It's been 10 years since Dublin resident Deb Lloyd last saw her younger sister Amy King. Ten years since she last heard her voice over the phone, exchanged an email or shared a moment between sisters.
Lloyd, who lived in Chicago at the time, found out shortly after 10 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2011 that her younger sister, a flight attendant, was working on United Flight 175 when the Boston-to-Los Angeles flight was hijacked and flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Amy R. King was just 29 years old.
Lloyd is quick to point out that this isn't a story about her. This is the story of a young, vibrant woman who loved to travel and be with her family, and who was in love with her boyfriend Michael Tarrou.
Tarrou, 38 and the father of a young daughter, was also a flight attendant. He and King often worked the same schedule to spend more time with one another. Sept. 11 was no different. Tarrou was working on the same flight that day as Amy.
"Just the fact that they were together, it's bittersweet, you know," said Lloyd.
Lloyd said although a couple of passengers were able to call from the plane before it crashed, there are few details as to what happened that day.
Although the two were not engaged, King's family knew it was only a matter of time.
"They weren't officially engaged, but they were certainly headed that way," she said. "They were just a really good balance."
In fact, King's family found out after her death that Tarrou had recently asked his mother for his grandmother's engagement ring. That ring was never found.
"So we don't know what would have happened," Lloyd said.
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001
For Lloyd and her family, the day began like any other and she remembers the details of that morning well. Her husband was at work and she was at home getting her three young children ready for school. She remembers her husband calling and telling her to turn on the news. At that point, both planes had hit the twin towers, but Lloyd said her kids were already waiting for her outside.
"I wasn't even thinking that it could be commercial planes," she said.
Lloyd drove her two older children, ages 10 and 8, to school. She dropped her 4-year-old off at preschool and made her way back home. By the time she turned on the TV again it was known that both planes were commercial aircraft; an American and a United Flight.
"As soon I heard that it was a United, Boston-based flight I remember being alone in my family room and just kind of dropping a little, you know I just had a feeling," Lloyd said.
Phone calls were made between Lloyd, her other sister and her parents. The family, unaware of exactly what King's schedule was that day, clung to the hope that perhaps her plane had been diverted to another location and grounded.
"I still kept saying to my parents and sister, 'There is just no way, don't worry about it. We're going to hear from her.' "
Shortly after 10 a.m. the phone rang.
"My dad called... he could hardly speak. 'United just called.' And that's all he had to say."
A life taken far too soon
Amy King loved life, her boyfriend and her family. She was an avid runner. The youngest of three sisters, she wanted to get married and have children.
"She would have been a phenomenal mother because she was really young at heart and, you know, just very fun, so happy, very lovable, very loving, very generous," Lloyd said.
King loved spending time with her nieces and nephew in Chicago and they loved their aunt.
"She was the fun young aunt," she said.
The two sisters had planned to get together for dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 12, when King was scheduled to be in town for a layover. She was then going to return to Chicago to babysit her nieces and nephew while their parents celebrated an anniversary out of town.
Lloyd wears a silver bracelet on her wrist inscribed with Amy and Michael's names and Flight 175. Lloyd said many members of her family wear identical bracelets. She never takes hers off.
A gift from Amy
Although she was based in Boston for work, King had lived in Stafford Spring, CT, with Tarrou. After King's death, her family sorted through her belongings. But it wasn't until July 2002 that Lloyd and her mother talked about something they didn't find among her things: a roll of black-and-white film.
On a visit to Chicago a couple of weeks before she died, King had taken black-and-white photos with her sister and the kids, and Lloyd wondered why those photos had never been found. The family had been unable to find King's camera as well, but assumed that she took it with her on her flight.
After speaking with her mom, Lloyd decided to call CVS stores near King's home and asked the employee at the first store if they had an old, unclaimed packet of black-and-white photos under her sister's name.
"When she got back on the phone, she said, 'Yeah, you know I have an envelope here for Amy. Amy King's name is on it and it looks like it's been around for a while.' "
"I feel like it was just sort of a gift from her," said Lloyd.
That gift included photos of King with her family, photos she and Tarrou had taken of each other and even images of a day trip King had taken with a close friend to Washington, DC. A framed black and white photo of King and another of Tarrou, both photos they took of each other from that roll of film, now hang in Lloyd's home.
All for Amy
Following news of her death, King's family and friends flocked to her hometown of Jamestown, New York. Within days, friends from California, San Antonio, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Virginia arrived to grieve. Lloyd's family put together a memorial service and on Saturday, Sept. 15 2001, they gathered with friends to remember the person they loved and lost.
King's friends and family wanted to do more. Her high school track coach from high school contacted the local YMCA and organized a memorial run for the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
This year will be the 11th annual Amy's Run, a 5K run/walk. All money raised from the event goes toward scholarships for kids who can't afford to go to summer camp.
The community built a playground outside of the local YMCA called Amy's Playce. That's "playce" because it's a spot where kids can do just that: play. Lloyd said new equipment is constantly being added to the playground.
"You eventually have to just pick up and start honoring her life," said Lloyd. "You can't control what has happened, but we can honor her in a way that serves the community and do what she would do, what she wanted to do."
Her friends have also put together an annual golf tournament called "All for Amy" for the past five years. The tournament, held each summer in King's hometown, sells out each year. The money raised at the event goes to local scholarships.
A memorial has been built at King's high school, as well as a memorial in a nearby park. There is no grave site for her since her remains were never located. The memorials serve as a place where her family — including her parents, who still live in the town in which she grew up — can go to remember.
A lesson for us all
With King's death comes a reminder. Lloyd acknowledges that it sounds trite, silly even, because people say it so often. But Lloyd knows how true it is.
"I think joyful moments are even more joyful because you know it could all go away," she said. "It's like a deeper sense of when things are good, things are good. Like let's hang on to this and try to really remember."
The summer of 2001, Lloyd remembers, she communicated a lot with her sister over the phone and via email. She remembers telling King, "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"We were all over each other," she said with a smile. She even joked with her sister that summer that, "You're stuck with me because we're sisters."
It's clear talking with Lloyd that the memory of the summer of 2001 brings some comfort in what is otherwise a tragic situation. It's also the fact that in this family, nothing went unsaid.
"I know she knew how loved she was by my family. That's the one thing I'm so thankful for, that we were so expressive, she really knew."
Amy King would have turned 40 this October. As the 10-year anniversary of her death approaches, her family is left with the memories she left them and the photos, especially that stack of black and white ones, that capture a remarkable young woman taken far too soon.
"The pain and disbelief never goes away, we have simply learned how to live without her. She was full of life, happy, and very loving."