Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (

Chapter 55


The chapter written primarily by my editor David of Hope.

9/11 - Susan Chambers:

I was in the office sitting at my desk when one of my coworkers popped his head into my cubicle. With excited bulging eyes he exclaimed, "Have you heard? A plane just smashed into the World Trade Centre! It's all ablaze! They've got it on the TV downstairs. Ya gotta see it Susan!"

"My God! Tom's in New York!" I all but shouted. I jumped up from my desk and followed my coworker hurriedly down the stair to the common room.

I walked into the room and stopped dead in my tracks as I saw the upper floors of the North Tower ablaze. I watched the horrific scene, myself feeling dead chills run up and down my spine, then as the newscaster interrupted his dialog of what had happened, we witnessed live, the blurry picture of the second plane hitting the South Tower. I shuttered in fear for Tom's life.

'Please God,' I prayed silently, 'please keep Tom safe.'

Tom meant so much to us - Josh and me. He turned my young prepubescent boy into the promise of a fine young man who was going to make a difference in this world. He even saved my life at great risk to his own.

Josh would be devastated if he was seeing this. I had to get to his school, if for no other reason, but to comfort his concerns.

While I was driving to the school, I knew I had to phone Anne - she might be the best one to tell Dianne, Tom's mom. I didn't have much to tell her with that first call, until I could confirm what building Tom might have been in. Maybe it wasn't even the World Trade Centre.

I walked into the school, frantically looking in every direction. I spotted a sign that said, 'Main Office'. I didn't bother to knock, I just barged in, darting my eyes around looking for someone who may be in charge. There was a woman at the desk nearest.

"Good Morning ma'am. May I help you?" she asked.

"I'm Susan Chambers. I have to speak to my son immediately. His Dad is in New York City. He has to know." I said frantically.

"Ma'am?" she questioned.

I stared at her dumbfounded. "The TWIN TOWERS!" I exclaimed. "They've both been hit by jet liners and they're both engulfed in flames. I've got to speak to my son."

While I was saying that, a man came out of the inner office.

"Mr. Dent.... this lady says the Twin Towers in New York City are on fire.... she says her husband is there and she wants to speak to her son." I noticed she rolled her eyes as she was talking to him. She didn't believe me!

"I'll look after this Miss G‚rin" he said sternly. "I'm the principal, what is your son's name?"

"Joshua Chambers." I answered.

"Miss G‚rin, find out what classroom Joshua Chambers is in... NOW! Come with me Mrs. Chambers." He directed me to his office and I saw that in addition to many switches and knobs, he also had a computer and a small television. Even from my angle, I could see he was transfixed to the images that were repeated over and over again as the airplanes hit the towers. "So far I've been holding the TV feed away from the classes," he continued, "however, no doubt they'll find out during their lunch break. I'll have to organize an assembly this afternoon for the students to assuage any fears they may have."

"Mr. Dent, Joshua Chambers is in Gymnasium Two," the voice of Miss G‚rin said from the door.

He picked up the microphone, then pressed a button on the intercom. "Joshua Chambers.... to the main office immediately. Again, Joshua Chambers to the main office immediately." Then turning to me, he said, "Come, we'll meet him in the hall."

We went out into the hall; it was quiet as all the students were in their classes. Running from the end of the hall, I saw Josh, still in his gym shorts with no shirt on.

"MOM!" he exclaimed. "What's wrong?"

"Josh, do you know what building in New York City that Tom was having his meeting at?" I asked. I knew my voice wasn't calm.

"Yeah, uh... ummm.... he said he was going to the World Trade Centre.... umm.... Tower One first thing this morning. Why? What's going on Mom?"

"Chambers!" Mr. Dent said firmly, "Go back to the gym dressing room, get dressed, don't bother with a shower. Get your books that you may need from your locker. You'll be going home with your mother. Don't say a word to anyone. I'll explain when you get back here. Understood Mister?"

"Mom?" Josh said, his face full of concern.

"Do as he says Josh, we'll explain everything when you get back here." I said. Naturally, he could read my concern as much as I could read his confusion.

"NOW Josh," Mr. Dent demanded.

"Yes Mr. Dent." He replied and started running in the direction he'd come from.

While we waited for Josh to return, I called Anne and gave her the grave news. She was devastated and said she would phone James at work.

As soon as Josh returned, we headed for the main entrance. "Josh," I said quietly, "The World Trade Centre Towers were hit by two jet liners this morning and are burning right now."

Josh looked stunned as he took a big gulp and pulled out his cell phone. He listened for a few moments before closing his phone. "All lines to the area are busy right now... try your call later." He said repeating the message. "Maybe his appointment was finished and he wasn't anywhere near the Centre."

"Oh Josh, I hope so." I replied.

"Josh, now is the time to be with your family," Mr. Dent said. "You're allowed to take as much time off as you need. Stay calm and positive Josh."

'Calm and positive!' I thought. 'How could anyone be calm and positive at a time like this?'

9/11 - Dianne Davis - My Son Tom:

I loved all my sons as I watched them grow from babies to toddlers, to youngsters, through their teens and into adulthood. James was always the quiet conservative boy - always supportive - with a kind word. When Andy was born, James was so attentive and caring. He really loved his younger brother, even through the terrible twos as they call them. Those were the cutest years for my children and I delighted in their shenanigans together although there was four years between Andy and James. After that, James enjoyed showing Andy all the secrets he'd found out about in the back yard. Then three years later, came our favourite baby and we named him Tom. I knew he was going to be our last, so naturally he was given special attention although we tried to treat the three of them equally.

Tom was extra lucky because he had two brothers to love him. He wasn't spoiled - except with the amount of love he received from us and his brothers. Richard was always teaching the boys new and interesting things that belonged to the male side of their psyche. All of the boys received a balanced upbringing and each of the boys responded to the values that we taught them. However James was the conservative one, Andy, the studious one, but Tom, he was special - he was the adventurous one. I suppose that came from the knowing he had the back-up of his brothers to help him if he ever got in trouble. Putting the three of them together - we had a very balanced family and we were very proud.

Once Tom was three years old, the weekend camping and fishing trips became a great joy for our boys. I went along because Tom was just a toddler back then, but after he turned five, I let Richard take the three boys on his own. When they'd get home, James was still the conservative one - the eldest who always looked out for his younger brothers. Andy would tell tales of the wild animals and the wild berries and vegetation he found, but Tom, he was the leader of the pack, hiking up the trails leaving his brothers and Richard behind. Once that Richard had taught Tom how to filet a fish and debone it, it became Tom's job. While James and Andy would do it, they didn't enjoy it like Tom had.

That summer when Richard and I went to Asia for a vacation and left Tom with the Struthers, we had no idea what had gone on. However, when we came back from our trip, Tom was a little withdrawn, yet he clung to us and his brothers like a magnet. I had supposed that he really was homesick over the course of the summer. It took almost a year before his sullen demeanor had completely ebbed and his good-natured adventurous personality showed itself again.

The night that Richard was killed while on duty, we were devastated. I hovered and clung to my boys as we grieved and after all the ceremonies, it was James who took the helm of keeping Andy and Tom headed in the right direction and with the right attitude. Tom and Andy both responded well to James' guidance and my three sons and I started our lives again with less remorse, and gratitude that we'd had Richard with us for as long as we did. Being a single mother now, the boys realized they had a responsibility to our family unit and intellectually they did mature earlier than other children their own age.

It was Tom's maturity that stood out the strongest. When he listened to the news or read the newspaper, his interest was always drawn to the plight of our country's military forces and the hardships they were having in other parts of the world.

Throughout high school, Tom seemed very balanced, dating a few girls, but never for too long. I wasn't too surprised when he finished high school and told us that he was planning a career in the Armed Forces.

James on the other hand, started dating Anne during his last year of high school and they were a couple all during James' college years and when they'd completed college, they married and started a family. The twins were a delight right from the very beginning. Anne was a great mother and James added the complete balance to their relationship. The absolute happiness that they shared was obvious from the moment they walked into a room.

