Guest Blog, Ed Cook: An Unlikely Hero of September 11

Everyone reading this will remember where they were at 9 am or so when they heard that a plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York and again 15 minutes later when American Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. I remember the number of the second flight because a friend of mine was on it. Her husband never let her name be published in any list in the paper so you never saw the name Debbie Medwig. (I forget her husband’s last name but she went by Medwig
at work).

Debbie was kind of hard to know, a quiet woman. I was one of her friends, because we took the same train and walked the half-mile to the office together a couple of times a week. I knew she enjoyed her job, I knew she adored her daughter Cassandra, and a few other things about her life. Frankly, when I found out she was married after she died I was a little surprised since I don’t remember her mentioning the husband once.

So, the morning of September 11, 2001 she was heading to California on business. Her husband was also boarding a plane to heading west on business. Debbie lost her life at about 9:05 am as her plane vaporized upon impact. Her husband was forced down in St. Louis, MO.

Their only child, Cassandra, who was 10, was in the care of a woman that Debbie and I worked with. She was a loud, brash, argumentative woman, who no one that I knew liked at all, named Dee. The opposites attract theory worked here, for sure, because it turned out that Dee and Debbie were best friends. When people found out that this woman, who was single and had no kids of her own, was caring for Cassy, we were shocked. We thought “oh my gosh, what is she going to do”?!

She got a call from Debbie’s husband (widower) about 11 am from St. Louis. He did not know all that had happened, until Dee told him, because he was in the airport and heard many conflicting stories. Cassy’s mother was dead. Dee knew this from the news. So Dee had delivered the confirmation that his wife was dead. What she did not know was when the father would be home and neither did he. Remember, ALL air traffic was grounded and no one knew for sure when planes would be allowed in the air.

What was she going to do?! She sure as heck did not want to be the one who told the child her mother was dead. She did the only thing she could think of. She distracted the little girl with as many activities as she could think of, kept her away from anyone she had not prepped, and when all else failed, she lied. What else could she do? If the child were 3, no problem. The kid was 10. She knew what happened in New York, and Washington, and Shanksville. Cassy’s father rented a car with a couple of other guys and drove home. He got there Thursday night. Dee went home and broke down.

A couple of weeks later, I sat down at lunch with Dee and told her I admired what she had done. Apparently, I was one of very few who even mentioned it to her. Dee knew Debbie and I were buddies.

We talked at lunch about the ordeal for the next couple of days. Dee frequently had to fight back tears, understandably. While I would hesitate to say Dee was my friend, we did get much closer after that. She treated me better than most everyone else, which I was thankful for. Sometimes people would notice this and ask why. I’d just say I had not noticed. She used to get a kick out of that.

I was staying late one day and a colleague came back from a meeting and told me Dee was moving to Texas. I was very surprised but called her immediately and I just said “Texas?” She laughed and said, “yup Texas”. She had a new job, a new man, and a new life. Dee has moved away to the southwest and I have not heard from her since 2007, but I will always have great admiration for her and the way she handled a little girl, in a terrible situation that no one should ever have to go through again. She truly is someone who I respect with a capital R.

Good riddance Osama Bin Laden!


One thought on “Guest Blog, Ed Cook: An Unlikely Hero of September 11

  1. Thank you, Ed and Mel, for your thoughtful posts of these sad events. While we may not all be heros (or demons), we all try sometimes to rise to those moments when our best shines despite the obstacles around us.

    You help make things better by sharing and writing for our benefit. Much appreciated.

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