As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks looms, many people are understandably revisiting the events of that day and grappling with what they mean for how we live now. One specific story, of United Airlines flight 175 passenger Brian Sweeney, who left a voicemail for his wife before dying in the attack, has gained steam in recent days.
Who was Brian Sweeney?
Brian Sweeney was a passenger on one of the flights that was hijacked and eventually crashed into the World Trade Center. Brian was a Navy pilot who worked as an instructor at TOPGUN before being medically discharged in 1997 after an accident left him partially paralyzed. He met his wife Julie at a bar in Philadelphia, and the two eventually married and lived in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Brian worked as a defense contractor, and worked from home three weeks of the month, and flew from Boston to Los Angeles for work on the fourth week. He's remembered today in part because he left an emotional voicemail for Julie after the plane had been hijacked.
"Jules, this is Brian listen, I'm on an airplane that's been hijacked," the voicemail said.
"If things don't go well, and it's not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times, same to my parents and everybody, and I just totally love you, and I'll see you when you get there," he continued. "Bye, babe. I hope I call you."
In the years since Brian's death, Julie has worked with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to tell his story.
Where is Julie, Brian's wife, now?
20 years after Brian's death, Julie has remarried and works as a substitute teacher. She also volunteers at the 9/11 memorial, and has two children. Even as she seems to have found happiness in the aftermath of tragedy, Julie has continued to work to ensure Brian's memory remains.
"You hold out this hope, especially for someone like Brian, who — this is a silly way to put it — was a warrior, and you just didn't believe that something like this could take him away," she said of Brian's voicemail in an interview with the 9/11 Memorial. "So you hold out hope until it's validated somehow. And all I needed was that message and I think he very selflessly left it. I don't think he left it until he knew that he wasn't coming home. "
"When I got it, it was just so Brian," she said "It was his final request of me, and his final way to let me know that he was gonna be okay and that he believed that he would see me again. And that's all I needed to know. I'm thankful for it, so thankful for that message because at least I know without a shadow of a doubt, what he was thinking."
"The calmness in his voice soothed me, so I do have that," she continued. "And because it's on a message I'm able to share it with anybody that wants to hear it. And it's very powerful. He made very powerful statements with that message."