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San Rafael Man's Long Road Back After Losing Pregnant Wife On 9/11

SAN RAFAEL (KCBS) - For years, Jack Grandcolas struggled to regain a sense of control over his life after his wife and unborn child perished aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.

Lauren Grandcolas was back east for her grandmother's funeral, and decided to stay a few extra days, waiting for the right moment to reveal that she was three months pregnant with the couple's first child, "so that it would be more uplifting to the family after just burying their grandmother," her husband said.

She called him twice from the doomed plane, leaving messages he didn't hear until she and their unborn child had already died.

"I say a prayer for every person I hear about or read about that loses someone because it is so tough," Grandcolas said.

In some ways, the decade since the al-Qaeda hijackings feels like the blink of an eye. But not for Grandcolas.

"It seems longer. The first five years really kind of were a blur anyway," he said.

KCBS' Doug Sovern Reports:

Lauren Grandcolas never arrived at airports early. Her scheduled flight out of Newark, New Jersey was scheduled to fly an hour and a half after the nation was transfixed by two jets slamming into the World Trade Center towers.

"This was the first time I know of [her getting] to an airport early. There is the what if," Grandcolas said.

United Flight 93 was the fourth plane taken over by al-Qaeda. When some of the 44 passengers and crew tried to storm the cockpit, the hijackers crashed it into a Pennsylvania field. There were no survivors.

Many families of the Bay Area victims of the September 11 terror attacks will observe the tenth anniversary on Sunday at public memorial services in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington. Some will speak as advocates for a variety of causes.

Quiet and reserved, Grandcolas said he has always preferred to grieve privately at home.

"I usually spend the day very solemnly and quietly," he said. "It's a date. It's not something I celebrate."

He endures even more pain on other dates the public doesn't recognize, "wedding anniversaries, birth dates, the potential date of our unborn child's birth," he said, describing a calendar filled with "many nevers."

While closure has been elusive, with time has come healing.

Grandcolas now lives in a different home. His girlfriend of five years, Sarah Hopkins, wears a ring fashioned with diamonds from Lauren's wedding ring, which a local jeweler was rebanding when tragedy struck.

"After Lauren died, the ring, like me, went into a dark place. It was just kept in its box in a safe deposit box in a dark place and now it's out shining again," he said.

Grandcolas said Hopkins sees the ring as "a sign of solidarity and [Lauren's] brightness and her love for us both."

"She's an amazing person. She's like lightning striking twice, an angel sent," he said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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