Andy still has a few years to go, but with his zeal for the law and his love of justice, I know he's going to be a benefit to all in need that he meets.

When Tom was injured so badly in the Army, I was inwardly devastated, but I kept a stiff upper lip as they say. I knew he was in a lot of physical pain, but I was more concerned about the pain he would endure when he realized that he couldn't have a career in the military that wasn't a part of the front line action. In my mix of emotions, as a mother, I was grateful for that part, but I knew he could never settle for a desk job in the military.

However, his recovery was quick. He persevered with the pain of the physiotherapy and with all the moral encouragement I could give him; he didn't feel sorry for himself. Outwardly, he seemed to shrug it off. However, his injury did leave him with pain in his leg, but it was nothing that would keep his adventurous spirit from thriving. Then he went back to college and started working at Camp Tonawonka during the summer at Andy's insistence. By the end of the first summer, I realized he had his life back on track - a new track - one that had meaning for him. He loved teaching the kids and the kids responded to his love of life, which gave Tom a new character. He was so much like Richard.

The first time I met Josh and Susan there in the hospital emergency waiting room, I was immediately taken in to the charm and mannerisms of this boy. He reminded me so much of Tom's innocence in his earlier years, very intelligent and mature for his age. There was no doubt about it; Tom had had quite an effect on Josh, just as Josh had on him. When Darren told us about how Josh had saved Tom's life, all of us were of course, totally endeared to him. Andy knew Josh from camp and how it was that Tom had brought so many changes into the boy's life.

Then it seemed I was just getting over that scare with Tom, when the bank robbery incident happened. When I heard how close he came to losing his life, I was shocked, yet I shouldn't have been. Tom was just following in his father's footsteps without the uniform.

Although I knew my son and the honourable person he was, I did question the matter of his sexual preference. Actually, it was Anne that brought up the subject to me one day. I mentioned it to Andy one day and that was when I found out in the strictest confidence of what happened to him at the Struthers that summer. That hurt me to the quick. Andy said that James was equally upset. He said that Tom may be gay, but wasn't any sort of predator or anything. Andy assured me that maybe one day the right person may come into his life to give him a proper balance. I could never imagine my son being a predator - a good father, yes, but never a predator. Andy explained that James had spoken of Anne's maternal concerns with regard to the twins, and Andy had then given him the reassurance that Tom was still the upstanding younger brother he had always been.

It was later that Tom made me realize there was a difference between a father and a dad. He had a rational, yet imaginative mind.

Then came the awards ceremony when Tom, Josh, and Mark received their Star of Courage medals and I met Bryan for the first time. He was such a charming young man and it was so apparent to me as a mother, how much he and Tom cared for each other and for Mark and Josh. How dedicated the older boys were to the younger boys made me realize that Richard and I had done a good job with our sons. There couldn't have been a prouder parent than I was that day.

Christmas at Susan's home was an experience beyond belief. The love I felt around that dinner table and throughout the afternoon and evening was almost overwhelming. It was just another experience that I had to prove that Tom was a wonderful young man and he made me proud.

Then there was that incident with that Bob character - and I'm being kind when I say that. What was it that that man had missed in his upbringing? I've come to realize that the proper upbringing builds proper character in a person and does so much for the pride of their family and their country. Those were the things that were important to my boys - especially Tom. It was indeed a relief to find out that after the operation, his leg was going to return to normal and he wouldn't be on pain pills for the rest of his life. I truly felt sorry for Susan having been abused by that man so badly - and she was blaming herself. How unfair life can be. I hope I said all the right things to her - it really wasn't her fault.

When the boys went to Europe this spring, I wish I had been there at the Holten Cemetery to meet the Devries family. Some day I may go. I know Josh, Mark, Bryan, and especially Tom were truly moved by the experience.

Andy told me about all the great things Tom did at summer camp with the kids - how he taught them so much and how well he adapted to each of their personalities. That website that was setup to get Richard's uncle a posthumous Victoria Cross - just another reason why Josh is so precious to this family.

When I spoke to James, he told me what a great time the twins had at camp and the amazing joke they had played on Anne and James when they came to pick up the twins. My little grandchildren were growing up and they too, are allowing my sense of pride to flourish.

James phoned this morning to tell me that Anne and the twins were on their way over.

"Why?" I asked. "The boys should be in school."

"Mom," he said sadly, "Tom's in New York. Turn on the TV. I'm not sure which office Tom was going to.... Anne and the boys will be there at any moment. I'm going to leave the office in just a few minutes to join you."

He hung up and I turned on the television.

I always wondered what other women meant when they said there was no pain like that of a mother's. Now, I think I know what they were feeling.

Do I know where my son Tom is right now? No I don't, but I feel his love in my heart.

9/11 - James Davis:

My brother Tom was the most special person to me from the moment I first laid eyes on him. Although I'd treasured my time with Andy when he was a baby, Tom was special because I was seven when he was born and now I could show Andy the love that a young baby needed from the get-go. It was a wonderful time for Andy and me - more so for me, because after school while Mom was preparing dinner, I got to look after Tommy.

Tommy was always so happy and so sweet as an infant. Mom made me feel really grown up when she showed me how to change his diaper and after that, I was able to do it. I hadn't been old enough when Andy was still an infant. Later on, potty training him was another responsibility that I was able to help with. Although they weren't the most pleasant duties in the world, I didn't mind because it was a help to Mom and she always praised me for doing it.

When Dad was off work, Andy and I never got jealous when Dad would spend extra time with Tommy. Looking back now, it was like he was showing us how to enjoy children.

Even before Dad took us camping and fishing alone without Mom for the first time, Tommy was more adventurous than Andy or I. He would be doing some daring thing that I'd never try at his age and I was always telling him to be careful - forever watching - forever in fear that he'd hurt himself when he climbed a tree, walked across a stream from rock to rock. Not only would he go ahead of Andy and I, he'd coax us to join him when he was midway up a tree or half way across the stream. Naturally, I had to follow, to be there to comfort any wounds that I thought he might get in a mishap, but that never happened. He was always so sure, so confident, so reassuring.

"See James," he said one time, "it was a piece of cake!" I'll always remember those words he spoke and the smile on his face when he said them. The innocent pranks he would play on us - especially me - were more of a delight than an annoyance. His sense of humour seemed to always keep us laughing during his early teen years.

Women are a suspicious lot and are inherently protective of any suspicious wrong doing in this world especially when it comes to their children. Anne questioned me about Tom's sexuality in concern for the twins. I pooh-poohed the notion. I knew my brother and knew nothing in this world would allow him to molest or hurt any child.

I did mention it to Andy in as much as Tom never showed any real interest in women - even in conversation. Andy related what the Struthers had done to Tom that summer we were at Army camp, I was devastated. I'd never felt that kind of anger before. Then the frustration set in - there was nothing I could have done about it - but as a child, I'd always been there to protect Tom - it had been my job - and this time I thought and believed that I'd failed him - although there was little I could do about it.

The Struthers incident was a secret between brothers, but when I told Anne to ease her concerns, trusting her as I should; she obviously blabbed it to my Mom. Women just can't keep a secret, but at least no one has brought it up in front of Tom in a conversation. I'm sure he'd be embarrassed and I wanted at least to save him from that humiliation.

Our kids loved Tom and he loved them - and yes, he spoiled them at times, but they'd had a wholesome relationship beyond reproach.

Anne just phoned and told me that the planes had crashed into the World Trade Centre and Tom had an appointment in one of them. My heart totally sank. I'd been watching the TV in the common room, with deep interest and a feeling of numbness, but I was pulled away from it when I was told my wife had phoned with an urgent message to call her back. I told her she HAD to pick up the twins from school and take them over to Moms. I didn't want any of them to be alone trying to deal with the situation.

Phoning Mom and telling her what I knew, nearly put me in tears. I really didn't want to be the bearer of bad news for one of the most precious ladies in my life - in our lives - Tom's, Andy's and mine.

