Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (scribe1971@hotmail.com)

Chapter 57 - Our future

Toronto - Mount Pleasant Cemetery - Josh Chambers

"You sure you know where you're going Josh?" Bryan asked as he parked the car and we all got out. Mark and I were dressed in our full Air Cadet dress uniform with my medals on my chest including my Order of Canada medal. I had a bunch of flowers in my hands. I walked down the row of headstones until I found the one that I was looking for. The name on the headstone was "Richard Matthew Davis, Sergeant, Metropolitan Toronto Police. 1951 - 1992." Grandma had told me where the grave was located.

I carefully placed the flowers against the headstone and then stepped back and fired off a smart salute. Mark stood at attention next to me and joined my salute. Bryan stood behind us both and placed a hand on each of our shoulders.

I thought for a moment about what I wanted to say before I spoke. "Grandpa, I wanted to come here today to thank you. I wanted to thank you for saving Tom's life. Tom loves us as much as you loved him. He's the greatest Dad in the world and I know that he learned it from you. Tom is like you. He's a hero and he puts others before himself even when it puts himself in danger. I get scared when he does that because I can't bear the thought of being without him, but it's also part of what makes him the man that he is and the Dad that he is. You were looking out for him somehow the other day and you saved his life. Tom talks about you a lot, but I'd never been here to meet you before. I kinda thought I should meet you now. Thank you for saving Tom."

"Thank you for giving us our Dad back," Mark added with a bit of a tremble in his voice. "Your son means more to me than just about anyone else in the world. All of my family does, but Tom is special to me. He saved my life and he gave me the life and the family that I always wanted. I don't know where I'd be without him."

All three of us reached out and touched the marble headstone and then saluted one more time before we got back into the car and drove to the airport to welcome Dad back to Canada.

New York City - Tom Davis

As we taxied, my fellow traveller introduced himself as Gerald Stark, Mr. Goldman's chief legal counsel and senior business advisor.

"Mr. Goldman wanted me to meet with you and discuss a proposal that he has for you," he began. "I believe this is yours." He said as he handed me the business plan that I had discarded in the hospital trash can. "Mr. Drabinski looked at it and thought enough about it, that he asked Mr. Goldman to consider it's potential. Mr. Goldman was very impressed by it's content and it's potential for the future, hence I am here."

For the next two-and-a-half hours, waiting for our turn on the JFK runway, the flight itself and a short delay as we circle a traffic pattern east of Toronto, and then our final approach to Toronto, Gerald spoke of the proposal. With each sentence, I had visions of each member of my extended family whizzing through my mind, but I continued to concentrate on his words, nodding as I continued to agree to the proposal.

By the time the small jet landed in Toronto, my life and the lives of all of my loved ones had been changed forever.

Feeling elated and extremely overwhelmed, I signed the last of the sizeable stack of documents just as the pilot turned on the seatbelt sign. My right hand was almost as sore as my broken left arm from the writer's cramp.

Gerald smiled and stuck the last of the papers back into his briefcase and then shook my hand. "I'm glad to be a part of this Tom. Mr. Goldman has a knack for seeing a great business opportunity and he thinks the world of you."

"I am truly speechless," I replied feeling as if I had been hit on the head with a very large and surprisingly soft hammer.

One of the pilots came out and lowered the doors and stairs and welcomed a Canadian Customs agent into the plane. It was a simple matter of answering a few perfunctory questions, before he nodded.

After shaking hands with Gerald and the pilots, I exited the small aircraft and stepped back onto Canadian soil for the first time in days. I slung my garment bag over my shoulder and carrying my small suitcase, headed towards the private terminal with a million thoughts going through my mind of what the future would bring. By the time the customs agent directed me to the area where I could meet those who had come to pick me up and take me home, I had a plan just about formulated.

I barely got halfway there when the door burst open and Josh and Mark, both in full cadet uniform, came charging out towards me. I set my bag down just as the two of them leapt into my arms. Josh clung to my right side and Mark, careful of my broken arm clung to my left.

"I missed you boys so much," I said as I gently kissed each of them on the temple.

"We missed you too," Mark replied.

"I knew you were going to make it home to us," Josh said. "I just knew it."

