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CNN Presents: Twists of Fate: Stories from 9/11
Aired September 11, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, HOST (voice-over): Their stories are unexpected.
ELISE O'KEANE, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I get goose bumps when I think about missing that trip by one minute.
BROWN: A computer glitch that saved her life.
BILL O'KEANE, HUSBAND OF FLIGHT ATTENDANT: It was one of those rare moments which you never forget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of terrorist activities in the United States today.
BROWN: A day of terror that built a bridge between travelers and the town that rescued them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those passengers expected to stay in an auditorium.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what happened, is what happened (ph).
KENNETH FEINBERG, SPECIAL MASTER, 9/11 VICTIMS COMPENSATION FUND: The program is fair.
BROWN: Money meant to heal the wounds drives a wedge between families.
LUCY AITA, PAUL INNELLA'S FIANCE: Things changed drastically.
JAMES RICH, PAUL INNELLA'S BROTHER-IN-LAW: I don't know if she was his closest loved one.
BROWN: And an iron worker at Ground Zero inspires a songwriter.
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER, SINGER (singing): I'm no hero; just a working man.
(speaking) Something came out very quickly that I wasn't expecting. And I found myself writing.
BROWN: CNN PRESENTS: TWISTS OF FATE, STORIES FROM 9/11. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BROWN: Where were you on 9/11? It is the question of our lives. We will ask and answer it until the day we die. Four years later, many remember it as if it were yesterday.
Welcome to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown.
September 11, 2001, the day everything changed. For those who witnessed the horrific and life altering event, for those who survived it, those who were caught up in the aftermath and those who still struggle to overcome, there are always the memories, the stories of 9/11. Twists and turns they could not have imagined, the unexpected and the unbelievable in the aftermath of an unthinkable tragedy.
There are stories of loss and anguish, and there are also, sadly, stories of greed. But in it all, there are stories of comfort and hope, and in the simple irony of fate, stories from 9/11, stories like Elise O'Keane's.
B. O'KEANE: Banana (ph)? How much cash are you going to need, honey? You're going to be in L.A.
BROWN (voice-over): It's 5 in the morning in the O'Keane home, time for a very ordinary early morning ritual.
B. O'KEANE: Every morning, it doesn't matter what time Elise flies, I get up, and I kiss her good-bye, on every trip.
Have a safe trip, baby.
E. O'KEANE: I love you.
B. O'KEANE: I love you.
BROWN: But today's trip is not ordinary. Elise (ph), a flight attendant for 16 years, quit flying on 9/11, 2001.
E. O'KEANE: I remember looking at myself in the mirror and saying, "I might never wear this uniform again."
BROWN: Four years later, she will make her first cross-country flight since the attacks. She will fly Boston to L.A., the route United flight 175 was flying the day it was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center, the second strike of 9/11.
It was a flight she wanted to be on, and would have been on, had it not been for a typo, a transposed number that was the literal difference between life and death.
E. O'KEANE: This is where I made the mistake. Instead of putting "53," I would have inverted it to "35," which now becomes a completely different schedule.
BROWN: So instead of the L.A. flight, she was scheduled Boston to Denver, at the time, an unwanted surprise.
E. O'KEANE: When I first looked at it, I said, "Why? What? What is this? I didn't bid this."
BROWN: On September 10, she tried to get her old flight, the L.A. flight back, but there was another computer glitch, one minute before the airline's scheduled deadline.
E. O'KEANE: A computer signed off, and it just -- it wouldn't log back on. I get goose bumps when I think about the one minute, missing that trip by one minute.
BROWN: On the morning of 9/11, Elise O'Keane (ph) left home for the airport without telling her husband about her new flight schedule. He believed she was headed for L.A., and he watched as the second plane slammed into the World Trade Center.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can see that plane coming around...
E. O'KEANE: He watched it go into the towers. He watched it be confirmed that it was United flight from Boston.
BROWN: United Airlines was concerned about United Flight 175...
