An Open Letter to the people of Aurora from a “9/11” survivor

I lost my fiancée Sarah Miller Clark on flight #77 that crashed into the Pentagon; her son lives in Aurora.  One of my first calls on that fateful day in 2001 was to him in Aurora. Of course one of my first calls after learning of the incident at the Century Theater was to check on Sarah’s son, and my aunt who also lives in Aurora. I am happy to report both are well and safe.

 I offer my prayers and condolences to the victims and their families, and forgiveness to the shooter. I know it is difficult in these days immediately after such an event to contemplate “forgiveness” however I  attribute my ability to get on with the business of attending to all of the various issues the families will have to tend with to my decision immediately offer forgiveness to the perpetrators and their families. It freed me to get on with the business of jumpstarting my own healing process, and it freed me to make the necessary plans to bring positive closure to the immediate experience of losing my loved one, and to consciously use every opportunity to speak about the experience to highlight the “life” qualities Sarah exhibited so that even in her death she could be a beacon to others.

 In the days ahead there will be much to parse; decisions on a memorial service, handling the deceased bills, mail, phone service, automobiles, clothes, keepsakes, estates, the list goes on. Add to this the constant television coverage, the replays, the comments of friends who want to say something but are at a loss for words,,, the moments when the horror grips your entire being; the days when a “big cry” lingers constantly  just below the surface and seems constantly stuck in your throat.

 There will be days when you will stare at your loved one’s belongings; the places they once slept, or ate, or danced, their toothbrush, clothes, shoes, (one of the hardest things to deal with will be what to do with their shoes, for some reason many “9/11” survivors remembered more about their loved ones shoes, than other items) of the places they loved and the fact that they are no longer with you on this plane will seem overwhelming. My advice is that you allow these feelings to flow over you, and if necessary, cry, you will find it very helpful. In many case I gave Sarah’s work suits, dresses, blouses etc. to organizations providing assistance to women returning to work. I gave most of her shoes to survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

 Expect the experience to be surreal. It is. Be mindful of your need to eat, although you will not want food. Work out, as exercise is important to relieve the stress; Pray for it is true that God not only answers prayers, but also “Pray-ers.”

 Finally, use every opportunity to assure children you come in contact with in your City, and elsewhere to encourage them to live without fear, love and pray without ceasing, and to continue to believe that despite events such as this America is till the best country in the world to be a citizen of, and that your city Aurora will emerge stronger, more unified and that you are assured of your own healing and renewal.

I wish you healing and the power to forgive.

 John Milton Wesley

John Milton Wesley lost his former fiancée Sarah Miller Clark a Washington, DC middle school teacher and one of her students 11 year old Asia Cottom on flight #77 that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11’01.


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