Edlene LaFrance remembers her husband, murdered by Mohamed Atta
Alan and Edlene LaFrance are my grandparents. I was 13 when the towers fell. Naturally, my grandmother, kept the details in this article from me. She is and always was concerned more for others than herself. Thank you for giving my grandfather’s name a face for others and depicting my grandmother with grace, dignity and respect. She is my hero. Thank you again
Matt, thanks for sharing Edlene’s story so simply and so well. Boy did she deserve a happy postscript. And it almost feels blasphemous to bring up anything else, but thanks for sharing the Springsteen track as well. That whole album provided healing as only an artist like Bruce can deliver.
Thank you for this. I intentionally didn't read or watch anything 9/11 related yesterday, preferring to reflect on my own. I also find most of the remembrances overly maudlin or judgmental.
As someone else said below, less is more.
My best friend during my senior year in high school in Belleville, IL, was a tall, soft-spoken, red-haired guy by the name of Ron Comer. Neither of us was native to that town. Ron had moved in from outside the immediate area, and I was the poor "white-trash" kid who had moved up from East St. Louis. Neither of us quite managed to break into the "country club set" who governed the social network then. Perhaps that contributed to our affinity for one another.
Ron and I used to ride the public bus home after school and we usually sat together. One of our favorite topics of conversation was our speculation about just who would replace Jack Paar as host of "The Tonight Show." As I recall, both of us favored the young and cocky Johnny Carson. Sadly, I don't believe that I ever saw Ron after our graduation.
After ignoring all of the class reunions before that, I felt compelled to attend our "fiftieth." One of my motivations was the hope that I might see Ron once again. But when I inquired about him, I was told that he had worked for Marsh and McClellan, and that he had gone down in the World Trade Center.
the boss, brought it like he always does.
wonderful that you keep close ties on some of your subjects. very easy to forget the lot of them when
the years of being a bard wear on you. our nation is filled with this type of quality people, but much of our time is spent trying to divine the minds of the morons who commit senseless crimes. from the darkest day we still have much to learn. we need the guardrails you throw out there.
Thanks so much, I’m grateful for the story, and the memories, sad as they are. I’m Southern born and raised, but I had the privilege to be married for a while to an immigrant who grew up in Jamaica Queens. She’s the only reason I stood at the top of one of those towers one day. God bless all who suffered losses that day.
Thanks Matt, that was awesome if really sad.
Been crying a lot today, but it's ok.
Beautifully written. Less is always more.
Beautifully done. So glad Edlene's life has been redeemed from the pit. For readers who may not have yet discovered it 'The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History of 9/11' is an exceptional telling of the day from different points of view. I have resolved to reread it every few years for many reasons, including yours: to remember what real trouble looks like. The narrative is also a reminder of how many mistakes are made during crisis, and most of them rooted in nothing more than shock, fear and chronic humanness.
I have a deadline tonight and this will be the only 9/11 thing I read all day. My Eng. Lit bachelor's gives me the authority to say you're a damn good writer. I knew I was going to be able to read the whole thing and there would be no eye-rollers, be they political, speechifying, or who knows what else in nature. And I was right. Beautiful. Thank you
Today we are once again "reexamining" Sept. 11, since at the moment "it suits us" to do so. And each of us who ponders the events of that day will again engage in "making it mean what we want it to mean". And that meaning will differ for each one of us in some ways, both large and small, depending on how each of us experienced those horrific acts of mass murder and our current memories of them; or now, these two decades+ later, whether we even experienced them in the first place or have any actual memories of them at all. But what the half-light of our memory - be it collective or as individuals - should never cast a shadow upon, or color the meaning of, is the racial and religious arrogancy and darkness in the hearts of a few that then infected many and that ultimately led to the brutal murder of many, many more. And we would do well to remember that this is nothing new in the history of mankind's existence in this world, and that the evil that drives men to such acts - at whatever time, in whatever place and on whatever scale - lives not just in foreign lands, but here at home as well, in the dark hearts of unworthy men.
And if September 11th has any meaning at all, it should at least be that we, as a nation founded on the principles of equality and democracy and the hope of the life that those principles can make possible for all of us - no matter how as yet imperfect our practice of those principles may be...that we will find that it "suits us" to always and unfailingly stand up for those principles, and to stand against those who do not believe in them and who would not allow us to practice them if they could put an end to America's bold and righteous experiment in self-governance, or even to America itself, be they in foreign lands, or right here at home. Especially and particularly, be they right here at home. For failing this, it will be we who are unworthy of the blessings our country is capable of bestowing on us if we stand and deliver on what we know in our hearts to be right.
Thank you Sis Deb.
Matt: this is haunting. The whole of the 9/11 attack is haunting, but your tale of Ms. Edlene just nuked my heart. Thank you for telling her story.