E. O'KEANE: And he hadn't heard from me in four hours.
B. O'KEANE: It was just before noon when she called me.
E. O'KEANE: When I heard his voice, I just -- my legs went out, and I went right to the ground.
B. O'KEANE: Well, it was one of those rare moments you never forget. We couldn't talk. We just said we loved each other, and we cried.
BROWN: Four years later, Elise thinks about that morning. Not just about the flight she missed, but also about a young man who ended up on the flight she was meant to take, a young man she met on the shuttle to the airport, early in the morning on 9/11.
E. O'KEANE: As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I looked up in the glass stairway, and I could see a flight attendant running down the stairs. And I asked the bus driver, "Hold the bus." The bus had stopped, opened the doors, and the flight attendant ran on and sat down next to me.
And I asked, "Where are you going?"
And he said, "I just got called out for L.A. I'm just so excited. This is a great trip."
And I remember looking at him and saying, "I can't believe you got it. I tried to trade into that last night."
BROWN: On the way to the airport, they stopped for a drawbridge. As they waited, he talked with excitement about his plans for L.A.: to party at a place called the Shellback Tavern. Elise still remembers that, that name, that tavern.
E. O'KEANE: The Shellback is just known for their margaritas and Bloody Marys. And he had to try one of each from the Shellback.
BROWN: Today, Elise takes the same seat she took four years ago. The seat next to her, this time, is empty. Robert Fangman, a 33-year- old flight attendant she met that morning, sat there four years ago.
E. O'KEANE: It could have been me. How close I was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a good trip.
E. O'KEANE: Thank you.
BROWN: Elise is taking this flight to honor Robert Fangman...
E. O'KEANE: A Bloody Mary or a margarita? Which one should I have first?
BROWN: ... and have that drink he planned to have at the Shellback Tavern.
E. O'KEANE: Cheers.
BROWN: And so she will toast her friend Robert, but her story will not end there.
E. O'KEANE: To our friends.
BROWN: It has one more chapter to write...
E. O'KEANE: Thanks again, Henry. Bye-bye.
BROWN: ... a visit to his family, to tell them a story they had not known.
E. O'KEANE: I wanted to do that because I've lost my friends. And I've always wondered what happened to them before. You kind of wonder what their day was like.
BROWN: When we come back...
E. O'KEANE: This is a difficult thing to do. I hope she's receptive.
BROWN: ... Robert's family learns the truth.
E. O'KEANE: Hi.
RUTH FANGMAN, ROBERT'S MOM: I've been so -- wondering what -- what you have to say.
BROWN (voice-over): Elise O'Keane has come to the Delaware home of the family of Robert Fangman, the young flight attendant who by chance ended up on the plane that hit the World Trade Center. Elise had trouble finding his family on her own, so CNN helped her track them down.
E. O'KEANE: Suddenly, my stomach turned in knots. This is a difficult thing to do, meeting his mom, but it's something I've always wanted to do.
R. FANGMAN: Hello. You must be Elise.
BROWN: Ruth, Robert's mom, answers the door.
R. FANGMAN: We've got to get in out of the heat, though.
STEVE FANGMAN, ROBERT'S BROTHER: Steve, Robert's brother.
E. O'KEANE: Hi, Steve.
S. FANGMAN: Pleased to meet you.
E. O'KEANE: It's nice to meet you guys.
BROWN: The family knows only that Elise saw Robert on the day he died.
E. O'KEANE: He was a reserve for Flight 175. That's the flight that I had been flying for several months.
R. FANGMAN: Oh, my.
E. O'KEANE: And I made an error putting my trip in on that month. I inverted the numbers.
R. FANGMAN: We had held out hopes that he had switched flights with someone, because he loved to fly internationally, and he would do that if he had the opportunity.
So you feel that you would have been there, had you not done that?
E. O'KEANE: Correct.
R. FANGMAN: Oh.
BROWN: You never really know how people will react in such a moment. It turns out often they react just like you.
R. FANGMAN: Well, it could have been, but it wasn't. And we can't live on "could have, should have, would have." I mean, that I've learned.
