John Beug 'Carries On' After Attacks Claimed Family
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This week NPR's Scott Simon has a conversation with a man who lost two family members on September 11th but finds that his family has grown stronger.
SCOTT SIMON: In most ways it's a glorious autumn for John Beug. His twin daughters Lauren and Lindsey have graduated from college and started work. His son Nick has just begun college. He and his children are close. John Beug runs Rhino Records and Video Production for Warner Music. He has the sort of life in which if someone passes him a note that says Eric Clapton is on the phone, Eric Clapton is really on the phone.
John Beug lives in the sunlight and spotlight of the music business in Southern California. Five years Mr. Beug's wife Caroline and her mother Mary Alice Walstrom(ph) had flown out to Boston from Los Angeles to help Lauren and Lindsey get settled into their first year of college in Rhode Island. They were returning home when Mr. Beug awoke a little earlier than usual, just before dawn on Tuesday, September 11th.
Mr. JOHN BEUG (Rhino Records): On that particular day for no reason that I can explain, I woke up about the time the second plane had hit the towers and turned the television on. It's one of those things you can't really explain how you experience, but you know, within the first five minutes I knew that she was on the plane.
SIMON: On the morning of their first day of being on their own, Lauren and Lindsey's mother and grandmother died on the first plane to strike the first tower of the World Trade Center, American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles. And Mr. Beug couldn't hold his daughters. They couldn't comfort him or their brother. Their family was divided by a continent while air travel shut down. Family friends in Connecticut got into their car within 10 minutes and drove to be with Lauren and Lindsey. They couldn't fly back to California until the following weekend.
Mr. BEUG: It's very difficult to talk about a loss like that. And sometimes it almost goes unspoken. Since then the girls and Nick and I have gone down to Ground Zero because that's Caroline resting place. The feelings all go unspoken. You know, it's very sort of moving just being down there. They're very - there were very few remains, shall we say, of the first plane in. We actually went - Nick and I went down there last night. It's not something that you know, it was - I - we haven't been down there in a couple of years, and we thought it was quite wonderful that they had listed all the names of the firemen. We all thought that it would be nice to see mom's name up there, but we know that's coming.
SIMON: What's it like to suffer this profound personal loss and have it be part of the largest, most public news event in 60 years?
Mr. BEUG: You know, I just found that it was much safer for me to withdraw and deal with the loss from within. There were also people that I found that were having a difficult time being around us or talking to us, just because of the fact that they didn't know how to cope. They didn't know how to deal with it within themselves, I guess is the...
Mr. BEUG: Five years later, the kids have continued on admirably, which is really what she would have liked. And we'll always remember her and miss her, but as they say, still continue - continue on with our lives.
SIMON: Carolyn Beug was a tall, blonde beauty who'd won the MTV Music Video Award for producing Van Halen's Right Now in 1992. But she left the music business to be with her family. So many of the condolence messages that you can read from Lauren, Lindsey and Nick's classmates say she was the coolest mom. She was 48 when she died and was working on a book, the story is of Noah's Ark as told by Noah's wife.
Mr. BEUG: To go from an environment with three dogs and three kids and a wife to three dogs and Nick and I - the girls were away at school and Carolyn was gone - it was a dramatic change but you slide into it, and somehow at the end of the day, you know, you get through it, not lying on the floor bleeding.
SIMON: Are there moments when you think about, or even dream about, somehow being able to reach out your hand and stop the clock, go back to September 10th, 2001, when you all were together as a family?
Mr. BEUG: No. I - it's - and I don't mean to answer that so quickly or glibly, but it's something that because of Carolyn being on flight - American Flight 11, I'd have visits from the FBI and the Justice Department, and I'd get briefings on the Moussaoui case. And who would have thunk that bright, sunny September 11th morning - you know, one of those classic mornings of New York that you get, you know, when fall is starting to creep in, that something like that would happen? The reason that I also did that reading and the research was to hopefully understand, or have a sense of what, you know, the people on that plane experienced.
SIMON: For five years John Beug has declined to be interviewed on September 11th anniversaries. He's declined invitations to join groups and sign petitions. He's chosen to speak now because his children are older, their family is stronger, and they believe that Carolyn Beug's energy and spirit still animate their lives. John Beug leaves it to others to speculate and pontificate about national security issues.
He says what he's learned most powerfully since September 11th, 2001 is fill your life with people that you love and trust.
Mr. BEUG: In a time of need, you'll - you do find that people rise to the occasion and are there, and it sort of reinforces my faith in humanity, even though, you know, at a time when whomever perpetrated this disaster on the rest of humanity - it's difficult to put into words. It makes me stronger somehow. I think she would be happy that we haven't gone running down the street screaming, but rather we have acknowledged the loss and continued on.
SIMON: Music producer John Beug, whose wife Carolyn and her mother, Mary Alice Wahlstrom, died when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the first tower of the World Trade Center five years ago.
I'm Scott Simon.
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