"We have a lot to talk about guys. A lot of things are going to be different in our lives now. Different in a good way," I said.

Josh finally looked up at me and smiled. "You have no idea how much I've needed a hug like this for the past few days."

"Me too kiddo," I replied as I glanced over his shoulder and saw Bryan making his way out of the terminal with the twins close behind him.

Pretty soon, I was completely surrounded by a mass of my loved ones.

"I've never been so glad to see you again as I am now," Bryan said as he kissed me. His embrace was as strong as I remembered and longed for while we were trapped in that café.

With Josh under one arm, Mark under the other, Richard perched on my shoulder, Bryan with Matthew perched on his shoulder, next to me, I made my way into the terminal where the rest of our clan, except for the Masons from BC and the Burtons from Alberta, were there to greet us. Along with them was the cadet corps drill team formed up like an honour guard under the command of Kevin Brown.

"Tom, your Dad would be so proud of you today," Darren said as he grasped my hand and shook it firmly.

Ordinary people in the terminal stood up and clapped and applauded as I greeted my loved ones one by one. Evidently, the story of what had happened to me and the things that I'd done on that awful day was big news. Once I had hugged and kissed everyone, I was introduced to someone I didn't know.

"Dad, this is Terrance Donnelly, he's our MP and he has something important to tell you," Josh said.

"It's a pleasure to meet a bonified hero Mr. Davis," Terrance said as we shook hands.

"You'll have to introduce him to me," I replied with a grin.

"Well you come from a long line of heroes and that's why I'm here. I will be presenting a motion to the house of Common's along with a colleague from Alberta that will call for the Governor General to posthumously award the Victoria Cross to your uncle. I have to tell you that I've spoken informally to most members of all parties about this case and they've all seen and been moved by your website and your uncle's story. I believe that this motion will pass unanimously."

"That is fantastic news!" I said with a huge smile on my face. "I'm thrilled and very appreciative of your efforts," I added and shook his hand again.

Just when I thought I'd seen it all and it was time to head home, Major Poole approached me and a hush fell over the crowd.

"Captain Davis," he began. "It's great to have you back and it is my great pleasure to present you with this Air Cadet Medal of Heroism for acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty. Your actions in the face of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have brought credit to the squadron, the cadet program, the Canadian forces and Canada as a whole." He then reached out and pinned a shiny silver medal onto the lapel of my jacket as all of the assembled cadets saluted, then cheered loudly.

"Thank you sir," I said. "I don't really consider myself a hero, but if what I did inspires others to act similarly, then I'll accept the label."

As I made my way to the Jeep, which Bryan had been driving, I felt a sense of overwhelming relief to be home and amongst my loved ones.

"We're all going to celebrate at the Mandarin," Bryan announced. That suited me fine because all I'd had was a sandwich and coffee while on Mr. Goldman's private jet.

Brutus was waiting for me in the Jeep and as soon as I got it, he was all over me kissing me in the face and letting out happy little barks and yelps. He was thrilled to see me again and I'm sure that he was relieved that his master was once again his happy go-lucky self. I sat in the back seat wedged between a clinging Josh and a clinging Mark while Bryan drove.

"There have been some interesting developments," I said as we pulled out of the driveway.

"Good interesting or bad interesting?" Bryan asked with a quick glance over his shoulder.

"Unbelievably good," I said as I reached for my cell phone. I dialed the number for my bank's telephone banking service and just before I pressed the key to hear my account balance, I turned on the speaker phone. "Listen carefully," I said.

"Your available balance is thirteen million, five-hundred and seventy-four thousand, six-hundred and ninety-two dollars and seventeen cents," the computerized voice announced drawing astonished looks from Mark and Josh and leading Bryan to pull over to the side of the road and turn around in his seat.

"Is that some kind of mistake?" Josh asked incredulously.

"Do you really have like thirteen million dollars?" Mark asked.

"It's real and it's not a mistake," I said. "When the Tower 1 came down, I took cover in a café, which is where I was rescued from, and as the Tower 1 collapsed, I ran outside to rescue a woman who had escaped from the building, but was about to get caught in the collapse debris. It turns out that she's the daughter of an extremely wealthy real estate developer in New York. He wired $10 million US into my account this morning as a reward for saving his daughter."