E. O'KEANE: Robert was running from the porch level.
R. FANGMAN: Late?
E. O'KEANE: Late.
R. FANGMAN: As usual.
E. O'KEANE: He just ran on and sat down next to me.
R. FANGMAN: And I could just visualize him running down those steps myself, with his tie flying and his shirt neck open. And it just kind of made it real. Real.
I'm so glad to sit here.
BROWN: Elise has one more surprise to tell, a career change, hers, in honor of their son.
E. O'KEANE: I became a nurse.
R. FANGMAN: Did you really?
E. O'KEANE: Sometimes you meet someone in your life, and you don't really know them, but they do something to change you. And I thought, "If I became a nurse, I would be that way in people's lives."
BROWN: Last May, Elise graduated from nursing school, top of her class.
R. FANGMAN: That's kind of like extending his life, because she's doing something that he -- she knows would be meaningful to him and that she's honoring him in that way.
A glass of wine, a glass of wine...
BROWN: As they share memories of Robert, they were able to laugh. The family keeps his ashes in a wine bottle, a tribute to his spirit.
S. FANGMAN: Here.
E. O'KEANE: Thank you.
R. FANGMAN: Thank you for sharing.
BROWN: Four years after the tragedy of 9/11, Elise's personal journey, a complicated journey it has been, is over.
E. O'KEANE: You just completed the whole picture for me.
BROWN: She can go home now, more at peace than before.
E. O'KEANE: I just feel like there's definitely a greater power that had a hand in all this. So I'm not going to question it.
BROWN: When we return, out of the ashes of 9/11, family feud over who gets the money.
RICH: I don't know if she was his closest loved one. We have doubts about that.
BROWN: A whirlwind romance, an engagement, wedding plans, and then came 9/11. A love affair, a future shattered. But that was just the beginning for Lucy Aita. Her story is not only one of loss and pain but also the sobering and sometimes heartbreaking realities of what can happen to families when money, lots of money, is at stake.
BROWN (voice-over): Paula Innella and Lucy Aita found each other through an online dating service.
AITA: The thing is, I didn't really like his picture very much. But after speaking to him on the phone, I knew he was wonderful.
BROWN: After six dates, Paul moved in with Lucy. A month later, they were engaged. His family helped plan the wedding.
AITA: We saw the first building go down. My cousin calls, and he said, you know, "Did you hear from Paul?"
I said, "No, I didn't hear anything."
And I -- he goes, "I'm looking at the building right now."
And I said, "Does it look strong? Does it look strong?"
He goes, "It looks fine. It looks fine. The smoke's coming out, but it looks strong." All of a sudden, he said, "Oh, my God!"
And I was in shock, went into my bedroom and I was sitting on the mattress. And I had my ring on, and I kissed my engagement ring. How silly. And I said, "Good bye, honey."
BROWN (on camera): Lucy's story of love and loss is heartbreakingly familiar. It's a story written thousands of times on 9/11. But what happened after is a tragedy of a different sort. It's the story of a family torn apart by money.
AITA: You know, his mother, she was very strong, and I wasn't. And yes, for a couple weeks and all, yes, she was supportive, you know. Then things changed drastically.
BROWN (voice-over): After September 11, a number of fiances who were happily planning their weddings with future in-laws experienced a sudden chill when it came time to claim compensation.
AITA: I felt that not only did I lose him but I lost everybody.
BROWN: According to Lucy, Paul's family didn't even acknowledge her at the memorial service, an accusation the family denies.
AITA: I think that his family got insulted because I -- I think that I just acted too much like I was married to him.
BROWN: Paul's family explains the chill differently, telling a story that Lucy denies is true.
RICH: September 11 was a Tuesday. By that Saturday, I think, when we first saw her, or maybe even earlier, one of her first comments was, "Well, Paul backed into my BMW and did damage to it. Who's going to pay for that now?" Like, you've got to be kidding. What does that matter in the scheme of things now? You know, and everything seemed to turn to money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can make your check out to the Terrorism Victims Relief Fund.