The anxiety ache in my gut was almost unbearable as I pulled into the driveway at our old homestead.

I tried to reassure myself as I walked into the house, that as with every adventure, mishap and catastrophe that Tom had endured over the past few years, he'd always come out of it smelling like a rose. This time, I just wasn't sure.

9/11 - Anne Davis:

When Susan phoned, her call put me in shock for a moment. I'd been watching the TV and saw the horror of the World Trade Centre unfold.

"Anne," she said, "I'm just going into the school to pick up Josh. I don't know if they've broadcast it to the classrooms. Anne.... Tom left yesterday for New York City. He had an appointment with someone about his computer program downtown. I'll call you back when I find out where. I think Josh would know."

'Oh my God,' I thought as I put down the receiver. 'What if Tom is in that horrible deluge?'

After Susan's second phone call, I called James and we agreed that he would call Dianne and it was necessary to pull our boys out of school. He was right too; we couldn't leave his mom alone at a time like this.

After explaining everything to the principal, he allowed me to take Matthew and Richard out of school. They hadn't announced it at the school yet, so the twins were confused about what was happening. As we drove over to Dianne's, I explained what had happened in New York City. Although they were concerned, they still didn't understand why they had to leave school and go to Grandma's house. Just before I parked the car, I told them that their Uncle Tommy had an appointment in World Trade Centre that day and the buildings had fallen down.

At first they were stunned, but as they realized what possibilities that could entail, they started to stare at each other.

I told them that regardless of what they were feeling, we had to be strong for Grandma.

9/11 - Richard Davis:

Mommy said that I'm older than Matthew. I felt proud of that until I found out how long a minute really was.

I was getting bewildered and scared with the way Mom took us out of school. When we were in the car and I knew that Matthew was feeling the same way.

'Uncle Tommy? I might never see Uncle Tommy again? He was our best friend, our favourite uncle, he knew us like no one else did.' The thoughts streamed between me and Matthew.

When we got out of the car, we gave Mommy a hug. Maybe that would help to keep us from crying. Grandma needed us to be strong.

9/11 - Matthew Davis:

It makes me feel more grown up on my birthday because it's the same day as Uncle Tommy's birthday.

He was the best. He always took us to fun places and we did fun things. Dad was good to us too, but Uncle Tommy was even better. He did things with us that we'll always remember.

The time he took us fishing with Josh was so great. Josh was great on that trip - the way he talked to us - the way he made us feel like almost adults. We learned a lot from Josh and Uncle Tommy on that weekend.

Uncle Andy was great too when he took us to Newfoundland, but coming home with Josh and Uncle Tommy was even better. It was a lot of fun teaching and learning French. To end that trip with another weekend of fishing was the greatest.

This last summer was even better than we could ever thought it was going to be. Richard and I learned that the things we could do by just looking at each other was OK. Mark and Michael were really good to us when they taught that 'Who's on First' thing. It was a good thing they stayed in front of us when we did it, because Richard and I were having trouble remembering who each of us were, but it was so much fun to make people laugh. Grady and Carson will always be our friends.

We loved our Uncle Tommy because he did all those things with us.

9/11 - Andy Davis:

I got the phone call from James during my lunch recess at the mock trial I was a part of as the defense attorney. Unfortunately, it was vital to the project that I return to the afternoon session, and I spent the afternoon arguing my points with the background thoughts of Tom in my mind and my heart.

The adjudicators said they'd never heard such an emotional defense plea and the mock jury declared the defendant not guilty, but in the reality of the case we were reenacting, they told us that the defendant was in fact guilty and this was the first year that he'd ever been found innocent.

The thoughts that rambled through my mind during my dissertation that afternoon took me back to when Tom and I were kids. Tom was so sweet. Growing up with him had been so much fun until after that summer with the Struthers.

It wasn't until our first stint together at Camp Tonawonka, that I brought up the subject of girlfriends. All the campers were in bed and I thought it was time for some guy talk. Tom was hesitant when he answered.

"No Andy," he said, "the time isn't right yet. It may never be right."

I asked him what he meant and he told me about what happened at the Struthers the year James and I were at Army Camp. I put my arm around his shoulder as he wept while he told me the story and admitted that maybe he was gay or bisexual.

I was senior camp counsellor that year and first and foremost was the protection of the kids.

"Tom," I began after his finished his story and had settled down, "not the kids." I didn't know how else to approach the subject.

I'd seen Tom happy most of the time, sad on occasion when a pet frog died or something similar, frustrated when things wouldn't work right like when he was learning how to tie his shoes, but I had never ever seen him look angry. The stare he gave me was nothing but distain, as he got very red in the face.

"Andy, how could you?" He was trying so hard to hold his temper as the words seethed through his teeth. "No child should have to go through what I've been through and I'd beat the shit out of anyone that ever tried to hurt a kid in a sexual or any other way."

"Josh Chambers?" I questioned because they seemed to be hitting it off so well that summer.

"Josh is kinda unique," he answered with a cooler demeanor, "he has such a zest for life. He craves attention and understanding guidance. I think with the way we were brought up, I can help him in a meaningful way."

Before we went to our cabins for the night, I hugged Tom and assured him that dad would be proud of him and that I was proud that he was my brother, gay or otherwise. I went to bed that night feeling anger toward the Struthers and pain for Tom.

Tom swore me to secrecy, but that fall James brought up the subject and trusting my brother, I told him about it. James' anger renewed my anger, which led both of us to a level of frustration. Our hearts were aching for Tom and the pain he'd endured.

Back at law school, I did a bit of sneaky research. I wanted justice and in the back of my mind, a plan was forming. I needed to know where Mrs. Struthers spent her time and it turned out that she had a job at the local department store in the perfume department. I figured that if Mrs. Struthers did this to Tom, she probably had other sexual encounters behind her husband's back.

When I told James about my thoughts, he concluded that if she was doing it, then he'd be doing it as well. Sex or the lack of it, can be a great motivator when you aren't getting any at home.

So James and I hatched the plan. James would tail Mr. Struthers, which was easy, he was a cop, and we knew his schedule. My job was to tail Mrs. Struthers. If there was anything going on, we had to have pictures.

The second night into our vigil, I scored. Mrs. Struthers left from work and drove to a seedy motel. As she got out of the car, a young man, maybe only a kid of sixteen, got out of the car parked beside hers and they went into the motel room together. While all this was going on, I had the camera with the telephoto lens snapping through a roll of 36 exposures. I was exhilarated as I took off for home.

As I approached a McDonald's, I spotted James' car. My curiosity was peaked and so I drove into the parking lot, but I parked at the other end of the lot, just in case he was doing his surveillance work and Mr. Struthers might also be in there.

As soon as I entered, he spotted me and waved me over to the table. He was smiling, so I knew my fears about Mr. Struthers being nearby were unfounded.

Quietly he spoke and broke the news that he'd had the same success with Mr. Struthers as I'd had that evening with Mrs. Struthers.

"Now all we have to do is get the photos developed and revenge will be ours," James said smiling.

"Not revenge," I countered, "James, I think of it as giving justice a nudge. We're doing this for Tom because he would never do it for himself, but he'd certainly do for someone else."

Little did I realize that justice could carve a mean cut. All HELL BROKE LOOSE a few days after we sent the photos to the Struthers - pictures of him with his girlfriend were sent to Mrs. Struthers' work and the pictures of her with her little boyfriend were sent to the precinct Mr. Struthers worked from - both marked personal and confidential.

It was all kept hush-hush and kept away from the press because he was a cop, but through a few subversive connections that I had at law school, I found out the truth.

According to the closed court testimony, Mrs. Struthers went home from work and confronted her husband threatening a divorce to his face with the pictures she had as evidence. He then showed her the pictures of her and her young stud at the motel. His anger peaked; he beat her severely, and in addition to two black eyes and other body contusions, cut a deep gouge in her cheek with a ring he'd been wearing. The neighbours called the police from all the shouting and screaming they heard coming from the Struthers' residence.