"Jesus Christ!" Bryan shouted. Can we save that for going into business together?"

"Oh that and more Bryan. We are going to be one very happy family," I said smiling.

"That means that we're rich!" Josh added.

"You don't know the half of it yet," I replied with a huge grin on my face.

"Spill it Dad!" Josh said as he hugged me tightly.

"I will, but wait until we get to the Mandarin with everyone else. This affects the whole family and I want everyone together." I said.

Josh looked me squarely in the eyes for a moment before smiling. "I think I have an idea what else happened," he said.

"You think the rich guy is going to buy the program?" Mark asked.

"No, I suspect it's more than that," Bryan said. "It's got to be really big if it affects all of us."

"All of us is right," I said firmly. "In fact, I'm including the Brown family, Darren and of course the Masons and the Burtons in this."

"So what are you going to do with all that money?" Josh asked.

"It's your money as much as mine," I replied. "None of us are ever going to go without anything ever again. This money will make us all secure for life. We're not going to spend it on frivolous things. At least not for the most part," I grinned.

"What do you mean by that?" Josh asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

"I've already decided to spend a couple of hundred thousand on the one extravagance that I've always wanted."

"What are you going to buy?" Mark asked excitedly.

"I'm going to the Cessna dealer at the Brampton airport and place an order for a Cessna 172R with a custom paint job and the full avionics package," I said and smiled as two excited boys who also happened to be budding pilots hugged me tightly.

"YES!" They shouted in unison.

"I guess maybe I ought to learn to fly too," Bryan observed as he pulled back onto the road.

"You'd be good at it too, Bry." I said and gave his shoulder a squeeze.

A couple of minutes later we pulled into the parking lot outside the Mandarin restaurant nearest the house. Inside, we were shown to a private party room around back. The whole family was waiting for us. I asked the waiter if we could have a telephone brought into the room for us.

"I guess we can eat now that the guest of honour is here," Andy joked.

"Thank you very much for waiting for me," Mark deadpanned causing everyone to laugh.

"Before we begin, I have a few things that I need to say. Josh, can you get Shelly and her family on the phone and put them on speaker? Mark, you do the same with the Burtons."

"Sure Dad," he replied.

"Better use this so the restaurant doesn't have a bird," I said and handed him my Visa card.

A few minutes later, the Masons were on the speaker phone. "Can you guys hear me ok?" I asked.

"Loud and clear," Debbie replied.

"Hi Tom," Shelly said. "I'm glad you're home safe. I was really worried about you."

"Thanks Shelly, I really appreciate it." I paused for moment before I began to speak.

"Tom, I'm glad that you're ok," Michael said as Mark got him and his family connected to a second speaker phone.

"You guys all know why I was in New York. I went down there to try to close a deal to sell or a least market the software program that Bryan and I have been working on for much of the past year and then some. It's really been a dream of our future together to possibly be able to start a software company of our own one day. The company that expressed interest was located on the 22nd floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center. On the morning of the attacks, I was in that building, on one of the upper floors having breakfast with representatives of that software company in the Windows on the World Restaurant."

I paused to compose myself before continuing. "Just after 8:30, just as it appeared we were about to close the deal, something happened. Something that I cannot fully explain and that I don't fully understand. I heard my Dad's voice in my head just as clearly as I can hear any of you. He kept telling me to get out of that building.... that I was in great danger and that I had to get out. I was frightened and I did leave. Unfortunately," I stuttered slightly from getting choked up. "Unfortunately I was not able to convince my breakfast companions to leave with me and I have since found out that they are all missing and presumed dead."

I scanned the faces of my mom and my brothers. "I don't know how to explain what happened. I can't explain how Dad spoke to me, but I know that he saved my life. I know that I was saved for some purpose. I was in the lobby of Tower One when the first plane hit. I felt the building shake and I felt the heat of the explosion. I saw.... I saw.... and I heard...." I paused and cleared my throat, "I heard the crash of the people who jumped from above to escape the flames," I said with my voice breaking. "I saw where they landed and I knew then just how bad things were up there." I paused and I felt Josh, Mark, and Bryan put their arms around me. "The things that I saw that morning will haunt me for the rest of my life," I finally managed to croak out.