BROWN: There was a lot of money, mind boggling amounts of it, flowing to the victims' families after 9/11, money so they wouldn't have to worry about paying a mortgage or an electric bill. In some cases, Americans sent money for the symbolic value, a notice to terrorists that the country's spirits would not and could not be broken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA! USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA! USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA! USA!
BROWN: But the money was real. Victims' families received an average of $3.1 million each, totaling $8.7 billion from the government and charities and employers and insurance companies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coworkers respected him...
FEINBERG: And I want you all educated on how the program works.
BROWN: More than half that total came from the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, authorized by Congress to distribute money to the victims' families, if they agreed not to sue the airlines.
FEINBERG: The program is fair.
BROWN: Kenneth Feinberg was appointed special master of the fund. He had sole authority to decide which family members got money, and that put him in the middle of feuding families.
FEINBERG: Fiances weren't family members. They weren't married to the victim. And yet, fiances came in and said, "Mr. Feinberg, I was going to be married on October 11. I should be treated like a spouse."
And then I would ask the parents of the victim about that, and they might say, "The marriage was never going to take place."
AITA: Most disturbing of all was written by Paul's sister, who went in to tell Kenneth Feinberg that they were going to try to speak with him about not marrying me. Horrible accusations. I could barely stand to read them. I was nauseous just reading them. I had to stop. It was making me ill.
FEINBERG: So I had this tension, this disagreement between fiances or domestic partners and biological parents over what was going to happen, who should file the claim, who should receive the award.
BROWN: And there was another complication from Paul's life before he met Lucy: another person Paul had left behind.
AITA: He had a very brief relationship with the woman after his -- separating from his wife. She conceived, and they had a child, and unfortunately, he never saw the child.
BROWN (on camera): Feinberg had to decide how much Paul's death was worth and who would get the money. Would it be the family who knew him all his life, who raised him? Would it be the woman he planned to spend the rest of his life with, his future? Or would it be his daughter, who counted on him for child support, though she had never known him?
(voice-over) Feinberg's answer to the first question, how much money, was approximately $1.6 million. Paul's sister Maria asked Feinberg to specifically exclude Lucy from compensation, writing, quote, "Please don't let her profit any more from my brother's untimely death by including her in the fund."
FEINBERG: We couldn't have...
BROWN: Feinberg ultimately decided not to give the money to Lucy or to Paul's family. Instead, he awarded the entire amount to Paul's daughter, Victoria. Feinberg wouldn't discuss his decision with CNN.
AITA: I feel that, even though people will say all the money in the world shouldn't matter, compared to the death of your fiance, that's true. However, by not receiving any money, I feel that I was not acknowledged as his closest loved one.
RICH: I don't know if she was his closest loved one. We had doubts about that. We think that he had an affair on her. And you don't think he loved his mom?
BROWN: Nobody in this story walks away empty handed. Paul's family and Lucy both say they received approximately $150,000 each from charities to compensate for their loss. But the squabbling continues. The feud has even erupted on his memorial web site, an anonymous posted writing, "Everything is about money for her," and Lucy responding, "The faceless coward is making up stories to try to trash me and my family."
Lost in all the numbers is why, why love turned into hate, why grief turned into greed.
FEINBERG: I don't think it's greed. I think it's grief. And you occasionally get families who simply cannot confront that black void of what might have been. BROWN: In the end, the money that was meant to help this family divided it. Paul's remains have never been identified. If they are, even his burial will be a fight. His parents have built a crypt for him in Brooklyn, New York. Lucy wants to bury him near her, in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
AITA: I have anxiety that if they do identify him in the next few years and contact me, what will I do?
Every day, I go over in my mind all these -- these things that are haunting me. I think to myself, "I hope they don't find anything. I can't handle any more. I can't do it."
BROWN: Coming up, unexpected comfort for the grieving.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a dog sitting there, wagging its tail or panting with its tongue hanging out, and you can't help but smile.
LIN: Tomorrow he is going to tour the areas of the Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina. It is going to be an opportunity for him to see the devastation. It is his third trip to the region since that hurricane struck.