Mr. Struthers pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to ten years, which I knew meant that he would be out, with good behaviour, in four. Mrs. Struthers was granted her divorce, but I doubt that she'll have an easy time of enticing any young men into her bed with the way her face is now scarred.

When I told James the outcome of the whole thing, he said, "Andy, it was probably going to turn out this way anyhow, but we must never tell anyone about our part in this.... not even Tom."

I agreed as we watched in that vacant lot at the edge of the city, the negatives of those revealing pictures burn and disintegrate.

So that's the secret that James and I will take to our graves. Maybe there's some justice in that too.

That Christmas, James and I shared knowing smiles with our family as we watched Tom laugh while he and the twins kibitzed and rough housed together. Tom had gotten over the incident and James and I felt vindicated. The experience was worth it.

Tom wasn't the only one to spoil our twin nephews. I had my chances as well. Taking them to Newfoundland was a special deal for me. I knew that Tom would be delighted, but I didn't expect that Josh would be so mature with them. Tom's magic with Josh was a miracle in itself. I was truly happy for the four of them once I was sure that they were going back to Ontario together. Tom thrived on their presence and I was glad that I had a part in it.

This summer at camp was an experience I'll treasure forever. The twins interacting with the other twins - Josh, Mark, Michael, Jake, Sean - all supporting Marcus - Josh and Shelly together - Mark and Michael together - but most of all - the joy of watching Bryan and Tom interacting and being happy together.

Now, with that mock trial under my belt, I pulled up to the house, and it hit me - what a loss this mess in New York City could be for all of us, but especially for Bryan.

9/11 - Kevin Brown:

I was supposed to have lunch with Josh as I usually did, but he was no where to be found and after asking a few of the kids, I found out that he suddenly left school during gym class this morning.

This afternoon, after lunch hour, I found out about the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City in the auditorium at a special assembly that had been called for all the students to attend. Mr. Dent was really solemn when he spoke of it.

When I got home and watched the replays of the events, I was stunned. Both of the buildings collapsed! Was this going to be World War III?

Both Mom and I were stunned. Actually she wasn't able to watch any more of it - she'd been looking at it all day, so she went to prepare supper.

I phoned Josh, but there was no answer at his home phone. I tried his cell phone and he answered.

"Hey Josh, are you OK? You left school this morning. What happened?" I asked in a hurry.

"Mom came to the school this morning and took me home. Kevin, I can't say anything for sure," he replied, "but my Dad had an appointment at the World Trade Centre today. I'm over at Grandma's right now with the rest of the family. I keep trying his cell phone, but I keep getting the 'out of area' or 'the lines are in use' messages."

"Oh God Josh! That can't be...." I couldn't say anything else. I loved Tom - he'd become my fast friend and I adored him almost as much as my own dad. If it hadn't been for Tom, Josh and their family, I don't know how Mom or I would have gotten through those dark days of last Christmas. Tom and his family showed us how to have to fun again and how to adjust to my dad's changing moods after he went through his rehabilitation. Tom was a great instructor at Air Cadets and at summer camp this year - he'd become an inspiration for all of us - Mom, Dad, and all the kids at summer camp and the cadets.

"Well he phoned me last night," Josh said, "to tell me he had a good flight and that he missed me. I know his appointment was in Tower One and it didn't fall until after the second tower went down. He was supposed to have his meeting first thing this morning."

"So probably he's OK then?" I asked. "Tower Two came down first, so he had lots of warning."

"Yeah Kevin, maybe." He answered. "Sorry, I gotta go, I'll call ya later."

"OK, let me know if he calls," I said as he hung up.

I supposed I should have waited until Dad got home and we were sitting down to supper before I let the news out, but I didn't.

I went in the kitchen to help mom - well I set the table anyway.

"Mom," I began slowly and deliberately, "Tom.... Tom.... Davis.... was supposed to have a meeting at the World Trade Centre this morning.

9/11 - Ethel Brown:

I was upset enough from the day's events that I'd seen on the television. When Kevin told me that Tom had been a part of the chaos, I dropped what was in my hand, it was a wooden spoon, and I ran over to Kevin and pulled him into a hug. It was all I could take; I started crying.

Tom Davis and his family had become so important to our family. He and his friends had put my family back together again. I felt I owed them so much and now, how could I ever repay them.

"Hi, I'm home," I heard the tired voice of Grant from the front entry.

9/11 - Grant Brown:

When I arrived home that night I felt emotionally drained. I'd seen the images of the collapse of the World Trade Centre at the precinct, before Darren and I set out for our afternoon rounds. Although people were still going about their business as required, we never saw a happy face on the streets all afternoon. That in itself was unnerving.

As soon as I opened the door, Freddy was at my feet, tail wagging, so happy to greet me. Freddy and I had a special connection - it was as if he knew what I was thinking and could always sympathize with my moods.

With no response from my greeting, I headed for the kitchen. Ethel and Kevin were hugging each other, both with tears in their eyes. Ethel broke her embrace with Kevin, came right over to me, and hugged me.

"Tom Davis was at the World Trade Centre this morning," she said through her tearful eyes.

Kevin came closer and I pulled him into my embrace as well. The enormity of the situation in New York City had now hit our home so far away from the actual scene of the terror.

A multitude of thoughts ran through my mind about Tom and his family, but they were suddenly overshadowed when I thought of my partner Darren Higgins. I knew how close he was to that family and how this news might affect him. His former partner had been Tom's father.

"Dad," Kevin spoke softly, "there is some hope. Tom was in the North Tower and it came down after the South Tower, so maybe he had time to get away."

Ethel and I looked at Kevin at the same time. "Oh Kevin," I said, "I hope you're right."

Ethel's face sobered. "After the miracle he performed for us, God deserves to give him a miracle too."

"That's for sure," I said. "I have to call Darren. That family is just as special to him as they are to us."

9/11 - Darren Higgins:

When my wife Myrtle died at the age of thirty, I felt my world had ended. It was Richard Davis, my partner on the force that magically saw me through the worst part of my sadness. Magically, yes, because he hadn't endure my sadness - he still had his family intact, but there was something like a sixth sense deep inside him that made him know what to say and when to say it. His words of comfort and his look of understanding when he spoke gave me the spiritual strength I so desperately needed at that time. They say the first year of losing a loved one is the worst. Anniversary, Christmas, birthdays, New Years celebrations becomes a different and sad type of 'first' after the death of a loved one. They are no longer there to share them with you. You can only share the happy memories with yourself and the loneliness etches itself deeper into your psyche. It was after those type of celebrations that I looked forward to going back to work, so that I could listen to the happiness that Richard shared with his family.

Unfortunately, Myrtle and I had no children and the burden of our time together and her loss was only with me.

Then came the night of that take-down when Richard was fatally shot. I'd lost the partner that I'd pledged to always protect at a time like that. That night played over and over in my mind many times since, but the psychiatrists at the force allowed me, showed me, taught me how to deal with it.

All of that came rushing through from the back of my mind when Tom called me last Christmas about a young friend, Kevin Brown, who was sure there was a code blue of silence. No doubt about it we do have a code to uphold in the protection of one another's lives when the action on the street gets hot and heavy, but we also have a moral obligation to uphold the integrity of the law, including how it applies to ourselves. At the short time I had to talk with Kevin and his mom, I hope I made my point clear. It was later in the year that they made Grant Brown my partner and we were put on the kiddy patrol.

When I met Tom Davis at that botched bank heist almost two years ago, I realized the greater man that my former partner had been. Here was his son who had performed an act of courage yet unknown to the average citizen. He certainly deserved the Star of Courage as did Josh and Mark, but Tom, I was so proud to be able to say that he was a person I knew as a good friend. For sure, he was his father's son.