Bryan handed me a glass of water that I sipped before continuing. "I stayed in the building helping injured and terrified people escape. I don't know how many people I helped to safety, but it was a lot. Many other good people did the same thing. I saw so many bad things that day, things that I will never forget as much as I would like to forget them, but I saw good things as well. I saw people come together and work together. I saw rich helping poor. I saw the young help the old and I saw ordinary people put their lives on the line for others."

"You are your father's son," my Mom said softly.

"Indeed he is," Darren added.

"When Tower 2 came down we knew the gig was up. We were covered in dust and God only knows what else and we all knew that we had to get out of there. It was only a matter of time. All I could think of while I waited for the firefighters to find a safe way out.... all that occupied my mind was the thought of all of you. When I did get out, I barely had time to see the rubble of Tower 2 and what had been my hotel before Tower 1 began to crash down. I ran for it and tried to get ahead of the debris cloud, but it was no use. I ducked into a street level café and was prepared to shelter there when out of the cloud of dust a young woman emerged. She was limping badly and was trying to run in high heeled shoes. I knew that she wouldn't survive if she didn't get into cover and I could tell that she was too panicked to realize that. I left my place of relative safety and ran to her. I carried and dragged her back to the café as these huge chunks of concrete and steel began to come crashing down. I got hit in my arm breaking a bone and leaving a gash that needed 18 stitches to close, but I kept at it. I became disoriented and nearly lost when a man who had also been in the café, Kennedy Armstong, managed to grab me and drag me and the woman back into the café just as the debris completly buried the door and partially collapsed the roof trapping us inside a small area."

I paused as my family listened pale faced, some with tears streaming down their faces. "The man who helped us turned out to be a stock broker who used to be a Navy Corpsman and he tended to my injuries as well as those of the young woman. That young woman turned out to be the daughter of a man named Einrich Goldman."

"Wait a minute.... THE Einrich Goldman?" James asked incredulously.

"That's right James. At the time, I didn't recognize the name, but after we were rescued, I found out... yes he is THE Einrich Goldman, the billionaire real estate tycoon. Anyway, the three of us survived on bottled water and dusty stale cookies for the next two days while we waited for rescue. None of us had a working cell phone so we kept taking turns banging rocks and metal bars against a long beam hoping the noise would be heard. Yesterday morning, we heard some noise outside and we began to bang on that beam with all our strength and eventually a rescue dog heard us and began to bark leading his handler right to us. That was when I had them call you, Joshy."

"I never felt so relieved before in my life," Josh said softly. "Andy and I were at Union Station to pick up Mark and Bryan when I got the call. We actually saw them take you out of the debris on one of the television monitors they have in the Union Station."

I continued to tell the family about my experiences in the hospital and in meeting Mr. Goldman and I finally got to the part about discovering the reward money and then what happened on the plane while I was flying to Toronto.

"I was already on cloud nine over the thirteen million reward money and what happened next was completely unexpected. It's such a big deal that it will, if I'm right, change the lives of everyone in this room or listening in on the phone. Mr. Goldman's assistant picked up my business plan from the trash can and read it. He was immediately impressed buy it and took it to Mr. Goldman. Mr. Goldman, got his people to work right away checking out all the aspects of it and learning as much as he could about me and he prepared a proposal that his lawyer presented on the plane during the ride home. Before I tell you all the details, I will tell you that I accepted his generous offer."

"So spill it Dad!" Josh said drawing laughter.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a cashiers cheque and held it up for everyone to see. "Mr. Goldman, who is as big on family as we are is also a big fan of family business. In order to help us to start our own software company starting with eMemories, he has given me an interest free long term loan of One Hundred Million Dollars."

I surveyed the room as everyone's jaws dropped open. You could have heard a pin drop. "This loan is intended to cover startup expenses, salary and all other expenses until the business is able to make a profit. No payments are required on the loan unless and until the company begins to turn a profit. Mr. Goldman is also providing access to his business experts who will advise and consult with us in moving this venture forward."

"Tom, this is unbelievable," Susan stammered.

"There's more," I said. "This is a family business and you people are all my family so I want this to involve each and every one of you. I'm proposing to begin the process of starting this business by the end of this year in Calgary and I'm going to offer each and every one of you in this room a position working for this family business and I'll cover all of the costs associated with relocating you to Calgary. I'm also going to give each and every one of you some equity in the company."

