Claremore Daily Progress


September 11, 2011

Parents recall pain of not knowing whether son survived 9/11

CLAREMORE — “My heart jumped up to my throat, it was a sinking feeling that came upon me and I hung up the phone,” said Paul Rowlett.

Only moments earlier he received a call notifying him a plane just hit the World Trade Center. Before Paul could get off the phone, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the second tower.

His son, Brock Rowlett was attending a Morgan Stanley new employee training class located on the 61st floor of the South Tower.

Paul’s wife Jeanne, Brock’s mother, was driving to Claremore Public Schools Alternative Learning Center where she worked and was unaware her son was in danger.

Concerned for Jeanne, Paul called the schooland asked them to please try to keep her away from the news until he could arrive.

School officials successfully got Jeanne into her classroom with the aid of a couple of students and she remained unaware of the situation.

Jeanne was working with students when she looked up to see Paul standing outside the doorway.

“I didn’t know about the planes hitting the World Trade Center until about 8:20 when my husband came to tell me at school. The look on his face said it all, I knew something was wrong, but I would never have guessed what I was about to hear,” said Jeanne.

Paul told Jeanne to come on they needed to leave and he would explain when they got home. Jeanne planted her feet firmly on the ground and refused to move a step until he told her what was going on.

As Paul broke the news to Jeanne he explained that during the drive to the school he spoke with his friend, Larry Langford.

Langford worked at the Morgan Stanley office in Tulsa and informed Paul that Brock was in the South Tower but located below the impact zone of the plane.

“There have been a lot of evacuations and we believe they have had time to get out,” said Langford according to Paul.

Paul spoke calmly and continued to give Jeanne the only details he knew.

“I know he will be OK, Jeanne. When I started the car earlier the words “He’s alive, he’s alive from the old gospel song rang across the stereo in my car,” said Paul.

Paul’s words offered Jeanne great comfort as she processed the information.

“I understood what Paul was telling me but didn’t know the extent of the danger until we arrived home and I saw the images on television,“ said Jeanne.

“We couldn’t do anything, all the years you spend protecting your kids and it was out of my hands. Only God was in control,” she said.

Jeanne said, “Only God could give Brock the eyes to find the way out.”

Watching the tragedy unfold on television they could only hope and pray Brock was safe. It was the uncertainty that was unsettling according to Jeanne.

Friends and family gathered at the Rowlett’s home. Paul and Jeanne tried to get what information they could as they waited for the phone to ring.

The phone rang, Jeanne answered and heard the most wonderful sound.

“Hey mom, its Brock I’m safe, I have to go,” said Brock.

The conversation was short, but Jeanne, Paul and the many friends that gathered in their home celebrated the news.

The joy was short lived as a moment passed and the South Tower crumbled to the ground.

Jeanne leaned over the sofa and the sinking feeling returned. Once again Paul and Jeanne were faced with the uncertainty of Brock’s safety.

It would be hours before they would hear Brock’s voice again.

“We talked ourselves into believing he was ok,” said Paul.

“It is just that feeling when you know your child is in trouble and you can’t get in touch with them,” said Jeanne.

Brock and his coworkers had to walk miles to get back to the hotel. Communications in New York City were limited and they finally called their families once they arrived at the hotel.

“We had about an hour real fear, a minute and a half of jubilation and six hours where we wondered what was going on,” said Paul. “It was sure nice to get the second call.”

“The signs were there from God that everything was going to be ok. It is just during the moments we were trying to deal with the tragedy of the situation we became too distracted to see them,” Jeanne said.

Paul and Jeanne wanted desperately to get Brock out of there. They told Brock they would leave immediately and come to get him.

They experienced loss and joy all within moments of each other.

“It was the absolute worst day of my life and the absolute best day,” said Jeanne “It was the fear of losing a child and not being able to help him or to know the pain he was in.”

“I would never ever want to go through any experience like this without knowing that God was there right there beside me and my faith and trust was totally in him,” she said.

Paul and Jeanne both expressed that people should remember some things are out of your control in life. Parents try to protect their children throughout their lives, but sometimes you can not.

The feeling of helplessness and not being able to save your child fromsuch a tragic event is heartbreaking she said.

Brock realizes how difficult the experience was for his parents. Now as a father and husband he can not imagine how he would feel.

“I really believe that this was much more difficult for my parents then for me,” said Brock.

Brock, Paul and Jeanne were reunited three days after the attacks of 9/11. It was an amazing day and a truly joyous occasion.

They hope their story will help others remember that miracles happen everyday. To always focus on what is truly important in life, faith, family, and love.

Take the time to enjoy these gifts and never forget how fortunate we are as Americans.

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