Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
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The Homestanders
Book Four of the Bradford Exiles
Wes Boyd
2005, 2011

Chapter 36: Epilogue

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

The early shift at the Spee-D-Mart was one of those things Emily had gotten used to in the almost fifteen years she’d been working there. Not long ago it had been a pain in the butt to get the kids ready for school, especially when Kevin was at work as well. But Kayla and J.J. were old enough now that they could get themselves put together and off to school, although like a good mom Emily usually gave them a call from the store to make sure they were up and running. Recently it had started to boggle her mind a little: she’d started work in this place as a teenager, and in only a few more months she’d have a teenager of her own.

But this morning was special; just as Janine had been cashing out, Mignon had called with the happy news that in a few hours Vicky would be joining her in the realm of motherhood. Jason had taken her to the hospital about four in the morning, so it wouldn’t be long, now. Mignon had, with great difficulty, managed to avoid going to the hospital to await word, but Jason had promised to let her know as soon as he knew anything.

So, as Emily was doing the morning chores and riding herd on the doughnuts the store prided itself on making on the premises, she was thinking back over the last few months, especially to the day in February when Vicky had called her up to announce that she was pregnant! It had been her dream for many years, and now was finally becoming reality. How excited she had been – and for that matter, Jason was right along with her! Emily knew more than a little of the story of Jason and Jody those many years before and he told her right up front that he was happy that this time the kid had been wanted and hoped for. Jason was going to make a great father, Emily could feel it; after all, he’d done it once before, had done a great job and knew the ropes.

Not to anyone’s surprise, Vicky had been laid off from Macy Controls in May, which suited her just fine. She didn’t really want to work when she was heavily pregnant anyway, and the job was starting to cut into her knife finishing work, which she’d been putting a lot more time into.

Though they still hadn’t incorporated the knife business, Emily and Kevin along with most of the minimum staff at Macy, figured the latter place was going to be closed by this time next year, so they were targeting getting the formal business going in another few months. Just the other day, the four of them had taken a long look at the long-closed old Gulf station across Taney from the Chicago Inn; it seemed to be about the size they needed, and had more parking than they could ever need. Although the tanks had been removed from the ground, the building was sadly deteriorated. But Mike Austin said he thought it could be rebuilt and modified into their combination factory and showroom without it costing too much, especially if he did most of the work over the winter when his construction business was otherwise slow.

They’d worked hard selling knives at renfaires and gun and knife shows for over a year, and most of the money had gone into a war chest needed for setting up the business. They were still going to have to carry a mortgage, but it shouldn’t be too bad. Kevin was already looking forward to doing a job he liked rather than the one he’d come to hate. Emily was a little sorry that she wasn’t going to be working out there too, but they’d agreed that it probably would be a good idea to keep her income from a separate business in case their projections didn’t work out quite as well as they hoped. Jason could retire early next spring, and they hoped he could go right into the new building and a new job.

Things were really going to change, she thought, as JoAnne Patterson came in the door. She worked out at General, and usually got a doughnut and a large cup of coffee to start off the morning. She normally went on at nine, so she was cutting it a little tight. “So what’s happening today, Emily?” she smiled.

“Well, it’s not quite the same old same old,” Emily told her, and explained Vicky was having her baby as they spoke.

Just then Mike Daugherty came rushing in. “Emily, you got a TV?” he asked excitedly. “Turn it on!”

There was a small color TV under the counter. It was rarely turned on during the day – it was bad business practice, and Sharon, the store owner, didn’t like the clerks watching it anyway, but in the long, slow hours of the early morning it sometimes helped to keep them awake. “What channel?” she asked.

“Probably any channel,” Daugherty said quickly. “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center in New York.”

Oh, my God!” JoAnne cried. “Julie works there!”

Emily had never met Julie Patterson, JoAnne’s daughter-in-law; in fact, she’d only seen Dave three or four times since high school, never for very long, a few sentences exchanged while he got gas when here visiting his mother. He’d taken the on-ramp pretty seriously and for practical purposes was a New Yorker now. JoAnne, a long-time widow, had once told Emily that Julie didn’t like Bradford, thought it was a Hicksville, came there only when she had to, and stayed the shortest time possible. Still, at least according to JoAnne, she was supposed to be a pretty neat person, if almost a stereotype young urban professional. Those facts didn’t need review as Emily pulled the little portable color TV from beneath the counter and turned it on.