Josh took the cheque from me and looked at it intently before handing it to Mark. Pretty soon that cheque made its way around the entire room.

Mr. Burton asked from the phone, "Is this for real?"

Bryan was overwhelmed with enthusiasm. He punched the air with a resounding, "Yesss!" Then he kissed my cheek.

"Here's what I have in mind," I said finally after all the excitement and questions died down. "I'll be the CEO and chief software architect of the company. I would like Bryan to serve as President and Chief Technology Officer. If you'll accept that is?"

"Let me think for a minute," he laughed as he put an arm over my shoulder. "Of course I'll accept!"

"James, you've got a solid business background and we're going to need strong leadership for the sales and marketing team. I'd like to offer you the position of Vice President of Sales and Marketing."

"Count me in little bro," he laughed.

"Anne, you're wonderful with kids and you've got a degree in Early Childhood education.... I'd love to have you setup and run our company daycare program. You'll be able to run it your way and hire whatever staff you need."

Anne stood up and kissed me on the cheek. "I'd be honoured, Tom," she replied.

"Andy, we're going to need a legal department. You'll still be free to practice on your own, but I'd like to have you on retainer as a chief legal counsel once you graduate. Until then, we'll cover your tuition."

"You've got yourself a lawyer," he beamed.

"Susan, you're a heck of an organizer and a good motivator with strong business experience. I'd like you to serve as our Vice President of personnel. I'd like you to manage the day to day operation of the office and you'll be in charge of administering employee benefits."

"Tom, I've wanted to change careers for a while now, but never had the opportunity. Count me in."

"Mom, you're an accountant with great people, so I'd like you to serve as our Chief Financial Officer. You'll be able to hire the bookkeeping and accounting staff that you need and supervise their work."

"I'm in son. At least until I retire in a few years!"

"Darren and Grant. I know you guys are cops and it's in our blood, but we could really use you as security consultants. I'm prepared to set you up in your own private investigation and security consulting firm and hiring you to provide us with security services including at times, personal protection. You'd be your own bosses."

"I'm eligible for a full pension anyway, so count me in," Darren said with a grin.

"Tom, I always wanted to be a cop, but the way things have been going in this city lately, I'd be willing to take the leap and come on board. That is if my family agrees." Grant offered

"Ethel, we have a position for you too. We'd like to have you and Debbie Mason work together to setup and manage our customer service centre. You'll have the position of senior customer service directors. Trevor, we'd like you to be in charge of technical support."

"I'm speechless," Ethel said. "Yes, I'm in! We're all in."

"You boys have been too good to us," Debbie said. "Trevor and I just discussed it and we're in."

"Moving to Alberta will be a nice change," Trevor added.

"Mr. Burton.... Howard, Michael tells me that you're into technical training. I'd like to offer you the position of Director of training and skills development. Mrs. Burton, Angela, I've heard from Michael that you've got a keen eye for graphics and art so I'd like to offer you the opportunity to head up our graphics department. You'll be in charge of designing our packaging, promotional materials, user manuals and anything else we need."

Without a moment of hesitation, Howard Burton answered for he and his wife. "Tom, I knew you were a remarkable person when I first met you and everything that's happened since then has simply reinforced that. We'd be delighted and honoured to be a part of this venture."

"Josh, Mark, Kevin, Michael, Shelly, Richard, Matthew and Eddie.... we have a role for you as well. We'd like you guys to be software testers and we'd like you to keep us in tune with what kids want out of a software program. Help us make it more useful for young people."

"You don't even have to ask. You know what our answer is," Josh said and hugged me.

"For sure, I'm in." Mark agreed.

"You know I'm in," Michael added.

"Me too," Kevin said enthusiastically.

"Count me in for sure," Shelly said.

"Does this mean we don't have to go to school anymore?" Richard asked.

"No, you'll go to a new school," I said after the laughter died down.

"What about Timothy?" Matthew asked.

"Timothy will be our CCO - Chief Cuteness Officer," I said to laughter. "Once he gets a bit bigger he'll have a job too."