Keeping tabs on that asshole Bob McNaulty was one of the pleasures of my job. I was pretty sure that Susan Chambers would be safe from him while he was in the pokey, but I still had a contingent looking over her.

It was shortly after I heard of that little incident at the supermarket with Mr. Callahan, that I got the call from Bryan, his son. When he explained he was Tom's partner and Mark's brother, I was pleased. I knew there was no love lost between Bryan and his father, but I also learned that Bryan was a man of integrity that I could trust. I understood his sense of responsibility for the man, in that he couldn't be there to see that the idiot did anyone any harm. After he died in that bar brawl, it was an easy piece of work to transfer the notification of burial to the city's welfare department. Easy favour - easy done.

The hardest call I had to make was to Tom when McNaulty had been let out of jail and was headed for Toronto. I was pissed off and angry. I felt that I'd let Tom down, but really it was the courts that had failed all of us.

Sometimes, it's hard to keep a professional level of decorum when you see close friends in trouble. I wanted to break down when I saw Tom and Susan in such pain. Considering the circumstances, Josh was a rock. Their dog, he's almost as much a miracle worker as Tom and the rest of that family. Arranging for that little medal ceremony at the hospital for Brutus was one of the fun things I enjoyed about my job. Going home afterwards, I thought of Susan and the trouble she'd gone through with McNaulty. She didn't deserve shit like that and I wanted to do what ever I could to see that it didn't happen again.

Getting Grant Brown for a partner was a blessing. Although we came from different circumstances, our understanding of each other was very close. We'd both been through the psychiatric offices - he for killing a man in the line of duty, and me for not being at the right time and place when a perpetrator killed my former partner, Richard Davis. And of course, we both knew Tom Davis and his family.

When Grant phoned me after our shift on that dreadful day, I was stunned with the news. We'd discussed the enormity of the attack on New York City and our thoughts were of all the police, servicemen, and firefighters than probably lost their lives in the line of duty. It had touched us in a real way - they were our fellow civil servants and we always honour our own.

Now, Tom Davis, the dearest son of my former partner, is missing in action. Would all my training and experience hold me up through this tragedy?

9/11 - Michael Burton:

The first time I met Mark Callahan at Air Cadets, I was attracted to him. He was handsome in a cute sort of way. He has a great build and he loves to run every morning. There was something wholesome about his personality - maybe it was his blonde hair that made him look so innocent and fun loving. What ever it was, I really liked him, but in those early stages of our friendship, I couldn't admit to him that I was gay. I was lucky - my parents understood.

Even though I was only fourteen, I knew what I wanted to be. After I joined the air cadets, I realized I wanted to work in the Canadian Air Force and I wanted to be a pilot - a fighter pilot if I could, but I would also be honoured if all I did was fly the Prime Minister around the world. Mark was determined though - he wasn't going to settle for anything less than being a fighter pilot. He said it came to him when he experienced a live flight with Tom at Air Combat Canada. It sounded absolutely amazing when he explained the experience. His enthusiasm for wanting to be a fighter pilot renewed my desire to become one too - that and I knew I always wanted Mark to be a close friend.

He reacted to my enthusiasm and I found out there was so many things we enjoyed that were on the same playing field. Music, sports, subjects at school, clothes - so many things we agreed on.

It wasn't until I spent the weekend at his house for the first time, that he told me his secret. His brother, his guardian, was gay. Then he told me the story of how he ended up in Calgary with his brother - and that he too was gay.

I had tears of relief in my eyes after hearing his history. I took his hand in mine and told him that I was gay as well. What we shared that weekend, which was just some simple kissing, has become a slow, honest, trusting and understanding love - I can't imagine any other person being able to give the emotional feeling I have for Mark.

I missed him at Christmas. When he phoned I was dumbstruck - I didn't think he cared that much about me. I wanted to do it in person, but there on the phone, I thought if he rejected me, it would be easier to take. I told him I loved him.

"You mean, like the forever kind of love?" He asked.

"Yeah Mark," I answered, "the kind of love that I don't ever want to end."

It took him a moment to answer. "No one has ever told me that before Michael. I love you too, but let's work on the forever part when I get home."

"You mean it?" I asked.

"Of course I mean it, but we have to talk about our future when I get home. I just wish you were here with this family, you'd know what I mean."

"I'd like to meet them," I replied.

"One day I want you to. We'll talk when I get home. I do love you Michael," he said quietly. "I have a table to set, so I have to go."

"I'll see you when you get home then. Merry Christmas Mark."

"Merry Christmas Michael." And then we hung up.

I knew when their flight was landing and I figured out how long it would take them to drive home. I was waiting there on the front step when they arrived. He jumped out of the car as I stood up and ran to me and pulled me into the tightest embrace I'd ever felt.

"I love you!" he shouted into my shoulder.

Bryan laughed. "All right you love birds. Come on.... we've got to get the car unloaded and go get Daisy."

When Tom presented us with our wings, I was so very proud to be Mark's boyfriend. I was so impressed with Tom and Josh. They truly were the most wholesome people I'd ever met.

This last summer was awesome. It felt so good to be with Mark and interact with all the campers together. Our experiences with Marcus and the two sets of twins gave us a lift that I'd never felt before. Although it was only six weeks, I realized the importance of what a dad really was. Every night I got a special hug from Bryan and a short talk about how my day was. My dad, although always good to me, never had that closeness. My dad was kinda reserved when it came to giving hugs, although he was always proud of me, especially when I got my wings.

To be nominated to go on this trip to the Canadian Forces Base in Cold Lake Alberta was really a thrill for Mark and me. We were actually going to see what it would be like to be a fighter pilot. We wouldn't get to fly in a fighter, but we'd get a good insight into how the NORAD Operation Centre worked.

Our flight to Alberta in the Canadian Forces jet was great. That was when Mark had a chance to talk to me about what was going on with his family back in Toronto. He mentioned in passing that Tom was going to the New York Trade Center to get some backing for his multi-media computer program, eMemories, but quickly went on to tell me he was more enthused about the idea of Josh and Tom moving out to Calgary to live with him and Bryan within two years. I was thrilled with that news - Tom and Josh were really special to me too - this summer at Camp Tonawonka had been wonderful with them.

Although Josh was just about my age, he and Tom were like the best big brothers a guy could ever have - and that's the way I loved them and Bryan too.

Little did I know that was going to change while we were at the Canadian Forces Base in Cold Lake.

My God Tom, please be all right.

9/11 - Mark Callahan

I remember looking at the clock at the CFB Cold Lake Alberta. It read 8:40 AM Mountain Daylight Time.

The Operation Center was astounding! The number of computers and personnel made it look like something from a sci-fi movie.

"I'd love to have screens like that on my home computer," I whispered to Michael. Together with eighteen other kids, we were standing in the back of the Western Region NORAD Operations Center. Our tour guide, a young lieutenant had explained to us that this operations center is responsible for coordinating the air defenses of the northwestern sector of North America including all of Canada from Manitoba west, Alaska and the northwestern United States. WOW!

Things had been pretty quiet when suddenly an alarm began to ring.

"What's going on Lieutenant Jones?" Michael asked.

Lieutenant Jones had a worried look on his face. "I'm not sure. It's probably a drill or something."

A moment later, a number of Canadian and American Air Force personnel came running into the operations center and the PA system came to life.

"Attention all personnel, we have received word from Cheyenne HQ that we are now on a Defcon 3 alert. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill. All personnel report to your duty stations. Alert pilots to the flight lines."

All of us just stood there in stunned silence as the world seemed to erupt around us. I wondered if this was just a show for us - however real they may have been portraying it. I started to get butterflies in my stomach at the thought.

"MCC what is the status?" the ranking officer, a Colonel asked the Major who had been running the operations center just a moment before.

"Sir we have what appears to be an ongoing terrorist attack against the United States using hijacked aircraft. Two aircraft have hit the and destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, a third aircraft has hit the pentagon and NORAD is presently tracking as many as six additional aircraft."

