The following morning, August 25, 2001, against the terms of the restraining order, Lou called my cell phone. I didn’t want him to get in trouble, I did not want to talk to him, nor did I want him to have the opportunity to leave me another long hateful voicemail message, so I just answered the call and immediately disconnected without saying anything. About 20 minutes later, the home security monitoring service called to notify me that the panic alarm in the master bedroom of our house had been activated. I said nobody should be there, but that if Lou set that off on purpose, then it is a serious situation. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity to get a call back, I phoned the police to find out what was going on. They were relieved to hear from me, and said my house was on fire, and that an airplane had crashed into it. They needed me to go to the site right away to help them understand the layout of home, which was fully engulfed in flames. I took a deep breath and a Valium, as my sister drove the short distance to my neighborhood. I worked my way through the emergency vehicles and personnel, and already present media cameras, down the now-scarred driveway to the ruins of what had been our custom built home secluded in the middle of an 11 acre treed lot. It was overwhelming, but not the least bit surprising to me. I waited anxiously for them to find a body. I was not afraid he was dead. I was afraid he was not. Eventually, the dental records from our trip to Delaware that week proved his identity.
Some people I called to inform had been on the phone with him much of the night before. I learned he had been up all night in his hotel room calling everyone who might know where I was. When they could not tell him, he told them a lot of bad stuff about me. His best friend talked to him several times, and then exhausted, finally had to stop taking calls. Before the funeral, that friend told me that while he had been at our home visiting just a few weeks earlier, that over a couple beers, Lou had mused that he sometimes thought about just taking the three of us up in the plane and crashing it into a mountain or something. He had brushed it off as implausible.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I watched the horror unfold on TV as the planes crashed into the buildings. I felt guilty and responsible for what was happening that day. Sure, terrorists hijacked airplanes, but using them as a weapon to crash into buildings had not been done before Lou’s dive 17 days earlier. I intellectually understand that is irrational thinking, but it still plays in my mind to this day.
I survived, but still struggle with PTSD symptoms, which kept me from returning to my job. I re-married in 2005 to my new next door neighbor, whose personality is polar opposite from Lou’s, and in 2009, I finally went back to work. But, I stay fairly secluded within a bubble of people I trust, and am otherwise very quiet, to avoid questions and conversations that may result in anyone learning that I am “that woman”.
I don’t view Lou as the villain and me as either the victim or the heroine. I don’t know if he could be diagnosed as having borderline or narcissistic or any other personality disorder, or if he was just difficult and, at the end, very troubled. I have no idea what labels would define my co-dependent and enabling behaviors over the years. I do know that our relationship was dysfunctional and unhealthy.
Although the concept terrifies me, I now want to come out of my self-imposed shell and help educate others about relationships such as ours. In this blog, I will share many of the details of our lives throughout the years … hopefully to save other lives, as people recognize themselves, loved ones, friends, co-workers or patients in our profiles and get professional help. I would like to think that with the right kind of assistance, things could have ended better; I know they could have ended much worse.