Grief is the most complex and daunting of life's nightmares. The trouble with grief is that you have to go right through the middle of it for it to subside, even a little. How can one feel such profound sorrow, anger, murderous rage, heartbreak, longing, meaninglessness, madness, simultaneously, without withering into lifelessness? When one is in it, there is no answer to that question. It can be debilitating, yet one can find their way through. It just takes far too long to do it.
Your deep love of Edlene
and your compassionate writing
of her story
shine powerful sweet light
for all of us
on this dark day.
You bring us all
into Edlene's graceful presence.
We feel close to her,
connected with her.
We experience this day
from inside her
and are blessed
by our deeper awareness.
Edlene knew she could trust you.
She knew it right away!
Just as we do.
That is the beauty
of being a trustworthy man.
The people you care about,
(and even those you aren't so keen on:)
will let you in.
We will share our souls with you,
knowing we are in the best of hands.
That is why we,
We are here to share and build life with you.
To hear what you see.
To learn what you learn
as you listen with loving ears
to our world.
Your writing, then and now,
gives us hope.
Hope for our shared future.
That is what Edilene
and all of us
need the most.
You gave Edlene hope by listening to her,
by tenderly writing her story,
and by staying in touch with her
all these years.
Ah, and look how her story turns out.
To God be the glory!
But to you, Matt,
be our thanks and resoect
for being our dear shepherd writer.
Here's what I wrote years ago. It was published in the Boston Herald.
On 9/11, I was Mr. Marshall
3 pm, Friday November 22, 1963. It was time for Mr. Marshall’s American Civics class to begin at Long Lots Junior High School in Westport, Connecticut. Our teacher Mr. Marshall was a big guy. Word was he played football in college. Even ninth grade wise guys didn’t mess around in Mr. Marshall’s class. Mr. Marshall walked in. He looked at the class, lowered the tone of his voice and told us President Kennedy was dead. Shot during a motorcade in Dallas. There were tears in his eyes. Tears in big Mr. Marshall’s eyes.
It was a confusing time filled with sorrow and dread. Everyone was glued to the television watching glowing black and white images of newscasters, politicians, policemen and film of the dead President and the Kennedy family. The crushing end to Camelot.
Nothing like this had happened in America since Abraham Lincoln was assassinated a century ago. Throughout the weekend the strangeness continued as Kennedy’s assassin was found and then shot live on TV in front of our eyes. The nation watched television and mourned during the President’s funeral.
When I was a kid, there was something about television that always fascinated me. I loved TV. Westerns, detective shows, cartoons and especially the news. Odd that a teenager watched the news. Years later I became a lecturer at the University of Connecticut and taught TV production and TV broadcasting. How great was that. Getting paid to teach TV.
9:30 am, Tuesday September 11, 2001. I’m a professor at Boston University and it was time to begin my Contemporary Mass Communication class. The syllabus read, Sept 11, Segmenting audiences. Media use characteristics. Mass versus specialized media. Reading: Integrated Com, chapter 2; McLuhan chapters 1, 2, 3; “Was Freud a minivan or S.U.V. kind of guy?, ”NYT. Mass Communication was the introductory course for graduate students and this was the third class session, so everything was a little new. The students were new to Boston, graduate school and to their professor.
Before class the halls and offices were buzzing with news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Towers in New York. Right before class started a second plane crashed into the other tower. Ambiguity evaporated as it became obvious that terrorists were attacking the United States. Nothing like this had happened since Pearl Harbor 60 years ago.
I walked into the classroom looking at my thirty-seven graduate students as they stared at me with frightened eyes. I’m not a big guy, but I was Mr. Marshall. There were no tears in my eyes. Instinctively I knew I had to project calm and authority in the storm of panic that permeated my students. Contemporary Mass Communication analyzed the media and how it affected society. The role of the media in 9/11 became the foundation for the rest of the semester.
I am an animated speaker. Student evaluations of my courses always say I am ‘energetic.’ Actually, I’m hyperactive. But I was calm and focused. I summarized what was happening during the attack, said any student who wanted to call home could do so, then brought the class into the hallway near the building’s TV studios, and as a group we watched as the South Tower collapsed. A shudder went through the students. We went back to the classroom. My teaching assistant stayed in the hall monitoring the news.
Class continued for a little longer with me asking the students to consider how they would be receiving and processing information about the attack. How was TV central to shaping their feelings and perceptions? As I spoke, my teaching assistant returned to the class and whispered that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. I told the students about the third plane. I dismissed class and wished them and their families well. Several students came up to me and asked if they were safe in the building. I reassured them that everything would be OK and let them know they could call me at anytime if they needed to talk.
My email is <tobetv> but I was unable to watch much television as the events of 9/11 and subsequent days unfolded. TV was unsettling to me. It took months before I started watching TV on a regular basis. I wonder what Mr. Marshall did after the American Civics class.