"Roger that. I want Cold Lake and Elmendorf at battle stations," the Colonel replied.

The major picked up a microphone and began to broadcast a message to all personnel at Cold Lake and to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.

"Attention all personnel, Cold Lake and Elmendorf to battle stations. This is not a drill. Repeat Cold Lake and Elmendorf to battle stations. This is not a drill." I got the feeling that this was no longer a show just for us.

"What did he mean that they destroyed the World Trade Center?" I asked in a very worried tone.

"I'm not sure, but we need to get you kids out of here. There's a television in the lounge. Wait here for a moment while I see if it's available," Lieutenant Jones replied.

"MCC, Bogey inbound west coast!" a young officer in front of a radar station shouted. "We have a Korean Airlines flight squawking 7500 inbound to Vancouver."

"How far out?" The Major asked.

"He's over the pacific about 700 miles out and not responding to communications attempts."

"MCC, I want combat air patrols over Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle and Anchorage right now," The Colonel ordered.

"Roger that Colonel. Scrambling Elemendorf and Cold Lake," the Major replied. Everything was happening so quickly and I was still trying to digest the idea that it was real, but worse, that it was happening in New York City. It was in my head, 'MY GOD! TOM!'

"Ok boys, follow me," Lieutenant Jones directed us. Just as we were leaving the operations center, the scramble alarm began to ring and the PA system came to life again.

"Alert pilots, this is an active air defense scramble.... man your fighters. All alert pilots, man your fighters and take off immediately. This is not a drill. Repeat this is an active air defense scramble. This is not a drill." A feeling of fright was building up inside me. I was getting scared.

We barely arrived in the pilots lounge and gathered around the TV when the room shook with the roar of jet engines as flight after flight of fully armed CF-18 fighters took to the air to do their job protecting western Canada's cities.

As soon as I saw the footage of the collapsing towers, thoughts of Tom just filled my head. I felt sick and light headed and almost fell over. I lunged for the trash can and puked up my breakfast. I felt Michael grab me. It's a good thing he did - I was sobbing and gagging and my head was aching.

All the time this was going on and while I sat there trying to recover, my only thought was that one of my Dads was experiencing a life-threatening ordeal - hopefully not worse. I became numb as I stared at the TV. How could I do something about this?

Lieutenant Jones came over to me. "Are you going to be all right Callahan?"

"Yes sir," I replied as I started to tear up again. "My Dad, Tom Davis was in Tower One this morning." I looked at the floor and started sobbing. Michael held his arm around me, but I couldn't stop.

"I know his Dad Lieutenant Jones," Michael said. "Is there any chance of getting us back to Calgary, so I can get Mark to his brother."

"I'll look into that.... I think we have to get all of you guys back home.... this is not the time for a sightseeing tour around here. This base is in a secured lock-down and from what I've heard all domestic flights have been cancelled. I hope it doesn't apply to our military personnel flights. If you're going to be OK Callahan, I'll take this away," he said holding the trash can.

"Yeah, I'll be OK now," I answered.

"OK, gentlemen, for anyone who needs to use the washroom, you go out into the corridor and it's the first door on the right. DO NOT go anywhere else in the building." Lieutenant Jones announced, "I'll be right back and let you know what our status is. For the time being, no cell phone use is permitted." He left the room carrying the trash can.

Until he said that, I hadn't thought of calling Bryan, but I would have for sure, but now I couldn't. None of us could phone our parents. Now I wanted to call Josh and everyone back in Toronto, but I couldn't. I sat there with Michael beside me, running my hand through my hair.

"God I wish there was something we could be doing." I said.

"We can hope Mark," Michael said. "You said that Tom was going to Tower One and that one fell a while after Tower Two.... he had a warning and maybe he was able to get out before Tower One came down."

"He's been through so much and always survived, but this...." I couldn't finish the sadness of my thought. There was nothing funny I could think about this. But Michael was right, I could hope for the man who saved my life.

I felt like a baby - the other guys had held themselves together. What kind of military man would I be if I blew my biscuits at just the thought of death and destruction? The other guys must think I'm a hell of a whimp.

One of the cadets came over to us. "Your Dad huh?" he asked.

I just nodded my head, "The one who gave us our wings."

"I'd be screamin' blue bloody murder to get out of here if it had been anyone in my family," he said. "If he's a good military man, I'll bet he's all right. Stay cool man, we're all routin' for ya."

In spite of the encouragement, I was still numb when Lieutenant Jones came back in the room at 11:10.

"OK gentlemen," he began. "It appears that we have all domestic flights on the ground. Going through all the protocol, we've decided to get you fellows back to Calgary on a transport at 1500 hours, not quite the cushy comfort you had coming here, but it will get you closer to home. We'll be serving you a box lunch in here in about an hour. Just be patient. Things are pretty chaotic. Callahan...." he said quietly, touching my shoulder, "come with me please."

I followed him to a small office. He closed the door and handed me the receiver from his telephone. "Make it quick please," he said as he sat in the chair.

I looked at the receiver and put it to my ear. "Hello."

"Mark, I have to make this quick. How are you holding up?" I listened to Bryan's voice and almost wanted to tear up again.

"I'm Ok, how about you?"

"I'll be OK. I'm going to pick you up at the airport and we're going to take a train right away to Toronto tonight. I spoke to Michael's folks and they want him to stay with them during this crisis. I can't blame them. I spoke to Josh.... neither he nor I can get an answer to any calls to Tom's cell phone. It's going to take us a couple of days to get to T.O., but that's the only choice we have to be with the family.... and that's where we have to be. OK?"

"Yeah, I'm glad we're going. Bryan, can you pack a bag for me?" I don't know why I thought of that.

"Consider it done Mark. I love you."

"I love you too Bryan." The line went dead - not even a dial tone. I held the receiver away from ear and looked at it a bit bewildered.

"Sorry about that Callahan," Lieutenant Jones said as he took the receiver from me and placed it back on the phone, "We have quite a time restriction on the base with in-coming and out-going calls because of the Defon 3 alert. I want you to know that you shouldn't feel ashamed of your little upset in the conference room. A tragedy like this can do it to anyone.... you wouldn't be human if you didn't have that reaction. In time, it won't affect you in the same way. I was a useless piece of crap the first time I had to face death head on when a family member died. It doesn't get easier when it happens now, but you'll learn like I have, that's the reaction the enemy wants us to have. Believe me, it IS an enemy that caused your reaction and this devastation. Once you realize that, you'll have a different reaction in the future. Now, let's get back to the others."

"Thanks Lieutenant, I feel better now that I could talk with my brother. Tom Davis.... he saved my life.... he was my dad.... 'til he could arrange for my brother to be my guardian. He.... still is my dad.... both of them are." I said.

"I figured it would help to speak to your brother. He's been calling here for some time this morning; fortunately he was patient with the security situation when we had to put him on hold for 45 minutes." The lieutenant said as we entered the conference room.

I filled Michael in on what was going to happen and both of us were a bit dejected that his folks wouldn't let him come to Toronto with Bryan and me.

When I got off the plane after a miserable uncomfortable flight, there was a Canadian Forces bus there to pick up all the kids, but Bryan was standing beside it waiting for me. We hugged and we cried. We'd never had to face this kind of tragedy before. It just wasn't the same even when my mom died.

9/11 - Bryan Callahan:

I knew before I met Tom that I liked him - his family values had endeared me to him right after our first phone call. Then when I finally met him for the first time in the Rockies, I knew we were going to be great friends. The more we talked, the more I came to admire him. Falling in love with him was a forgone conclusion. I was on cloud nine when he told me that he was feeling the same way. I don't think I'd have been so forward with him if it hadn't been for Josh and Mark encouraging us. Together, I knew that we really loved our boys and that we wanted to do everything we could to see that they had a proper upbringing.

This summer was the culmination of many things that Tom and I shared. Ever since I've known him, one day just kept getting happier than the last. Yes, every crisis he met has scared me, but I was always able to rejoice knowing that he was going to come out of it OK - to be there - to share the joy of victory that always seemed to initiate with him. Now I feel so lost.

