I was already awake when my phone rang at 7:20 this morning. I was not surprised to see it was Lou, since I never expected him to actually abide the no contact order. I answered and immediately ended the call so he could not talk to me or leave another hateful, threatening message. A half hour later, I answered a call from our home security monitoring service and was told that the panic alarm in the main bedroom had been activated. I said nobody should be there, but it was a serious situation if that had been set off purposefully. I let them know about the restraining order and asked them to notify the police. I called my sister, who had checked into a nearby hotel late last night and asked if they would come over to stay with Anjelica if I needed to go out. Suddenly aware that I had not bathed in days, I took a shower, and put on the same jeans and tank top for the fourth day in a row, now layered with the clean long sleeved plaid shirt borrowed from my friend last night. I did not know what was happening, but knew it was bad.
When my sister and her husband arrived, I had still not heard from the police or anyone. She advised me to wait and let the police do their job, but I was anxious to find out what was going on. Even though I did not know where I was going, she agreed to go with me, but insisted on driving. My brother-in-law stayed at the hotel with Anjelica. We started driving toward Amherst, and unable to wait any longer, about an hour after the panic alarm went off, I called the Amherst police and stated my name and address. The dispatcher said, “We are so relieved you called. An airplane crashed into your house and it is engulfed in fire. Please go to the scene to assist the responders with details.” Shocked, but not the least bit surprised by this news, I told my sister, made a few calls, including one to my brother-in-law at the hotel, instructing him to get room service and keep the television on cartoon and kid’s channels. The orange bottle of pills rattled as I tried to ease out a Valium into my shaking hand.
The small neighborhood was blocked off and jammed with media, police, fire and emergency vehicles. We were allowed to park just beyond the barricade after explaining I was the homeowner and had been told to come. I steeled myself for what I would see at the end of my walk down that narrow 1000ft freshly paved driveway. Nothing could have prepared me for the shock of seeing my nightmare come to reality in broad daylight. It was not my worst nightmare though, because Anjelica and I were not in the house or airplane. My knees buckled, and someone helped steady me down to sit on a rock, as I first viewed the skeletal remains of our home. The neighbors had reported seeing a private airplane circle the property, and hearing the engine go silent just before the house exploded. I was asked to diagram the interior layout of the house, especially the locations of the furnace and other gas appliances. The airplane had pierced through the upper level on the backyard side and was now in the basement. The fire was under control, in that there wasn’t really anything left to burn, but they had not attempted to enter the home or approach the aircraft. They also wanted Lou’s height, weight, and other information that would identify his body. I suggested that the x-rays from our dental visits on Tuesday would provide positive identification. They presumed the pilot was dead. I was terrified he was not. My imagination contemplated implausible scenarios in which he survived.
I went to a neighbor’s house to use the bathroom, and remembering he was a doctor, I asked for a referral to a child psychologist for advice on how to have this unthinkable discussion with Anjelica. After I received notice that Lou’s body was recovered from the wreckage, with preliminary identification based on my description of his physical features and standard jewelry, I returned to our hotel room, where my brother-in-law and Anjelica were watching a cartoon. I sat down with Anjelica on my lap, and said we had some important things to talk about but could wait until the end of her show if she wanted to finish. After a couple minutes, she said she was ready, and turned to face me. Taking the advice from the psychologist to dole out the news honestly, but at her pace, I gently said, “Daddy was in a crash, and died.” She put her head to my chest and hugged me for a while, then looked up and asked, “Was he in a car or in the plane?” I answered that it was in the plane, and she laid her head back on me as we continued to hug. She lifted her head again and asked, “Where did it happen?” I fought hard to not choke up as I answered, “It was at our house, and it burned down in the crash.” We both cried, and held on tight to each other, and she raised her head to ask that final remaining question, “Was it on purpose?” I answered, “Yes.” There was no need to ask or answer, “Why?” As we snuggled, safe in the chair, I knew that I had lost every thing, but in my arms, I held everything.
My sister kept copious notes of important information and contacts and tried to keep me hydrated. As I spoke with my mother, Bruce, Nico, Sandy, and our friends in Peterborough, I learned Lou had called most of them multiple times over the past couple days and all through last night, trying to get anyone to tell him where I was, and spewing lies, filth and anger about me to make them question if I was an unfit mother. Nico tried to calm him several times overnight, but was exhausted from no sleep, and eventually stopped answering the phone.
We had not been in contact with Lou’s family in a long time, and I did not have his mother’s or sister’s unlisted numbers in my cell phone or memory. Around 11pm, I decided to ask the Elmont police to go to his mother’s house to notify her in person, since I do know her address. About an hour later, the police called me from her doorstep, and handed her the phone. I said, “I am so sorry. Lou died today in a plane crash.” She was clearly distraught and had few questions. I asked for her daughter’s number. She gave the phone back to the officer while she got the info, and he asked if I told her everything. I admitted that I did not, and was told, “You have to tell her everything now.” My God, it was horrible enough to tell a mother her son was dead. When she returned with the number, I wrote it down, and divulged there was more, “He crashed the airplane on purpose into our house and burned it to the ground.” At this, she wailed, “Oh, Louis! Oh my God, Louis!” All I could say was “I know. I’m so sorry. I know. I’m sorry.” The midnight call to my sister-in-law was excruciatingly not painful at all. I don’t know how she actually feels, but she seemed totally unfazed by the news. I said I’d be in contact again and was assured she would check on her mom.
It’s nearing dawn; perhaps I can finally sleep in peace.