MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We now see September 11, 2001 as something epic, you know, a day that rewrote history books. But many people have more personal stories from that day, especially when it comes to loved ones they lost. Sarah Clark was a 65-year-old teacher from Columbia, Md. She was engaged to John Milton Wesley, an author and communications specialist. They'd been together for seven years and friends for 20 when Clark in the plane crash at the Pentagon. Rebecca Blatt talks with Wesley about how he honors Clark's memory and how he's finding love anew.
MS. REBECCA BLATT
One of the things you notice when you talk with John Milton Wesley about the death of his fiancée, Sarah Clark, is that on the surface he doesn't seem very emotional. Tears don't well up in his eyes when he talks about her. In fact, he beams as he remembers how meticulous she was.
MR. JOHN MILTON WESLEY
Sarah prepared to go to bed the way most people prepare to go out to work in the morning. And I would say, you know, you're working kind of hard, aren't you?
But step into his living room and you soon realize that for Wesley, love and loss aren't in the throat or behind the eyes. They're in the mundane details of daily life.
I haven't painted because these were the colors, you know, that she liked, yellow and orange and blue. The pillows on the chairs, she redid those.
On the shelf a wine rack holds the same bottles that were there on September 11, 2001. Sarah's keyboard still sits in one corner of the room. In the months that followed her death, Wesley felt her presence and absence everywhere.
I was going into the pantry in the kitchen and I noticed fingerprints on the wall. I had never seen fingerprints before. I got the message down and she wiped them off. It wasn't until I had to care of the whole house by myself that I realized how little I did on the inside and how much she did.
Wesley says he followed the routines he and Sarah shared. Coming home at 5:00 o'clock sharp, reading from the Bible each morning.
Because to let go of her and the rituals was too much for me to bear.
But other habits were more difficult. When Wesley traveled for work, he didn't have anyone to buy a souvenir for.
The hardest thing about loving somebody when you're suddenly alone, you miss the ritual of loving somebody. One of the ways that I was able to survive was to immediately ask, what is it that you would like for me to do?
Wesley says the answers came back. Be active in church, work with children, be close with family. And he's done that. He also poured himself into music. He and Sarah met singing in a church choir. He's composed 40 songs since 9/11, one called "In My Arms Tonight," was written for people who are facing their own losses.
Say you're a servicemen coming home and you're only going to be here for two weeks. What is it that a mother, a wife, could say to their loved one and what is it that that loved one could say to them?
I was thinking about her. What would be -- what could be her gift through me to them? And the message would be basically is that I appreciate you.
In 10 years, Wesley has begun to open up to other people, including another woman named Gladys.
After I had been spending time with Gladys for a year, I had a dream about Sarah. She was laughing and smiling, talked to me about, you look good.
Wesley says it was as if she was saying, I can go now. You can let me go.
I knew it was important to let her go to her new life in the place that she is when she's not here with me.
After 20 years of friendship, seven years of courtship and 10 years of heartache, it turns out sometimes the greatest gift you can offer someone you love is permission to let go. I'm Rebecca Blatt.
And that's "Metro's Connection for this week. We heard from WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza, Jonathon Wilson, Emily Friedman, Rebecca Blatt and Jim Hilgen along with producer Marc Adams. Jim Asendio is our news director. Our managing producer is Tara Boyle. Thanks as always to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.
Today's theme song, "Walking," is by John Davis and used with permission of the artist. You can see a list of all the music we use on our website, metroconnection.org. And while you're there, you can find us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and you also can subscribe to the free "Metro Connection" podcasts.
We hope you'll join us next week when we hunt for things lost and found. We'll hear how a D.C. janitor nearly lost his work of art built from cardboard, jelly jars and other discarded stuff to history. And we'll sift through some rather surprising items left behind on the train and bus. Plus, how science teachers are helping local students rediscover a lost passion for science.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1
I put together two talks on nuclear fusion and nuclear fission and I related it to information in the media that was discussing about contamination of soil and seawater and the vegetation.
I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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