough) — somewhat menacing in appearance. The little girl was listening to Raffi on the tape deck, and Jeremy started singing and doing a kind of cha-cha to Raffi, and it was funny, this dangerous-looking character boogying to "Baby Beluga."
When we couldn't do things together, we talked for hours on the phone. Every night, when he got back from judo and I returned from gymnastics, we'd call each other.
"I love you. You're my best friend," we'd say as we hung up.
I already had a boyfriend, but Jer hung around him so much that he became better friends with him than I was. And it was just so he could tag along with the two of us. Jer asked me out several times and by the time I said yes it had become inevitable.
As I remember it, we never seemed to get sick of being with each other. I had a little Volkswagen bug and we'd go to a diner for a greasy sandwich or lie around my room. I thought I'd found the perfect steady boyfriend.
Right from the start it was more than that to Jeremy.
"I've met the perfect girl," he told his mother.
* * *
In the beginning, it was a trio: Jennifer, Jonah, and Jeremy, the three oldest Glick children. They played fantasy games together, superheroes in the woods in their backyard in Oradell, breathlessly narrating their adventures. Jonah was the master story-creator. Jennifer was the oldest, the ringmaster of the circus. Jeremy acted everything out.
"And here comes the Hulk, jumping out of the tree onto Aquaman ..."
And Jeremy actually did come right out of the tree onto Jonah.
The patch of woods behind the house seemed enormous to them, the little driveway desperately steep when they raced down it on their bikes, heading straight for the garage door, sometimes failing to peel away in time and smacking into the siding, leaving dents. Jeremy raced faster than any of them and came closer to disaster, veering so sharply that the elbow on his low side scraped pavement as he leaned into a suicidally sudden turn. The house was a chocolate brown colonial that looked small from the front. Jonah and Jeremy had bunk beds and Jennifer had her own room next door. The three of them whispered back and forth through the vents, unheard by their parents, Lloyd and Joan, whose bedroom was above Jeremy and Jonah's room. (You know Lloyd and Joan as Opa and Oma, which is Grandpa and Grandma in Yiddish.) Windows were always broken both from play-related accidents and because the two German shepherds, Major and Minor, would rush the front window when they saw the mailman, which briefly led to a discontinuation of mail service due to a badly frightened mailman.
Jonah was the sensitive and brilliant mind, the problem-solver — as a child he never stopped talking. Jeremy could grab you with a story — but words were not fundamental to him. Jeremy did things. He was the kind of kid who would run into the middle of a living room full of adults with a huge smile on his face and hop around and sing. He loved music, and became proficient at the violin while in elementary school. There are pictures of him with the instrument tucked under his chin, pounding out the notes with a blissful grin and a bobbing Afro.
All the children had the first two initials JL, after Joan and Lloyd. Jennifer Lynn, Jonah Lyle, and Jeremy Logan — they were the top three. Then came the second two, Jared Lawrence and Jed Lowell, five years apart. And finally Joanna Leigh, born much later, when Jeremy's mother was already in her forties. When they went out to eat as a family, the waitress would ask Lloyd if they were all his, and he just puffed up; he loved hearing that. The Glick clan was numerous enough to be a self-sustaining, self-protective world. Although in fact, it wasn't just the Glicks, because the Glick kids often went places with the equally numerous Bangashes in the Glick station wagon, and when they stopped, children came running out like clowns from the clown car. Kim Bangash was the boy closest in age to Jeremy, and they became confidants. Everybody would wind up at Friendly's where Jer would order the giant Fribble, the one they served in a container the size of a bucket. This was a kid who would annihilate two full portions of dinner in a couple of minutes to get out the door to see his friends. Or wake up in the middle of the night just long enough to drain a quart of milk while standing in front of the refrigerator.
Opa and Oma stressed respect, a necessary virtue because otherwise things could get out of hand in a house with four strong boys. If you had to fight, you went to the mat in the den — Opa installed it for this very reason — and knocked each other around like little robots. A former army drill sergeant, Opa also nailed a chin-up bar to a doorframe and encouraged all the kids to do a couple of chin-ups every time they passed it. The boys grew fast, and Jeremy grew fastest. The top three got more and more competitive, and it spread to judo, wrestling, skiing, running, soccer, and swimming. "Let's race," someone would say. Competition was like breathing. It was, "let's see how far we can push this." Telling stories. Running to the store. Eating cereal. Faster, higher, wilder, flashier.
Excerpted from Your Father's Voice by Lyz Glick, Dan Zegart. Copyright © 2004 Lyz Glick and Dan Zegart. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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