"There are a lot of details to work out and a lot to get done to launch this company in such a short period of time. I'm just thrilled that not only is the whole family going to be together, but we're going to be running a huge family business together. Make no mistake. We'll be speaking to each of you to work out your compensation, but we'll also be having you sign papers accepting equity shares in the company. You'll effectively be your own bosses. All of you."

"Tom, I know I speak for all of us when I say this," Bryan said as he stood up. "This is wonderful news about the reward and about the business, but none of it really matters. What matters is that you're home and that you're safe."

"For sure," Josh said. "When you were missing, all I could think about was the times we spent together. I would have given anything to have you back," Josh said.

"Me too," Mark said. "I got to see a lot of what happened from the command center at CFB Cold Lake. It was cool, but I was worried literally sick that something had happened to you," Mark said.

"I felt sick to my stomach when I saw what happened," Susan said. "I was really worried and when I went and took Josh out of school, it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do."

"We all came together to support each other," Andy said. "All of us were there and we were virtually holding a vigil expecting bad news. Josh never lost hope though. He said that he'd know if something had happened. Given what you told us about Dad and your escape from that tower, we know he was right. We're truly a big and happy family and as sad as it was, the events of that awful day provided the last little bit of 'heat treatment' to make us solid as a rock."

"Amen to that," Mom said. "Tom, I am very proud of you and I know that your father would be as well."

We spent the next few hours eating and celebrating as a family knowing that our time of being spread across the vast expanse of Canada was coming rapidly to an end. There were many challenges ahead, but we now had the means as well as the desire to overcome those challenges and complete the work of assembling a strong and united family.

That night as I lay in bed, my mind was buzzing from all my hopes for the future. Bryan held me close, just as I wanted to be. At last - I was home.

The next day, I got up early, left a note saying that I was heading to the Brampton airport and called a cab. In my note, I asked Bryan to bring Josh and Mark to the airport just after 1 PM. I was going to the airport to place my order for a new Cessna, but I had something else in mind as well.

In the back of my mind, Ken's advice still echoed and I wanted to take some action on that as well. I had wracked my brain for an idea and then it came to me plain as day. It was something that I could do that would certainly require a large leap of faith to accomplish and it was something that would, in a small way, link me to my uncle.

When I arrived at the airport, I went to a smaller secondary building rather than the usual air terminal. After completing a questionnaire and signing a bunch of documents, I joined the short four hour class that would enable me to take my intended leap of faith. I was thrilled that the minor break in my left arm would not keep me from participating so long as I signed a medical waiver. I had the stitches in my bicep bound up tightly to protect them.

After a period of extremely intense instruction, I was kitted out and found myself sitting in the passenger compartment of a Cessna 208 Caravan. As the aircraft taxied, I looked out the window and spotted Bryan, Josh, and Mark sitting on a picnic table exactly where I had directed them to go in my note. It was beside a grassy area a good distance from the operational airfield.

The Caravan, which is much larger than a Cessna 172, climbed steadily to just over 5,000 feet before banking towards a clear area just south of the airfield. The instructor rose to his feet and opened the sliding door. He used hand signals to tell us students to stand up and hook on. I snapped my drogue line onto a steel cable that ran the length of the passenger compartment and I walked towards the open sliding door. With my heart hammering in my chest and a stomach so full of butterflies, I felt like I wouldn't need my parachute to safely reach the ground as I looked down. When the instructor tapped me on the back, I jumped in just the manner that I'd been instructed.

Immediately a blast of cool autumn wind hit me in the face and an instant after jumping, I felt my parachute harness pull snuggly against me as my chute opened and fully inflated. Within seconds, the fear had been replaced my excitement as a surge of adrenaline coursed through my veins. Far below, I spotted Josh, Mark and Bryan watching me and my fellow students descend slowing under the billowing sheets of silk.

As exhilarating as the ride was, it was surprisingly short. Before I knew it, I was getting myself into the proper landing position and flaring my canopy. A second later, my feet hit the ground and I flexed my knees and rolled to the side just as I had been shown. By the time I stood up and began gathering my parachute, an extremely surprised trio of Mark, Josh and Bryan realized that it was me who had just parachuted out of an airplane and they came running.

"Dad!" Josh shouted. "Are you crazy?"

