On September 10, 2001 Bonnie McEneaney was a successful financial services executive, happily married wife and mother of four.
Then, on September 11, her husband Eamon -- who worked at the World Trade Center, and had had strange premonitions for days that he was going to die -- perished in the attacks, along with so many others.
After his death, Bonnie received a series of signs that led her to believe he was communicating with her from beyond the grave. A born skeptic, now convinced beyond a doubt, she reached out to other 9/11 widows and survivors to find out what messages they'd been given.
In "Messages: Signs, Visits and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11
" she explores their collective experiences, as well as her newfound belief that love does live on.
Lemondrop sat down to ask her what signs from the beyond look like -- and what we should all keep an eye out for.
Lemondrop: How did you first decide to write this book?
You know, the thing is, my husband had had a series of premonitions right before he died. At the time, he was at Cantor Fitzgerald, working on the 105th floor of the North Tower. He had a conversation over Labor Day weekend, saying he knew that the towers would be hit soon. And the whole discussion was, should he bring people upstairs to the roof, or down the stairs -- he had that debate with his brother.
Eamon had worked there during the 1993 terrorist attack on the towers, and, that time, he had helped rescue 63 people. But now, with each passing day, he became increasingly more despondent about the fact that he knew he wasn't going to be here much longer.What did you make of his behavior at the time?
I shrugged it off at first, but it built up in intensity, and I thought he was falling into a clinical depression. Our final conversation -- we were watching the premiere of the miniseries "Band of Brothers
," about D-Day, the day when these young paratroopers were parachuting down into Normandy -- and Eamon made the comment that they must have been so frightened, because they were only 17, but he knew he could handle his own death now. Then 9/11 came.
And how did you deal with his death?
The first thing that I did was to publish a book called "A Bend in the Road," which was a compilation of his poetry -- all of the proceeds went to Cornell University to support their library program. Eamon was a really good writer
. He wanted to do more of that, less of Wall Street.
I kept thinking about things that had happened to me, spiritual experiences, since Eamon died. I had already started talking to the other wives at Cantor Fitzgerald. I asked if they had any similar experiences, connecting to their loved one or relating to them.
I found many of them had. In 2005, I started really taking notes and writing down what had happened to me, and in 2006 I decided I would leave my job of 21 years, working as an executive in a financial services company, to focus on writing this book. It was a risk -- I have four children. All I can say is that it was almost like a calling.
I started by talking to the Cantor wives I knew. They said, "Speak to this person, this person has a story." Then Voices of September 11th
sent out a note. I got a couple of calls, from those couple of calls, I was referred to more people ... A portion of the proceeds from this book will go to support their good work on the 9/11 Living Memorial Project
And when you say you had spiritual experiences that had happened to you, what do you mean?
Initially, I was really skeptical of all of this stuff. On September 13, we were doing what all of the other families were doing -- trying to locate Eamon. We didn't know what to expect, the mayor hadn't told us anything yet, though we feared the worst. And on September 13, I just stepped out my front door and yelled, "Eamon, where are you?"
It wasn't my normal style.
Well, it wasn't a normal day.
No. It was a very still day, actually, but all of a sudden the branches in a tree outside started rustling, and I looked up there, and it was only in that one area. It kind of came around, like in a river, and it came down and kind of lifted my skirt, in a sort of whimsical way, and I knew that I had my answer.
That Eamon was gone. And, at the same time, others were finding out the same thing. Did you find that they had similar experiences?
Well, I want to stress that the power of the book is in the collected stories. They range from signs from nature and premonitions -- a lot of premonitions and visitations, where people heard their loved one or felt their embrace, or smelled them. They would be enveloped by their cologne. We called them "sensory visitations."
A lot of people have seen their loves ones. They've seen them in dreams, but they've also seen them when they were awake in a lot of cases, and they've always described them in the same way.
The thing is, these events are not exclusive to 9/11. They've happened forever. They've happened all over. It's just that a lot of people died on that horrific day.
Was there one moment that took you from skeptic to believer?
Yes. If you go back to that last exchange, between my husband and I, and the miniseries, "Band of Brothers," D-Day was June 6, 1944
Well, I was out to dinner in 2006 with some of my friends. We were the last people at this restaurant, and we had to order fast because the kitchen was going to close. The people at the table, we'd been talking about this project, and signs people had received: This one guy said he finds sets of four dimes and knows they're from his late wife. Another woman said she always found pennies in weird places and knew it was her husband. And I was telling them a story about my friend whose son had died, and when she's grief-stricken, she'll find a penny, and know it's from him.
The waiter brought the menus around and somebody said, "We better order really fast." And I looked down, and there was a penny in the middle of my menu. But what makes it more unusual is that it was a very old penny. It was what they call a "wheat penny
," they have sprigs of wheat on either side of the one cent mark. The penny was from 1944.
After that, I said, "There's no way that this isn't true." It was that story, plus the fact that, over and over and over again, so many other people told me things that had happened to them. I've interviewed over 200 people since that time.
And now you're sold.
Well, I don't understand it. I don't know how the whole mechanism works. I don't know why some people get signs and some don't. And it's not about converting skeptics. It's not about religion. I say, take the signs and use them as you may. But I do believe that if you love someone, the relationship goes on.
What were some of the other stories you heard that really gave you goosebumps?
Some are the stories that touched me the most are the ones from nature. There's the young boy who was giving his mother's eulogy -- she, too, had died on 9/11-- and he was 15, and when he said, "mother," a tiny sparrow flew down and landed on his head
. He was able to cup the bird in his hands and let it free. I mean, that's not typical bird behavior.
And in other cases it was finding coins, weird things involving electricity. But the one thing that is coming across all of it was the fact that it was about the connection with someone they loved.
And, since then, how do you feel that Eamon communicates with you?
Usually something happens after I've asked for his help. Mostly, I get coins. The coins usually have significant dates -- like 2001 -- and they're in significant locations. Once I was just very upset about things, and the loss. It was last Thanksgiving. I had made the bed, and there was nothing on the bed, and I came out to get my clothes, and there was a penny on the bed, and it was from the year that we had met.
It doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen every once in a while. I think if it happened a lot, I'd be more skeptical!
Tell us a little about Eamon.
He was a wonderful husband and father. He was Irish, the youngest of seven. He has the most points in an NCAA Lacrosse championship series -- though he was tied in the late '80s by anohter Cornellian. He was a very unique, special person.
So, think you'll go back to financial services anytime soon, or is this a permanent break?
It's a permanent break. Not that I didn't love my other job, but I feel that this is so much more gratifying for me. And one area in which I think it could be really really helpful is for people going through bereavement. My view of bereavement is very different now. I hate the word "closure." I much prefer the idea that the relationship goes on -- it's just different.
Carrie Sloan is the editor of Lemondrop. When things are going well, she usually sees a specific series of numbers, like 888 -- but it's hard to tell for sure what that means, besides the fact that the call is toll-free.