And half the water that once covered New Orleans has been pumped out and a top official says the death toll will be much lower than the 10,000 originally estimated.
In Iraq, an American soldier died today in a roadside bombing in Samara and the assault against a city in western Iraq killed 150 insurgents. This is the second time this year that U.S. and Iraqi forces tried to clean out Tal Afar. Tal Afar.
And geologists raised the alert level at Washington's Mt. St. Helens to Orange because there is a good chance of volcanic activity but they say it won't be life-threatening.
Also, be sure to watch LARRY KING LIVE tonight. The Dalai Lama will try to at least talk to Larry about coping in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and you can call in with your own questions. That is a half hour from now at 9:00 Eastern.
I'm Carol Lin, now back to CNN PRESENTS: "9:11, Twist of Fate."
BROWN: Sometimes the simplest, the smallest thing, can help those suffering greatly find comfort and that comfort can come from the last place you'd expect it. LISA DOLAN, LOT HUSBAND IN 9/11: He had an incredible smile. An incredible smile. That's just something that I noticed about him immediately when I met him.
BROWN (voice-over): It was 1979. Love at first site, Lisa remembers, a love Bob Dolan expressed in the tradition of the U.S. Naval Academy. His class ring on a blue ribbon around her neck.
L. DOLAN: : There was an actual ceremony you go through and you walk through a giant replica of the ring and you kiss and then you walk out.
BROWN: There was marriage, two children, Rebecca and Bo. His very successful navy career replete with commendations and promotions. And always, always there was the ring.
L. DOLAN: : He wore it every single day. He put it on his finger with his wedding band that day.
BROWN: That day was four years ago, September 11th.
L. DOLAN: : I actually watched him put it on that morning, took it off his nightstand and put it on his hand before he went to work.
BROWN: His work was at the Pentagon. His office would become Ground Zero. Captain Robert Dolan and 183 others died there.
Days late, while sifting through the rubble at the Pentagon, an FBI agent saw something shiny in the ashes.
L. DOLAN: : And so he picked it up and he noticed immediately that it was a Naval Academy ring and so he knew immediately to look for the inscription on the inside of the ring to see who it belonged to. That was the only thing I ever got back of Bob's and I like to think that Bob took the wedding band with him and left the class ring for me.
BROWN: Along with other shocked and grieving loved ones, Lisa and her children soon were brought to a military family assistance center and what she found there took her by surprise.
L. DOLAN: : You don't know anybody and you're walking in and you just don't know who to turn or where to go to and you kind of look down a little bit and there's a dog sitting there wagging its tail or panting with its tongue hanging out and you can't help but smile.
BROWN: They were no ordinary dogs. These were called therapy dogs, dogs just like these, dogs trained to provide comfort.
This would be the first of many encounters with therapy dogs. One in particular left Lisa's son Bo with a lasting memory.
BO DOLAN, LOST FATHER ON 9/11: There was this one, I think it was a German shepherd, that really stood out in my mind. It was really nice.
L. DOLAN: : I like to call these dogs living teddy bears because you can just squish them and hug them and love them.
BROWN: Lisa loved them so much she decided to raise one of her own.
L. DOLAN: : She is kind of like a - kind of like a twister going through the house, but fun.
BROWN: Lisa plans to honor her husband by having this playful six month old pup named Belle mature into a therapy dog, a dog that she can take on visits to military families, to provide the comfort that meant so much to her and to Bo and to Rebecca in their time of grief.
REBECCA DOLAN, LOST FATHER IN 9/11: If in some way Belle could help a couple little kids feel better in light of a tragedy, I think that's a really good thing.
BROWN: Belle has already made her debut. It was a few months ago at Good Grief camp for kids who have lost a loved on serving in the armed forces.
L. DOLAN: As soon as we got in the room with 100 children, she went from being my puppy to being a working dog. It was really amazing.
BROWN: Amazing because Belle has yet to be trained as a therapy dog but she is a dog and dogs, it seems, just know what to do.
B. DOLAN: She would let all of the little kids go all over her, even if the kid was like really like annoying and would like pull on her ears.
