Having listened and watched to a number of digital stories now, this one struck me more powerfully than any of the others because of the the sadness and beauty in the story. StoryCorps gives us this story by Beverly Eckert whose husband died on Sept. 11, 2001 in the attack on the World Trade Center. For the last 30 minutes of his life, her husband Sean was on the phone with her knowing that he wasn’t going to make it out alive.
Beverly tells how she met Sean when they were 16 year old students in high school When he died, they were both 50 years old and had been together for 34 years. Even without seeing Sean in the story, we get to know him because of her description of his “warm brown eyes” and that he was “a good hugger”. On the day of the attack he called her and told her that he was on the 105th floor and couldn’t find a way out because of the smoke in the stair well.
In one of the most moving parts, she described how she asked him if it hurt to breathe, and he said “No”. But she knew that he was lying to spare her feelings, or as she said “he loved me enough to lie”. Instead of talking more about escape, they talked about the happiness in their lives. She told him that she wanted to be there with him, to die with him. But he said no, that he wanted her to live a full life. Again thinking of her and not himself.
In the end he just kept saying “I love you” over and over, until she heard the sound of something crashing, which was the last thing she heard on the phone.She sat with the phone for a long time and didn’t want to go to sleep again so that the last day with her husband wouldn’t end. But in the end, she went on to live a life for both of them, and she said that “she likes to think Sean would be proud of me”. Sadly, Beverly died in 2009 in an airplane crash as she was going to celebrate Sean’s birthday.
May they both rest in peace.
Ohler’s assessment criteria –
- Originality, voice, and creativity: Beverly’s voice is what makes this story so powerful. It’s clear that, as she tells the story, she still feels the pain of this experience very deeply. She speaks softly throughout the story which gives us the feeling that she doesn’t really want to be telling the story, but that it’s too important to her to not tell it. And you can also hear in her voice a little lift when she talks about living her life for Sean.
- Media application: StoryCorp does an excellent job of making the video interesting by writing out her words as she says them in a variety of shapes and sizes. This writing helps us focus on her words, but it also includes drawings of other key elements of the story, like an image of Sean, a picture of an escape route, holding hands, and more.
- Economy: The story is only 2:44 minutes long, but it feels like a life-time of sadness and beauty wrapped up in the short story. There are no extraneous parts, with each part giving us an important part of the story.