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The phone rings and I grab the receiver with my right hand.
“Hi Laylay. How are you honey?”
“Daddy!” I exclaim. “Daddy where are you?”
“I’m finishing up some work; I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“I miss you. Amma is worried.”
“I know she is. May I talk to her please?”
“Yes. I love you Daddy.”
“I love you Layali. No matter what happens. Remember that.”
I hand the phone to my mother’s shaking hands. She nervously takes it from me and put its up to her ear.
“Hello.… We are well, Hani. When will you be returning?” She pauses and tries to comprehend what is being said on the other line.
“Yes I understand, Hani.… But...… No…No this is not right. I cannot let you do this!” she suddenly grows alarmed and stands up off the bed.
“I don’t care about devotion any more Hani! I cannot lose you like this. What about Layali? What about me?… Yes Hani.” She exhales deeply and retakes her seat.
“I just wish you did not have to.” She begins to cry, her teardrops rolling down her neck and wetting the collar of her blouse.
“It is for the best.…May Allah be with you, my darling.”
She presses the End Call button and throws her arms out, beckoning me.
I don’t understand why she cries, but I join her just the same.
I can’t breathe. I never thought Hani would actually go through with it. All these years always talking with Mohammad, Marwan and Ziad about what is about to happen right before my eyes. I did not think they were serious. But the phone call confirmed my deepest fears…
“Miriam how are you and Layali?”
“We are well, Hani. When will you be returning?”
“I will not be returning, Miriam. This is it. The moment we have been dreaming of. You understand what I am speaking of, yes?”
“Yes I understand, Hani.”
“We have been waiting for this. And the day has finally arrived.”
“This country will be ruined, and Allah will rejoice. We will all rejoice. This is a day for happiness and celebration Miriam!”
“No…No this is not right. I cannot let you do this!”
“Please try to understand me, Miri I do this for the good of my country. I do this to show Allah my respect and devotion.”
“I don’t care about devotion any more Hani! I cannot lose you like this. What about Layali? What about me?”
I heard him exhale and try to control his words, “I am doing this for you.”
I couldn’t hold back my loud sob, “Yes Hani,”
“I know this is the right thing to do.”
“I just wish you did not have to.”
“It’s for the best.”
“It is for the best.”
“I love you Miriam. Insha Allah.”
“May Allah be with you, my darling.”
I wait until he hangs up to end the call.
Layali runs to me.
I watch the hands of the clock. It is 8:30. I crawl out of my mothers arms and lay her sleeping head to rest on the pillow. It is 8:30 and time for Spongebob to begin. I search for the remote control and find it hiding under the bed. I click the power button and screen through all the stations looking for the channel I want. It is 8:45. Where is Nickelodeon? I pass ABC News 4. Some tall building caught on fire in New York City. Gosh, that’s a lot of smoke.
Mom suddenly sits up, “TURN THE VOLUME UP!” she screams crazily.
I reluctantly press the plus sign on the remote and frown as I watch the boring news report.
Mom stares intently at the screen, in a trance. A tear rolls down her cheek as she watches a plane fly into one of towers.
“Oh Marwan, Mohammad,” She quietly whispers a prayer in Arabic.
“I repeat, two aircrafts have hit the Twin Towers,” the television tells us. I watch the men, with their business suits ablaze jump out of the top floor of the first tower. I see the people running through the streets, yelling profanities and prayers. I look on as the firefighters rush into the fiery building and try to save lives. I watch September 11, 2001.
I am crying again. I can’t bear to imagine our good friends, steering the airplanes into the World Trade Center, killing everyone in their paths. But I know the worst is far from over. I will have to watch him die. Watch him drive a plane into a U.S. federal building…
He told us to be here. He begged me to come. He wanted me to see him complete his “mission”. He asked it of me as his “dying wish”. So I am here; at the Marriot Hotel across from the Pentagon.
The screeching sound hurts my ears. I hear a loud booming noise that echoes through our tiny room. I cup my hands over my ears. Amma screams.
It is finished.
I collapse onto the bed and close my eyes.
My husband is Hani Hanjour, hijacker of American Airlines Flight 77.