There on the screen was a live picture from another skyscraper, looking at the twin towers of the World Trade Center, with smoke pouring from the side of one of them. “Oh, my God,” JoAnne said, her face white. “I can’t tell if that’s the tower Julie works in, but she’s up toward the top.”

Any thought of JoAnne’s going on to work was washed away in seconds; there was no tearing her away from the unbelievable scene. “Jeez,” Daugherty commented to no one in particular as a small crowd gathered around the TV over the next few minutes, “A pilot would have to be pretty damn blind to miss seeing something like that.”

“Probably looking at the gauges rather than out the window,” someone in the back snorted.

“I’ve seen planes flying low there,” JoAnne said vacantly, “But never that low.”

“You’ve been there?” Emily asked.

“Julie took me up to the observation deck one time,” she said. “They don’t live far away, in an apartment complex called Battery Park Village. It’s pretty nice, but you wouldn’t believe the rent they . . . Oh, My God!” she blurted as a second airplane appeared out of the corner of the picture and crashed into the side of the other tower.

Silence reigned for several seconds. “Something tells me that pilot was looking out the window,” Daugherty finally said softly.

“Dave wouldn’t be there, would he?” Emily asked.

“Probably not,” JoAnne said hopefully. “He stays late to get the boys to kindergarten, and then walks to work. It’s not in the Trade Center complex, but it isn’t far away.” She stared at the screen for a moment, and then asked, “Emily, can I use your phone?”

“Here,” Emily said, handing JoAnne her cell phone.

Very little was done in the Spee-D-Mart for the next hour. A few people got gas or bought doughnuts, but there was little said; Emily just took the money, kept her attention on the TV screen, and several times went to stand next to JoAnne, one arm around her. Mike also spent a good deal of time trying to give her some support and courage. Time after time JoAnne hit “redial” on the cell phone, but each time got a “not available” reply. “Not surprising,” Daugherty said. “Probably everyone in the world is trying to dial someone there right now.”

“Or vice versa,” Emily agreed.

Then, without warning, the already unbelievable sight became even more unbelievable: one of the towers just sighed and gave up; the top falling majestically until it was lost in a cloud of dust and smoke. “I don’t think that was the building Julie works in,” JoAnne said hopefully in a small voice.

“They said they were evacuating the buildings,” Emily offered. “Maybe she’s out of there.”

“She would have been above the fire,” JoAnne said, obviously hoping against hope. “She’d have had to get down past it somehow.” Once again she took Emily’s cell phone and hit “redial,” getting the same response as before.

Emily took another look at the screen, and at the ashen-faced JoAnne, who she knew lived alone – and she also knew JoAnne’s close friend Hazel was out of town. Quickly she made up her mind; she picked up the store phone and called Janine. “Get down here, right now,” she said in a flat order and hung up the phone. Then, she turned to the TV again, the thought on her mind as she was sure it was on the mind of everyone else: if one tower could go down, what was to keep the other from following?

Nothing. Just as Janine walked in the door twenty minutes later, the top of the second tower leaned a little bit, then started to fall. For the second time in half an hour, the top of one of the tallest buildings in the world collapsed into a cloud of smoke and dust of its own making. “Come on, JoAnne,” Emily said softly. “I better take you home. If Dave calls, he’ll probably try to call you there.”

JoAnne said nothing, just gave a weak nod.

Emily had, as always, ridden the Sportster to work, but took JoAnne’s keys and drove her to her home only a block or so from Jason and Vicky’s house. She helped JoAnne to a living room chair, and together they sat and watched the TV silently, hoping it would give them some hint of good news but expecting nothing but bad.

It was a little before noon when JoAnne was finally able to get Dave on his cell phone. “She must be dead,” he reported in a dull monotone. “I was talking to her when the building went down.”

“Oh, my God,” JoAnne said in a weak voice. “Dave, I’m sorry.”

“I’ve got to get to the boys,” Dave said, desperation in his voice. “They need me now.”

