SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It was 21 years ago that terrorists hijacked three planes and dramatically changed America's sense of security. The widower of one of the 40 people who died aboard Flight 93, bound for San Francisco from Newark, New Jersey, has just written a book that shares his long road battling depression and trauma with the hope it will help others facing unexpected tragedy.
The granite marker at the Flight 93 memorial in Union City is engraved with "Lauren Grandcolas and unborn child."
Lauren was just three months along when the hijackers crashed the plane she was on into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 40 passengers and crew members.
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Jack Grandcolas, who was home that day in Marin County, decided he wanted to write a book dedicated to the boy or girl who would have been the couple's first child. He now lives on the Monterey Peninsula.
"I'll never have full closure," Grandcolas said. "I'll always have a scar on my heart, but it's certainly a way for me to do something to memorialize the unborn child."
Titled "Like A River to the Sea," the book describes his years of depression and post-traumatic stress, then the therapy that later enabled him to let go of his wife's and child's ashes.
"I was holding onto them because it was the only tangible DNA I had of the unborn child, so it allowed me to release those ashes in a beautiful place," he said.
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Initially, Grandcolas says he was withdrawn, but then was convinced to go to a holiday party where he met actor Sean Penn, whose friendship was a turning point.
"Sean's got a big heart, and he's a very passionate man in everything that he does and is quite intelligent," Grandcolas said. "But his compassion is more than evidenced by the way he treated me."
Today, Grandcolas has remarried. His wife, Sarah Hopkins is an artist, who wears Lauren's wedding ring, which had been at the jeweler's on 9/11. It provides a special bond. First Jack and now both say Lauren continues to speak to them with advice, encouragement and support.
"It comes to you in the moments you least expect it, but it's a beautiful thing," he said.
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Grandcolas hopes his book, which details his difficult journey, will help others deal with a sudden loss, such as those who have lost a loved one to COVID. He hopes it will also help others to deal with a generation lost because of an unexpected death.
"So it is a generational book in a way because it's a love letter to the generation that would have been in their 20s now," Grandcolas said.
Among them would have been Lauren and Jack's unborn child.
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