BROWN: Belle's special work is just one way Lisa is honoring Bob. She has also started a school citizenship award, is on the board of directors of the Pentagon Memorial Fund and everywhere she travels, his class ring travels with her.
She is determined to keep the memory of Bob Dolan, a navy captain, a husband and a father alive for herself and for her children.
L. DOLAN: I think he'd be honored that we were doing this in his memory. It makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile after 9/11.
BROWN: When we return.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not have a clue exactly what we're going to be going (ph) out of here.
BROWN: A big rescue from a small town with a big heart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just absolutely refused any money and they said you would do the same for us.
BROWN (on camera): The 9/11 attacks, you'll recall, shut down air traffic in and out of the country for days. Flights heading to the U.S. were diverted all over the world. Passengers found themselves stranded, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places, but even in the unlikeliest of places, kindness can and often does prevail.
That's what the passengers onboard Delta Flight 15 certainly found and they are determined to prove that one good deed deserves another.
BROWN (voice-over): Shirley Brooks Jones (ph) has come to this tiny town in Newfoundland, Canada, to give away money.
SHIRLEY BROOKS JONES, FOUNDED SCHOLARSHIP FUND: Good to see you back again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. You too.
BROWN: Money that will help send this town's young people to college.
JONES: Hi, how are you.
MAYOR BILL HOOPER, LEWISPORTE, NEWFOUNDLAND: I'm sure she knows just about everyone here. She knows more than I do.
BROWN: Shirley even has a room reserved at the mayor's home.
This is not Shirley's town. It's not even her country but it's a place she'll never forget because of a chance encounter on a terrible day four years ago.
On September 11th, 2001, Shirley Brooks Jones was headed home to Columbus, Ohio, tired after a three week stint in Europe.
JONES: I was eager to get home, see my husband, do the laundry, those kinds of things.
BROWN: But halfway through her transatlantic crossing, Delta Flight 15 was ordered to land immediately.
JONES: Our captain announced to us that we were going to have to put down because of some minor mechanical problem that we had.
BROWN: Gander, Newfoundland had the nearest asphalt, a 10,200 foot runway tucked away on the eastern shore of Canada. The hurried landing and what happened next was captured on tape from a passenger.
JONES: All of these planes from all over the world were sitting on the runway.
BROWN: Thirty seven commercial airliners diverted in all, carrying more than 6,000 people. JONES: Captain Sweeney came back on, Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for the ruse. There are a lot of terrorist activities in the United States today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three aircraft that we know of were commandeered. One was crashed into each one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City and another was crashed into the Pentagon outside Washington, DC.
We do not have a clue exactly when we're going to be going out of here.
BROWN: Delta Flight 15 spent the night on the runway.
The following morning, Shirley and the passengers of Delta Flight 15 were driven 45 miles to Lewisporte, a quite bayside town of fewer than 4,000 people.
JONES: Lots of beautiful big evergreen trees, lots of water, a very rural kind of an area and I felt very, very safe.
HOOPER: Those passengers came in, they expected to stay in auditoriums, we'd tell them to go in there and lie down there and stay there until the ordeal was over.
That don't happen in Newfoundland.
Lions Centre is where some of the passengers stayed.
BROWN: In Newfoundland, the locals greeted the plane people, as they called them, with open arms. Makeshift beds were arranged, homemade food was served. There were free phone calls and cable TV.
JONES: All they wanted to do was to share what they had. They had thought of literally everything that we might possibly need and to me that was just awesome, just absolutely awesome.
BROWN: Eventually the mayor's wife Thelma would invite Shirley and her travel companion to the mayor's home for a hot shower and a cup of coffee. Friendships were forged. A few days later goodbyes were exchanged with promised returns.
But Shirley and the people of Delta Flight 15 felt they needed to do more.
JONES: They just absolutely refused any money and they said simply, you would do the same for us.
BROWN: On the flight home, Shirley got on the plane's P.A. system. Got on the system to suggest a scholarship fund for the students in Lewisporte. And by the time they landed.