Somehow, Josh has remained optimistic throughout this whole ordeal. I'm not sure if his optimism is well founded or just some idealistic teenage thoughts of how he wants things to be. I do hope that his thoughts are well founded, because I think his optimism is the only thing that keeps me from falling apart.

I'm sitting here on this train, my arm constantly around my brother's shoulder, thinking of no one else but Tom. I closed my eyes trying to sleep, but it isn't sound or deep, just wishing that Tom would appear before me or phone so I could hear his voice again.

Regardless of the outcome, I will definitely stay the course with Mark and Josh - they will really need a dad's influence to deal with this tragedy and hopefully use its lessons in a constructive way for their future in this world. I just hope I can manage the transition alone without my life mate - my soul mate.

I wished that he was beside me right now so I could tell him that I was still in love with him.

9/11 - Shelly Mason:

I emailed Josh as soon as I got home from school, but I didn't get an answer. I wanted to talk to him and get his thoughts on the terrible news that I saw on TV of the World Trade Centre. Mom said it would be all right if I phoned him.

I phoned his home, but there was no answer. I'd just hung up when our phone rang. I answered it. It was Josh. I was suddenly relieved.

"I just phoned you, but no one answered Josh. Where are you?" I asked.

"I'm at Grandma's house. We're kinda worried. Dad was at the World Trade Centre this morning to start marketing his eMemories program."

I was speechless as I remembered the horror of the pictures of the scene I'd seen on TV that day.

"Shelly.... you there?" he asked.

I snapped out of it. "Yes Josh I'm here.... it's just a shock. Has he phoned or anything?"

"Not yet.... I've tried to phone him, but the lines are all tied up to the area. His meeting was in Tower One."

"Josh don't worry then," I tried to assure him. "Tower One was the last one to fall, so he had plenty of time to get out of there before it came down."

"I know but-"

"No buts Josh," I interrupted him, "he's your dad, and I know he wouldn't take a chance on leaving us like that. I know how much he loves you and you love him. I know he's doing everything possible to get back to you and the family. As much as anyone in this world, he was the one that brought us together, so it's important for us to think positive."

"You know, you're right Shelly," he finally said, "he wouldn't leave me like this and if anything had killed him, I'd know it.... I think I'd know it immediately in my heart."

"That's right Josh," I agreed, "you would. I think I would too because he's so close to both of us."

"I love you Shelly," he said. His voice had a tone of relief and almost a smile to it.

"I love you too Josh and I love Tom as well. If we keep the positive thoughts going, I know you'll hear from him as soon as he can. Believe me; I know what your positive thoughts did for me. Pass those positive thoughts onto the family and I'll bet they'll feel better."

"I think they will. Goodnight my love." Josh said.

"All my love Josh," I said as I hung up the phone.

I know in my heart that Tom is OK. He's such a smart guy and I think I owe a lot to him for my recuperation and the way he loves Josh.

I will be forever grateful for all the things Tom's done for me - bringing Josh to my home in Burnaby when they were traveling around Canada and then again he brought Josh and me together for the summer - a summer that will always be a part of my best memories.

Tom, I know in my heart you're OK.

9/11 - Josh Chambers:

Mom and I just pulled up to Grandma's at the same time as Anne and the twins arrived. Mom, Anne, the twins and I suppose me too, must have looked a terrible sight when we stood there looking up at Grandma's house. There were no smiles. The twins only said 'hi' when they hugged me on the driveway. It had never been like this before. Anne handed me little Timothy and Mom and the twins grabbed a bag each of baby things.

Anne didn't hesitate to just walk in without knocking. Grandma was sitting in her favourite chair - her smile wasn't her greatest as she stood up and hugged everyone individually. I guess we were all still kinda numb. Grandma ooh'd and ahh'd at Timothy as she took him out of my arms. I looked at the TV. These were the first videos I'd seen of the attack.

I sat on the floor and beckoned the twins to sit next to me. I looked at Anne and she shook her head rapidly. Obviously, she wanted to shelter Richard and Matthew from the terrible sight before us.

"Anne," I began, "We have to know. Can you imagine... there are kids born in this world, like in the Middle East... that live with this kind of terror hour by hour throughout their lives. We're lucky, we don't feel it, but we do get to see pictures of it on television. This time, it's my Dad that's at the front lines. We can't protect ourselves from the reality and hide in a corner like it never happened."

Anne looked so sad as she gently nodded her head.

I held them close to me, each of us with tears of anguish, watching for the first time what one distressed faction could do to other human beings and themselves.

Anne, Mom, and Grandma moving Timmy from one set of arms to another, sat at the dining room table mumbling things between themselves. Then I realized that I had to be strong for the twins.

"Listen guys," I said as I wiped their eyes, "this stuff in the United States is pretty big and it's bigger for us because Tommy's involved and we love him. Ya know, we don't have to be scared though, we're strong. We've climbed mountains together been to Newfoundland together, swam and fished the lakes together, we're invincible and so is Tommy because he did all those things with us. Ya think we can be strong for Grandma and let her know that everything's going to be all right."

Right away they got up and ran over to Grandma and gave her a hug. I knew the things I said to them was to make them feel better, but I didn't know whether or not I believed them myself.

We'd been watching the pictures from the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania when the twins leaned forward and stared at each other. Suddenly they stood up and ran to the front door and opened it.

"Daddy!" they screamed together as James stepped into the foyer with the twins wrapped closely around him.

James went around the room giving a hugs and kisses to everyone, before he settled on the couch with the twins on each side of him. Quietly we continued to watch the TV. We saw tons of people in the reruns running and walking away from the debris cloud as it came rushing through the streets. We saw them walking across the bridges. I watched looking as quickly as I could, trying, hoping to see anyone that looked like Dad, but there was no one even vaguely close. About three that afternoon, Anne took Timmy with his bassinette and laid him down in Grandma's bedroom. The twins fell asleep nestled against James. We picked them up and took them to a bedroom down the hall. It was the first time I'd been that far into this house.

As we laid the twins on the bed for a nap, James whispered, "This used to be Tom's room."

I looked around the room slowly from where I stood, I could see nothing that would remind me of Dad, the colour, the pictures on the walls, the dresser - it was a part of Dad's life once, but it didn't bring him any closer to me.

I went back to my vigil at the TV. Still nothing. The attack and its aftermath with the buildings collapsing happened in about an hour and the news media were having a field day with it. As soon as the picture on one channel would switch to a scene at the Pentagon, I'd switch to another channel that had a video of New York showing. Still nothing.

James pulled me to him on the couch and held me. He wasn't Dad, but as I leaned into him, I remembered all the good times I'd had with Dad when he would do the same thing.

I jerked awake when I heard the front door open. It was 4:30 and Andy was home at last. He gave everyone a hug before he went to his room and changed his clothes. I was kinda numb and frantic at the same time. How much had I missed on the TV? Had they showed some new footage with my Dad in it? I wanted to ask James, but I thought he would have told me if such a thing had happened.

Andy came back into the living room carrying Matthew in one arm and holding onto Richard's hand with the other. Quickly the twins crawled up on the couch and snuggled into James and me.

Mom and Anne got together and ordered in. We all ate and picked at the Chinese and Kentucky Fried chicken, but none of us had our heart into it or much of an appetite either. Anne was kept busy feeding Timmy his various jarred foods.

About an hour after Andy arrived home, my cell phone rang.

"Hi Josh," he said, "it's Bryan. Mark and I are just hopping on a train to Toronto. We'll be there in two days. How...."