“They were in school, right?” JoAnne asked. “They said on TV they were evacuating the school in Battery Park.”

“I’ll have to go look for them,” he said. “I’ll call you back.”

There was no way Emily was going to leave JoAnne alone that afternoon. At one point, in the horror of the day, she remembered Vicky was in the hospital in Hawthorne, having her baby. Absently she called Mignon at one point, to get the news that the little girl had been born about 10:30; as planned, Vicky and Jason had named her Melissa, after Vicky’s college roommate. But there was no word from Dave; either his cell phone was off or he was talking to someone because all they got was an intercept.

Finally, when both of them were about frantic with worry, he called again. He’d spent hours searching for the boys, and had finally found them; they were all right, in an evacuation center in a church gym a fair ways away from Battery Park and where the World Trade Center had stood until that morning. “Dave, is there anything we can do to help?” JoAnne asked.

“No,” he said in a dull, disinterested voice on the speakerphone. “There’s not much anyone can do now.”

“Dave, I can be there in twelve hours if there’s anything I can do,” JoAnne insisted.

“I don’t know,” he said, clearly devastated by the events of the day. “Everything’s such a mess. I don’t even know if you could get here.”

They talked for a few more minutes, then the call went dead.

“He’s not good,” JoAnne said flatly. “He’s about to lose it. I can tell. I wish we could just get in the car and go help him, except it’d be tomorrow morning before we could get there.”

“And he’s right,” Emily agreed. “From what we’ve seen on TV, lower Manhattan is pretty well sealed off; we might not be able to get to him, anyway.”

“Oh, the poor boys,” JoAnne said. “I wish there was something we could do.”

The thought hit Emily in an instant: Shae! “Maybe there is,” she said, picking up her cell phone to call home. “Shae Kirkendahl lives in Staten Island. She works on Manhattan at least some. She’d be right there in New York and would know her way around.”

In a moment, Emily had Kayla on the phone, getting Kayla to give her Shae’s number out of her class notebook. In an instant more, Emily was dialing the number – but there was no answer, just an answering machine with a cute recorded message. “Well, hell,” Emily said. “If she’s got a cell phone, I don’t have the number at home.”

“We can try again in a little while,” JoAnne offered hopefully.

“Yeah, but I wish there was something else,” she said, and got an idea. “If Shae has a cell phone, Eve would know the number. Besides, Eve is in Philadelphia, she’d still be closer to New York than we are.”

Eve’s number was one Emily could do from memory, but there was no answer there, either. “Well, nuts,” Emily shook her head. “We can try there later; John will probably be home with the kids pretty soon.”

“But what if he isn’t?” JoAnne said. “Maybe we should get started.”

“There’s got to be something,” Emily said, scratching her head. “Let’s see, Dayna and Sandy are in Maryland; it’s not as close but it’s something.” Dayna’s cell phone number was in the phone’s memory, and it was only the work of seconds before Emily had her musician friend on the line. “Dayna, have you been watching TV?”

“Yeah,” her voice replied, “Ain’t that a hell of a mess?”

“We’ve got a problem,” Emily said, and told her about Dave in the evacuation center, needing someone.

“We’ll get moving,” Dayna said. “He’ll need some place to go. About the best we can do is get as close as we can with the motor home and go on with Toad to try and find them. It could be morning. We’ll give it a try, but you’d be better off if you can get hold of Shae. Let us know if you find her.”

“That’s better than nothing,” Emily sighed as she got off the phone. “But Jeez, there’s got to be some way to get hold of Shae.”

In the next few minutes she dialed both Shae and Eve again, and only got the answering machines. “Darn,” Emily said. “There’s got to be some way. John and Eve should be home by now.” She frowned for a second. “Unless maybe they’re with her dad, they usually leave the kids there. Damn, I’d like to get Eve there with Dave, too. Shae can give him a place to go, but Eve is really who he needs to talk to.” She thought for a second more, then called home again, to ask Kayla to look up Bill Riley’s phone number, which she’d picked up on that memorable weekend at Eve’s over a year before.

