Web bonnie

Signs have comforted 9/11 kin: author McEneaney

By Peter McDermott

Two days after her husband died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Bonnie McEneaney stepped out through her front door in New Canaan, Conn. It was a beautiful and still day, she remembered.

She called out: "Eamon, where are you?"

In her book "Messages: Signs, Visits, Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11," she writes: "Then, all of a sudden, somewhere above me, I heard the beginning rush of a gust of new wind building up in intensity. The sound grew louder. I looked above the trees - the tall oak, maple, and black birch that frame the entrance to my driveway, and I could see the wind! It created such a strong pattern through the leaves and the trees that it was easy to follow."

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

McEneaney told the Echo in 2004 that that was the moment when she realized for sure that her husband was dead. She asked relatives to hug her three children - Brendan, then 12, Jennifer, 9, and twins Kyle and Kevin, who were 6 - and tell them their father wasn't coming home.

In subsequent weeks, she found ways of rationalizing what had happened in her front yard. She had been raised Christian and believed in God, but her worldview had no place for signs from beyond the known world. That changed when the first experience was followed by two more.

"This phenomenon of connecting with your loved ones after they die is not limited to 9/11. It's always existed," said McEneaney, whose husband was a vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald and a member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. "It happens every day all around us. It's just that people who've had the experiences are typically afraid to talk about it because they feel they'll be judged in some way.

"And the difference with 9/11 is that so many people died and I knew so many people to begin with," she recalled, "that when we all started sharing the things that had been happening it became quite clear that this was a very compelling set of circumstances that I should pay attention to."

Before she sent her two older children off to college in recent years, McEneaney had quit her job of more than 20 years to concentrate on the book. She interviewed almost 200 people, all of them close relatives or friends of 9/11 victims.

"The thesis of the book is that when you love someone, even after they die the relationship continues. It's just different. The loving connections are never broken," she said. "The book was not written to convert skeptics. The book was written to lay the stories out in hope that it would help people to navigate their own difficult circumstances."

Bonnie McEneaney had and continues to have the support of a large extended Irish-American family that has its roots in Nassau County - her husband's six older siblings, their spouses and children. The family patriarch, Ed McEneaney, who was born to Monaghan parents and spent formative years in Ireland, will celebrate his 95th birthday on Dec. 23, a day on which his youngest child would have turned 56.

McEneaney senior always sent his son a poem on their shared birthday and nurtured a love of literature in his children generally. Three years after his death, Eamon McEneaney's widow and other family members arranged with Prof. Kenneth McClane of Cornell University to have some of his work published in a volume called "A Bend in the Road."

McEneaney never got to write the novels he had planned, but his wife is making an impression on the publishing world. Several hundred people from around the world have been in contact, telling their stories of signs, premonitions and visitations, and a follow-up volume is a possibility.

"I don't understand all of this. I'm not a psychic; I don't know why some people get many signs and some don't get any or some [experience] the extremes, visitations," McEneaney said.

What she does know, she said, is that these are positive experiences -- that relatives feel their loved ones are letting them know they are okay and looking out for them.

"I haven't seen anything scary or negative," she said, adding that the experiences have invariably helped with the healing process.

"I'm no longer a skeptic," McEneaney said. "I firmly believe that there is more than this."

"Messages: Signs, Visits, Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11" is published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. It's priced at $25.99.

Tourism Ireland Banner Ad