Suddenly I lost it. Tears just started pouring down my face and I started sobbing. Suddenly I remembered all the times I saw the happy faces of Bryan and my dad together - the Rockies, West Edmonton Mall, the fun times in Calgary together, Christmas together, our trip to Europe together, Camp Tonawonka together. My thoughts of how it must be hurting Bryan and Mark just came flooding through and I couldn't touch them for reassurance. I couldn't speak through the sobs as Andy took the phone from my hand. I ran out of the living room, out the back door, into the garden, and flopped on the grass. The happy smile of my dad filled my head and now I started to realize that I might never see it again. He may never hug me again or tousle my hair. He'd called me Josh, Joshy, kiddo - and he'd called me Son - Oh God, it hurts - it hurts so bad. I wanted to be there with him. I wanted to be there with him to help save his life. Now, it was too late - the disaster had struck. "What will I do without him?" I sobbed out loud.

I felt an arm around me and I hoped it was Dad. I looked up - it was Andy. He pulled my head to his chest and I started bawling and he held me to him rubbing my back.

"Let it out Josh," he said, "just let it out." I didn't know there was such hurt. I'd never felt this before even when my own father died. Nothing could hurt like this. I don't know how long we sat there before my crying jags ended and looked up at Andy. He'd had a number of tears of his own.

"Josh, you can't be a solid brick at a time like this." He said. "We don't know for sure and we probably won't know for sure what's happened to Tom for some time to come."

"Yeah," I agreed, "but it hurts not knowing. It hurts when I think of how much happiness he brought us."

"It hurts for all of us, but it's bound to hurt more for you because of what you meant to each other. Know this though Josh, you were the one who made him happiest. Another thing I know is that Bryan and Mark are going to be here in about 36 hours and we'll have to pick them up at Union Station." Andy paused for a moment. "I think that's when we'll have to be the strongest."

"That's what sent me over the edge.... the thoughts of how happy Dad and Bryan were together.... how much they truly loved each other. Now, Bryan's not just my other Dad...." I didn't want to finish that thought.

"I know," he reassured me, "but in the meantime, you have two uncles that love you just as much.... James and me. You have a whole family in there that love you. Have you phoned Shelly yet?"

"No," I answered, now realizing that she hadn't been in my thoughts since Mom showed up at the school. "I'd better do that right now."

"First things first Josh.... let's hit the washroom and clean up our bleary faces.... maybe use some eye drops to clear up your eyes."

"Yours too," I said with a weak smile, "and you better change your shirt. I'm afraid I got a lot of snot all over this one."

As we stood up, Andy said with a smile, "Battle wounds Josh, just battle wounds.... the war isn't lost yet."

After we cleaned up, Andy and I headed back to the living room. I went into the kitchen and called Shelly.

She was so reassuring and she made me realize how foolish I'd been thinking. She was right - if something terrible had happened - it hurts to say 'death' - I'd know it. With all the grief spent, my mind now clear, I realized I'D KNOW IT! Dad would never leave me like this - like everyone in this house was thinking. They were thinking and talking like 'he was' instead of 'HE IS'.

I had to phone Bryan back and apologize.

""Bryan, I'm so sorry I lost it," I began, "It's just when I heard your voice a whole bunch of happy memories came back and I couldn't handle it."

"It's OK Josh," he replied, "We've been doing a lot of that too. I don't know how long this signal is going to last.... we're out in the middle of the prairies somewhere. We should be into Toronto on Thursday morning at 9:00 AM."

"Good," I replied, "I'll be there. I love you."

"Love you too Josh. Here's your bro."

"Hi Josh," I could hear the tears in Mark's voice. "You OK?" He asked.

"Better now that I've spoken to Shelly and you and Bryan." I said as I heard Mark take in a sniffled breath.

"Me too, now that I'm talking to you." He sniffled again. "Love you bro,"

"Love you too Mark. Hang in there man."

"Hey Josh," it was Bryan again. "Hang tight son. We'll get through this together."

"Bryan," I said, "Don't worry. Dad's OK or he would've.... well I'd know.... did he tell you about the dreams we had about his grand uncle?"

"No Josh he didn't."

"Well he should have, then you'd know that what I'm feeling is true." I said.

"I h...p you r...t." The line went into a flurry of static and the dial tone came back. I took a deep sigh and closed my phone.

I tried Dad's phone again, but there still wasn't a connection.

I went into the living room and looked at all the glum faces staring at me. I smiled.

"He is," I began. "HE IS!" I exclaimed. "He IS the best Dad I've ever had.... it's not.... 'He WAS the best Dad I ever had."

They all continued to stare at me - a few eyebrows raised. "I know it in my heart.... he is."

"Josh," my Mom said quietly, "we have to get home and let Brutus outside before he bursts."

I nodded my head, but said nothing more until Mom and I reached the front door. I turned and looked back at each set of eyes. "Remember what I said."

The only thing Mom said on the way home was, "I hope you're right Josh."

I followed Brutus around the yard. He knew I wasn't a happy camper this evening, so he didn't even attempt to tease me with one of his toys. After I bagged his doo-doo and put it in the garbage can, I sat down on the stoop. He came over, sat next to me, let out a little whimper, and licked my face, just once. I knew he felt the morose feeling in me.

I put my arm around him and held him close, enjoying the essence of his body. "It's going to be OK Brutus.... it's just gonna take Dad a little longer to get home than we expected."

That night I lay on my bed and felt so alone and helpless. Why did this have to happen to my Dad?

The next morning I heard Mom on the phone as I went into the bathroom. "Yes," she said, "We'll be over and we'll be bringing breakfast with us."

Right after I'd had my pee, I tried Dad's cell phone again - no luck. 'Oh God Dad,' I thought. 'What's happened?'

Mom and I went over to Grandma's again, stopping in at McDonald's to get a four breakfasts. This time we took Brutus. Maybe if the twins were there this afternoon like Mom said, Brutus might work some magic and make them laugh again. It just wasn't right for kids their age to be so sad or go so long without laughing.

The four of us had breakfast - there wasn't anything ever said about cooking meals at a time like this. That was easy to understand. However, the coffee pot and tea pot were always being refilled.

Anne, James, Timmy, and the twins came in around noon with a pile of food. I think Anne must have been up half the night making the sandwiches, at least that's what Mom said. We all sat at the dining room table without saying much trying to enjoy the layered salad that Anne brought. We spent the afternoon nibbling away at the sandwiches, keeping the twins occupied playing with Brutus.

Mom had our house phone calls transferred to her cell, James had their house phone calls transferred to his cell, Anne had her cell phone and Andy and I had ours. At first every time a phone would ring, we'd all jump. Afterwards, we'd announce, it's mine because we all had different rings. Most calls were to inquire if there was any news yet and encouragement to hang in there or that they had us in their prayers.

Grant and Darren came over for a little while, but they couldn't seem to offer any assistance until the department issued an edict that they could travel to New York City and help with the rescue operations. I thought that if this 'no news' bit went on for much longer, that's something that I'd want to do, but I wanted to wait for Bryan and Mark to be with me.

Later that afternoon, the sadness of what could be was creeping into my head again. I couldn't stop it.

We ordered in pizza that night for supper, but my enthusiasm for it just wasn't there. From the amount that was put in the fridge, I guessed the same was true for everyone. We just didn't have an appetite.

That night, when I couldn't get to sleep, I went down to the basement about midnight or so. I looked around, first at the picture that we'd given dad for Christmas and I started crying again. The happiness we had at Christmas when we gave it to him and how much he cherished it overwhelmed me. I climbed into my Dad's bed and hugged his pillow wishing that it was him I was hanging on to. I could smell him, but I couldn't feel him.

Thursday morning, while Andy and I were just heading for the platform that Bryan and Mark's train was to arrive on, I wondered if I was going to be able to hold it together when I finally saw them. We usually had a happy greeting for each other when they arrived in Toronto, and a few tears when we were parting at the airport, but this time, they were coming with all their anguish to share with all of us.

We were about half way across the Great Hall at Union Station when my phone buzzed. The caller I.D. was blank - nothing - not even 'Out of Area'. I answered it.

My ass hit the wooden bench as I flopped down with my eyes closed. I listened to the voice. I couldn't believe the reality of the words.

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