20 years later, man remembers loving legacy his beloved wife left behind after 9/11

Twenty years later, loved ones of those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks still remember the tragedy.

HOUSTON – Twenty years later, loved ones of those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks still remember the tragedy.

They were mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. The men and women who lost their lives were treasured. It has been 20 years since the dark part of American history.

Jack Grandcolas still remembers the day very well. It was the day he lost his best friend and partner, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, who was on Flight 93 that fateful day.

Today, Jack continues to tell his wife’s story and shares about her bravery, inspiration and love.

Jack still smiles when thinking of the memories he has shared with his beloved wife Lauren.

“She was a petite beautiful woman. But pound for pound, she was as strong as any guy I know,” Jack said.

The spunky, compassionate leader and author went to school in Texas. Lauren graduated from Stratford High School and continued on to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin. Her parents Lawrence & Barbara Catuzzi still live in Houston. Jack and Lauren knew each other since college and had their first date at a U2 concert.

“She was the best friend that anyone could wish to have,” Jack said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Lauren was three months pregnant. Jack and Lauren dreamed of being pregnant and had tried for decades to conceive. Lauren had been living in San Francisco with Jack for more than a decade at the time. She was flying home to see Jack from her grandmother’s funeral. On this trip, Lauren broke the news to her family that she was expecting a child.

It just so happens, that day, Lauren caught an earlier flight -- United Airlines Flight 93.

At 8:42 am, the San Francisco-bound Boeing 757 took off at Newark. Seven crew members, Lauren, 32 other passengers, and four hijackers were on board. Jack was just waking up on the West Coast.

“I ran downstairs. I turned the television on,” Jack said.

He had two voicemails from Lauren. The first voicemail was from Lauren, telling him that she had caught an earlier flight. Jack continued to watch the news and his heart sunk.

At 8:46 am on Sept. 11, 2001, American Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center. It was a terrorist attack ordered by Osama Bin Laden. Watching this on TV, Jack Grandcolas listened to the second message.

“[Lauren] said, ‘Honey, are you there? Pick up, sweetie,’ As we all do, very calm, cool and collective,” Jack explained. “She said, ‘Okay, I just want you to know I love you,’ which is the first thing she wanted to make sure I knew. Then she said, ‘There is a little problem on the plane.’”

Jack was in awe of her strength and restraint. He has spent years thinking about his wife’s call.

“She then says, ‘I’m fine for now,’ meaning, she knew she might not get out of there, but they were going to try like heck to wrestle back control of that plane,” Jack said. “She then stops herself. She says, ‘Please tell my family I love them too. Bye, honey,’ After I heard that, I fell to the floor.”

Flight 93 went down in a field in Somerset County Pennsylvania. The crew onboard fought back. Jack knows in his heart, Lauren was one of them.

Lauren, the crew, and the passengers of Flight 93 are all considered heroes.

“They had the [conscience] to know and to care enough to wait until they were in a rural area to come together with strangers and hopefully save any other people on the ground from being harmed,” Jack said.

Thwarting an attack at the Capitol, Flight 93 had no survivors, but they do have a surviving legacy.

“Unity in a moment of peril is probably the most courageous thing anyone can do. And I think she probably wished that upon our country today,” Jack said.

Lauren now has a foundation, and in Houston, there is a beautiful memorial that shares Lauren’s love for people and leadership. The garden is located at Market Square Park.

Her sisters finished the book she was writing, “You Can Do It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls,” which inspires women to achieve and to pursue their interests.

Their unborn baby and Jack are leaving their legacy too. Jack’s journey to healing has led him to write a book, a tribute to his unborn child: From The River To The Sea: Heartbreak and Hope in the Wake of United 93.

“Dear Son or daughter, I’m writing by the advice of my therapist to let you know a little bit about mom and dad and about why you’re now in the history books,” Jack read.

Twenty years later, loved ones of those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks still remember the tragedy.