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‘She’s there in my thoughts’

Family continues efforts to honor Batesville native

By Tammy Keith

This article was published September 11, 2011 at 4:26 a.m.

— Mike Low of Batesville tried to talk his daughter out of being a flight attendant, but she was like her daddy - spirited, adventuresome - and she loved, loved, loved to fly. Sara Low was as comfortable in a plane asher own bed, and she fell asleep many times in the one her pilot father flew.

She died - her father uses the word murdered - Sept. 11, 2001, doing what she loved when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the first World Trade Center tower to be hit in New York City.

Low, 67, said he and Sara even talked about the possibility of a terrorist attack.

“The American Airlines insurance policy had a section on terrorism, and we had a discussionabout that,” he said. He wanted to know if she’d had training for any sort of terrorist or aggressor, and Sara told him she had.

“We discussed the possibility of being on the East Coast as increasing the chances,” he said. “She was kind of philosophical about it; the odds are against it, and that sort of thing.”

What are the odds? What are the odds that a beautiful, smart, nice, athletic girl from Batesville - descriptions echoed by anyone who knew her - would be in a plane that was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center?

The years continue to tick by, and Low and his wife, Bobbie, will be at ground zero for this year’s memorial service for families, just as they have for every anniversary of Sara’s death. Their other daughter, Alyson, who lives in Fayetteville, will also attend.

“It carries quite a bit of significance,” Low said. “We made a commitment to go the first 10 years.”

And for the fourth time, he will be bringing more of Sara’s remains home.

Medical examiner officials have continued to identify, through improved DNA testing, body fragments of the victims, Low said.

“We’ve taken possession of them three different times,” he said.

He will carry a small, patriotic foil packet back home and place it in the glass case in her room.

Sara’s room is basically unchanged. A large picture of her hangs over the glass case.

It’s the smiling photo of Sara, with her pixie haircut, that has been published all over the world. Her father took the photo of Sara on the balcony of the condo the family stays in every year in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

“I spend time in there. I go through there each day - each morning, each night - and pat a kiss on the portrait,” he said.

Twenty-eight-year-old Sara earned a business degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and worked in banking for a while, but it bored her. Low said he talked her into coming home to work with him for a while, but she wanted more adventure.

“I’ve always been a pretty adventurous, aggressive person myself. … It would have been hypocritical of me to try to prevent my children from doing adventurous things,” he said.

“She loved the crews and trying to make something organized out of chaos.”

She wanted to use being a flight attendant as a vehicle tolive in the big city, travel internationally, and her plan was working, Low said.

Sara lived in New York City, then moved to Boston, carving out her niche and finding a place in her Beacon Hill neighborhood to run, another of her passions.

“She was a good snow skier - a black-diamond snow skier,” Low said. “She was a good student; an academic achiever.”

He also calls Sara “highspirited, … challenging.”

His daughters got that from him, he said, and their beauty and brains from their mother, his wife, Bobbie.

How’s she handling the loss?

“She’s … she’s OK,” he said, his voice dropping. They’re a private family, or they were before this.

“Because of the horrific nature of 9/11 and all the publicity that continues to be there, anyone who lost a child would go through the same thing, but ours … is exacerbated,” he said.

He was at his business, Midwest Lime Co., the morning of Sept. 11, when the news came on television.

“Some of the men in theoffice called my attention to the first news reports of an aircraft striking the towers; I watched a little bit of that,” he said. “The crawl started talking about commercial airlines and pointed out Boston to LA, and I knew Sara was flying a transcontinental that day.

“I knew that there could be a possible connection there to the flight, so I headed home.”

He called the hotline available to families of American Airlines employees, and was told no, Sara was not on the list.

“We waited about an hour, thinking she might call from Canada or somewhere. The first thought was euphoric,” believing she was safe, he said ..

Low said he even called his other daughter, who was teaching school in Bentonville at the time, “to assure her.”

Alyson said she went down the hallway “high-fiving and getting hugs” from fellow teachers, including her boyfriend, who worked there, when she thought Sara was alive.

Then came the gut-wrenching news. There was a mistake. Sara wasn’t on the passenger list, but she was on the crew list.

She was not supposed to be on that plane. She was a fill-in, her father said, trying to earn extra money for the Beacon Hill apartment she’d just moved into.

“An hour later, we had to absorb the horrible news and start the process,” he said. “It was a very numbing, painful thing. I didn’t realize your body could feel like that.”

“I think I knew,” Alyson said of when the family still hadn’t heard from Sara.

Her father called Alyson back.

“The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Is somebody there with you?’ I went to the floor, and my boyfriend called the front office and asked for help,” she said.

She started crying at the memory. Alyson said she and her sister, just 21 months apart, were extremely close.

“A lot of people often thought she was the older of the two of us because she had so much poise and was always just cool and collected,” Alyson said.

Sara’s remains were found south of ground zero, along with two rings she wore - one that she and Alyson traded back and forth, and a silver one with a lapis inlay that Low brought Sara from Chile. He sometimes wears it on a cord around his neck, especially when speaking about the terrorist attacks or testifying in trials about the effect of the attacks on the 9/11victims’ families.

Although he’s soft-spoken, Low has not been quiet about his opinion on how the event was handled.

He filed a lawsuit to learn what happened on that plane in the last 30 minutes of Sara’s life.

He has a thick black binder, the deposition of American Airlines officials and others, that he is not allowed to release, although he can talk about it.

“She was working up front, so she had to witness the murder of the pilot and one passenger, and she had to move all the people from the front to the back, and she was ableto keep her wits about her and give Amy [an airline employee] a calling-card number.”

His daughter was able to give information about the hijackers, where they were sitting, and that information, he believes, was passed along to Flight 93, where a group of passengers tried to take back the plane, leading it to crash into a Pennsylvania field.

“We had been notified by the FBI some years ago that the calls made from Flight 11 were charged to our phone calling card,” he said.

But Low filed a lawsuit tofind out the details, “which [were] very important to me,” he said. “The information was not made public, and some of it still can’t be made public. I will find a way.

“We knew about the calls, but we didn’t have any of the documentation, but we do now. That’s what we were fighting for.

“It’s what parents do. Since we couldn’t be with her the last 30 minutes of her life, the last 10 years I’ve tried to do things in her name.”

Sara was a hero.

Not just to him, but to people all over the world.

“For about a year, almost every day, there was something in the mailbox. Sometimes it would be a bundle so big it wouldn’t fit in the mailbox,” Low said.

The outpouring of mail isstored in plastic tubs in Sara’s old room and lines a hallway, Low said.

“I answered every one over the years,” he said, not braggingly, but matter-of-factly, as if it were the only thing to do.

The loss doesn’t get any easier.

“I replay it every day to some degree,” Alyson said. “I’ll go back over it, but it’s especially fresh right now.”

She says there’s no such thing as closure.

“You learn to live around it. People who use the word closure, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” she said. “You don’t have closure whenthere’s something that big that’s missing.”

Her father agreed.

“She’s there in my thoughts every day, every night,” Low said. “It never, never goes away.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Three Rivers, Pages 121 on 09/11/2011

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