‘We’re having a problem on the plane’: Husband writes about losing pregnant wife on 9/11

“Honey, are you there? Jack? Pick up, sweetie,” he heard Lauren’s voice say. “Okay, well, I just want to tell you I love you. We’re having a little problem on the plane. I’m fine and comfortable and I’m okay for now. I just love you more than anything, just know that. It’s just a little problem, so I, I’ll … Honey, I just love you. Please tell my family I love them, too. Bye, honey.”

“In that moment I knew Lauren and our baby were gone,” he writes of his college sweetheart and their little one. 

An unborn child, a victim of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, is remembered at the 9/11 memorial in New York City. Katie Yoder/CNA

His wife’s funeral was held at a Catholic church in Houston. Lauren, he says, was not a religious person. But in the months before her death, she began attending a weekly Bible study.

“One evening she came home and said, ‘I finally get it,’” he remembers. When he prodded her by asking, “Get what?” she responded, “The meaning of it all.”

While raised Catholic, Grandcolas struggled with his faith. 

“What kind of merciful God would take my sweet Lauren and our child?” he asked. He later concluded that it was not God but human ideology.

He encountered God again after a conversation with Bono, the lead vocalist of the famous rock band U2. Bono performed “One Tree Hill” — Lauren’s favorite U2 song — in her memory at a 2005 concert at the Oakland Coliseum. Afterward, Grandcolas opened up to the singer.

“Being brought up Catholic, you’re given all this guilt about things that you didn’t do right,” he told Bono. “I worry that I may have screwed up in this life and mortgaged my opportunity to see Lauren again.”

“You’ll see her again. I know it. We all screw up in life,” he says Bono reassured him. “That’s why God grants us forgiveness. It’s his most powerful gift.”

Bono’s words changed him and his faith, he says. 

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“Ever since 9/11, I had questioned God and his plan for me,” he writes. “The night was a tribute to her but in a very important way it set me free, allowing me to be more forgiving of myself and rekindle my belief in God’s mercy.”

An unidentified man looks through a window at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center near Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Aug. 17, 2016. The window overlooks the impact site. ShutterstockAn unidentified man looks through a window at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center near Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Aug. 17, 2016. The window overlooks the impact site. Shutterstock

Grandcolas introduces readers to Lauren as a woman with a beautiful smile, radiant personality, and even a mischievous streak. They married after meeting in college and stayed together as he progressed with a career in the newspaper industry, and she took charge as a marketing manager. 

After losing her and their baby, he struggled with depression, PTSI (Post-Traumatic Stress Injury), heavy drinking, fear of abandonment, and survivor’s guilt. With the help of EMDR psychotherapy, he said, he discovered that “for all these years I had been mourning Lauren without fully grieving for the baby we lost.”

“Over the years that child grew up in my mind, growing older every year,” he writes. “I knew I would not be able to move on until saying goodbye to the baby I never got to hold.”

Today, the memory of Lauren and their unborn baby lives on at memorials across the country, through the Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation, and, now, his book.