JONES: There was something - a little over $15,000 U.S. that had been pledged for this scholarship fund.
BROWN: A fund that today totals over $800,000 in cash and pledges.
JONES: And I get so giddy and silly, I love being back here.
BROWN: Now Shirley is back in Lewisporte for graduation, a fixed appointment she's made for the last four years.
This year she divvies out $3,000, part of a scholarship fund that has helped send 56 students to college since 9/11.
JONES: I've told the kids that I'm going to keep coming back here as long as I can. And if they don't want me to come back they're going to have to have a mighty big stick.
BROWN: When Shirley comes to town, Lewisporte Collegiate flies the American flag. So does the mayor and his wife.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it hard for you to say goodbye to the passengers?
HOOPER: Yes it was. So I bet (ph) was. Very, very hard. And you will see on Monday when Shirley leaves, we'll be really sad.
JONES: Coming to this area of the world, meeting these wonderful people reinforced once and for all the goodness of people, the goodness of people all over the world.
HOOPER: See you September.
JONES: And here is the best part of the world.
BROWN: Coming up, an ironworker at Ground Zero and a songwriter. How his story became her song.
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER, MUSICIAN: It's almost like I had this story in my back pocket and I wanted to tell it to people.
BROWN (on camera): Two very different people crossed paths because of September 11th. An ironworker who was part of the bucket brigade at Ground Zero and a Grammy award-winning songwriter who was touched by his story.
Though they've never actually met in person, together the ironworker and the songwriter have transcended the tragedy of 9/11 in a unique and unexpected way.
CARPENTER: On the morning of September 11th, we were scheduled to tape a television show in Lower Manhattan.
JIM HORCH, IRONWORKER: On September 11th, I was working on a renovation in Downtown Manhattan.
CARPENTER: And as I was driving from LaGuardia I remember we passed the World Trade Center and I looked up and I saw smoke.
HORCH: The first thing that I thought was I can't believe how many people I just saw die.
People volunteered immediately to work in the rescue effort. Myself, I volunteered about four days after September 11th. My responsibility at the site was to try to remove big pieces of steel. The building feel so hard there wasn't even concrete. It was dust. And it was chaotic.
I started to feel the presence of spirits not immediately but not very long after I was there. The energy that was there was absolutely incredible and it became evident to me that it was more than just the people that I was working with, that it was energy left behind.
It wasn't something that I heard voices, it was a feeling. One day when I was working, I felt this energy and it felt lost and it wanted to go home but it didn't know how to go home and it came to me to go to Grand Central Station.
CARPENTER: When I was driving in my car a year after 9/11, National Public Radio was broadcasting interviews with people and I heard a gentleman told his story. He was an ironworker.
HORCH: When I got off the subway, I walked into the Great Room. Into where the constellation is in the ceiling. And I walked around the perimeter and just to walk out of the building. I didn't feel the energy anymore. I could feel it leave.
I felt kind of glad that I was able to help someone with their journey because I wanted to help these people who had nothing to get to where they needed to go.
CARPENTER: After hearing this story on the radio, my reaction - it was just pure emotional - it's almost like I had this story in my back pocket and I wanted to tell it to people. I couldn't - could you imagine this? Doesn't this just tear at you and break your heart and on the other hand uplift you?
Something came out very quickly that I wasn't expecting. And I found myself writing just in a way just trying to remember what I had heard and the only way I know to describe it is that it kind of wrote itself.
CARPENTER: In many ways, the most important thing to him is to recognize the power of spirits and to do something for them.
HORCH: When I first heard the song, "Grand Central Station" I felt touched that I was able to give an artist an idea. I became emotional. It touched me in a place that I normally don't get touched, in my heart.
Some of the lines that Mary Chapin Carpenter used were really poetic justice to ironworkers. We didn't go there to be stars, we went there to help. We're all part of the human condition and if we don't help each other when we can then we're not making the world a better place.
CHAPIN: It's like he gave me a piece of a puzzle in a way and to be able to write a song about it in a way that made me feel somewhat more at peace, as well, is just kind of passing some healing balm around.
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