"That was so cool!" Mark shouted enthusiastically.

"That was nuts!" Bryan said laughing.

"I had to do it," I said as I hugged all three of them. I took a moment to tell them about Ken's advice.

"I hope it worked," Bryan said firmly.

"Yeah, I think you were kinda talking in your sleep last night," Josh said.

"I thought I heard you too," Mark added.

"He was boys, but he's been through a very traumatic experience and hopefully this will help," Bryan said.

After I got changed back into my street clothes, the four of us went over to the Cessna dealership and surprised the sales person by announcing that we wanted to purchase a new Cessna 172R complete with the top of the line safety and avionics package and that we wanted to pay for it with a certified cheque.

"It's not often that we get cash sales like this," the man said with a laugh.

By the time we left, I had agreed to purchase an aircraft that had been ordered and delivered to the facility, but had never been delivered due to financial problems encountered by the intended buyer. In the end, we purchased the aircraft at a significantly reduced price and arranged to have all of the required upgrades made within two weeks.

That afternoon, we discussed the ramifications that this move might have as far as real estate was concerned. My Mom's home, Susan's home, the Mason's home in BC, James and Anne's home, Grant and Ethel's home, would all have to be either sold or rented and we'd have to find somewhere for all these people to live, including Darren, but right now he lived in an apartment. The logistics were huge, but not insurmountable.

While Bryan stayed home and cooked dinner, Josh and I went out and did some pre-trip shopping for camping gear. We picked up some new gear for ourselves as well as some items for Sean and Jake. Mark had suggested that we look into something called "Under Armour" which are undergarments that not only provide excellent thermal protection, but that also effectively wick away moisture and sweat from your body. It was a bit pricey but cost was no longer a worry for me and I picked up sets for all four of us. Josh texted Sean and Jake to get their sizes. We also bought new ruck sacks, a new cool weather tent that would sleep all four of us, as well as new light weight, cool weather sleeping bags.

Once home, I took some time to give Al Burger a call to make the final arrangements for the planned canoe trip in Algonquin Park with his sons Sean and Jake. I wanted to make sure that Sean and Jake had the required equipment.

"Are you sure that you're going to be up for this Tom?" Al asked with obvious concern in his voice. "We were all relieved to hear that you were safe and sound."

"Thanks Al, I appreciate it. I'll be fine. If anything happens, I'll have three of the greatest campers there to help out. I'm really looking forward to this trip. I actually thought about it a lot when I was trapped in that rubble."

"The boys are getting pretty excited," he laughed.

We took a few minutes to review the plans and I gave him a list of gear that the boys would need. I explained what gear Josh and I had purchased for them and ourselves.

"You didn't have to spend that kind of money on my sons," Al said.

"Believe me Al, it's nothing to worry about." I took a moment to tell Al about what had taken place in the aftermath of the attacks and I actually sought some advice from him in terms of how to handle newfound financial security.

"Tom, the best advice that I could give you is something that you don't even need to hear. Don't let money change you and don't let money become your primary focus. You and Josh and the rest of your big crazy family are all very family oriented and that shouldn't change. From what I can tell, it isn't changing and that speaks very well of you as a person."

I spoke to Al for a few more minutes before I handed the phone off to Josh to give him a chance to talk to Sean and Jake. I smiled to myself as I listened to Josh happily banter back and forth with Al's sons. It was good to see that Josh was his happy effervescent self once again.

Emotionally, we were all returning to normal.

As I sat there and watched him, something that had always been one of my small simple pleasures in life, I couldn't help but think that as awful and destructive as the events that had taken place in New York had been, perhaps my part in them had happened for a reason.

The next day, Mark and Bryan caught a flight home for what would hopefully be the final time. I knew I'd miss them dearly, but I also knew that the four of us would be very busy during the next three months, so I wouldn't have too much time to be melancholy about our separation.

If all went according to plan, the entire Ontario portion of our family would be moving west within the next few months. My goal was to have the ultimate family Christmas with the entire family present.

I fully intended to make complete use of what I had been given and I made it my goal to strive to bring the whole family together and to get our business off the ground. I knew that with the bunch that we had assembled, it was bound to be a huge success and it would provide the launching pad for all of us to use and reach our ultimate destiny.


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