Bill Riley was at home – at last, someone! – and John was there with him, with several pieces of news, the most important of which was that Eve was visiting Shae; she had consultations in New York a couple times a month, and usually stayed with her friend when that happened. “I don’t know where they are,” John said, “But Eve called a few minutes ago and said that she and Shae didn’t feel much like dinner, so I guess they’re together.” He was also able to give Emily both Shae’s and Eve’s cell numbers.

It turned out that Shae had her cell phone off, but Eve didn’t, so Emily was finally able to get through to them. They were both in Brooklyn, near Shae’s studio, and getting set to head for her place on Staten Island. “Sure, we’ll go find him,” Eve told them. “Just understand it may take a while. From what I understand public transportation is shut down in lower Manhattan, and we may have to walk in and out.”

“Good deal,” Emily said. “Eve, right now you’re the best person I know of to help Dave out, and from what I picked up on the phone he’s going to need your professional help.”

“Class of ’88 to the rescue,” Eve replied. “Give me your cell number and JoAnne’s home number; we’ll keep in touch.”

“Good,” Emily told her. “I may not be here for a while; I need to head to Hawthorne. Vicky had her baby this morning, and I need to say ‘hi.’”

“She did? Good! Boy or girl?”

“A little girl; they’ve named her Melissa, Vicky’s mother Mignon told me.”

They didn’t waste any more time in small talk. “Man, am I glad we got hold of them,” Emily sighed as she shut the cell phone off. “I guess I better call Dayna and tell her to call it off. Oh, and I better call Lloyd and tell him to hold the front page of the Courier. I’m sure he’ll want to get the news about Julie in the paper.”

“I suppose,” JoAnne said, now a little perked up by the news someone was heading to help Dave and the boys. “But Emily, would you mind terribly if I went to Hawthorne with you? I really don’t want to be alone right now.”

“I can understand,” Emily said. “No, JoAnne, I won’t leave you alone if you don’t want to be. In fact, I’ll spend the night with you, either here or at my place, if you’d like.”

After making the phone calls, they got in JoAnne’s car and headed to the hospital in Hawthorne. Visiting hours were nearly over with, but Emily thought Vicky would appreciate at least a few minutes attention – and she’d be very understanding about why her best friend hadn’t been able to give her more of it on this day of days for her. She was tired – today had been a record setter for stress and tension – but at least Shae and Eve were on their way to Dave, probably the best people she could send. She still had things to do, and they’d have to get them done, but this small visit would at least remind her there was life beginning as well as ending on this day – and maybe JoAnn would get that message, too.

Vicky was tired as well – she’d had a very long day. She was all smiles about the tiny little girl cradled in her arms, but she was down as well – she hadn’t watched much TV, but she’d heard enough. She had not heard about Julie Patterson until Emily told her, and heard the thumbnail of what she’d done to help. “So this is Melissa,” Emily smiled. “You look like a cute baby. Welcome to the world, Melissa. There’s good people and bad here, but your folks are among the best.”

“Looks like a good kid to me,” Jason smiled from his chair across the bed from his wife. “I always wanted to raise a girl, and now I get to.”

“What do you figure the chances are of her hiking the Appalachian Trail, or being a raft guide in the Grand Canyon?” Emily laughed, trying to inject a lighter note.

“About the same Duane had when he was that age,” Jason smiled. “She can do anything she damn well sets her mind to, as far as I’m concerned. We might have the first woman president here. The world may have changed for the worse at 10:29 AM today, but it changed for the better, too, as far as I’m concerned.”

Just then, Emily’s cell phone rang. She went to the back of the room to answer it, leaving JoAnne just touching little Melissa with a tear in her eye. Emily spoke on the phone for a couple minutes and rejoined them. “That was Eve,” she reported. “She and Shae have Dave and the boys. They had to walk in over the Brooklyn Bridge, and now they’re walking out again. Shae is carrying both the boys, but Eve didn’t think it was a good time to talk. They’ll call again from Shae’s apartment; it’s probably going to take a couple hours.”

“Good,” JoAnne said, tears rolling down her face, now. “Emily, did you ever hear that song that goes, ‘And when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born to carry on?’”

Emily glanced down at Melissa, being held in Vicky’s arms. “It could be, JoAnne,” she smiled. “It could just be. Stranger things have happened in Bradford.”

-- 30 --

-- 10:37 PM, 7/12/2005

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