The Raving Theist

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Trust

February 5, 2009 | 23 Comments

Amy Welborn, in the midst of her grief, shares the story of a woman, Diana, who dreamt that she saw Jesus beckoning her from a clould of smoke as the world disappeared from beneath her feet:

A month later on September 11, 2001, Diana was at work at her investment firm in the World Trade Center on one of the top floors. She phoned her husband and mother on her cell phone after the second plane struck the tower below her. She reminded them of the dream, just before the tower crumbled.

                                                              * * *

None of us knows what the future holds, but hopefully we can embrace what is inscribed in our coinage, “In God we Trust.”

Amy did not write this story of trust in God. She received a copy of it yesterday from a secretary. The words of  hope and comfort were from her husband Michael’s last column, written the night before he died.

Comments

23 Responses to “Trust”

  1. Skeptimal
    February 5th, 2009 @ 6:30 pm

    “She reminded them of the dream, just before the tower crumbled.”

    Never happened. I know it makes a nice story, and I wouldn’t wish to take any comfort from this recent widow, but this is a classic urban legend. Here’s why:

    1. It essentially starts off: “I heard from a friend of a friend that…” We never hear these tales from a credible participant in the story themselves.

    2. There are no specifics which can be confirmed or disproven. We don’t know Diana’s name, her family’s names, where she worked, etc.

    3. The story perfectly fits all the factors necessary to comfort a certain audience. She wasn’t just a nice person, but she had a vision/dream.

    4. The dream predicted a great disaster, but only in retrospect. Notice that she wasn’t killed in the initial crash, but survives just long enough to remind the family of the dream. Wouldn’t she have been better served if Jesus had told her to stay out of the WTC? No, because then we wouldn’t have this comforting story.

    Beyond these red flags, it fails the straight face test. Do you honestly think that a story like this could have stayed out of the media in the hyper-religious weeks following 9/11?

    Please don’t take these comments as wishing *any* discomfort toward Amy Welborn, but she’s been misled.

    If RA posted this, by the way, it is telling. He may have once been an atheist, but he apparently was never a skeptic.

  2. Beelzebub
    February 5th, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

    buzz killer

    You and your insistence on verification. HA!

  3. Geoffrey
    February 5th, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

    Let’s see…is it an urban legend if Fr. Benedict Groeschel has items from the woman on his person, and knew her? There is only one degree of separation here, meaning the tale is a secondary source. That’s pretty darn good.

    Furthermore, you read the last column of a man who just died and whose family is now devastated by loss…and what is the first thing you say? “Wow, his last article was a load of crap! How foolish for him to be so naive in his reporting! And you’re taking comfort in this?”

    Word up guys, my best friend is autistic, and even he is not as socially inept as you are. And you have no excuse for your “jackassness.”

    Does the phrase, “cold-hearted bastards” come to mind?

    You simply do not behave this way when someone is mourning the loss of a loved one. Is every moment an opportunity for you to score a potshot against the Almighty at the expense of the suffering of others? No, there is a time and place for everything. This is obviously not the time and place for such endeavors. Be selfless for once and consider the pains of others, which you claim to want to relieve, but somehow only manage to cause more of.

    In closing, there are no hard feelings between you and I, but could you please respect others who are grieving? Have you no respect for the dead? I know you can be compassionate if you try.

  4. Skeptimal
    February 5th, 2009 @ 8:19 pm

    “Does the phrase, “cold-hearted bastards” come to mind?”

    It might. Hopefully, a couple of things will mitigate my bastardness. One is that I didn’t say this to Amy; I said it here. I was responding to RA’s decision to post the story here.

    The other is that this wasn’t a pot-shot at her husband, who was simply passing along a story that he had heard (at best) third-hand. (The woman’s family would be (one), the priest (two), and the secretary (three).) He was using the story as an illustration. The fact that the story is not true does not make his last article a “load of crap.”

    If you think it is likely that Amy would have time to come to this site and view these links, then you’re probably right. “Cold-hearted bastard” fits. My response was intended to be to RA, not to Amy. I certainly wish her (and RA) no ill will.

  5. frustrated(mk)
    February 5th, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

    Geoffrey, Skeptimal and BB,

    You’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter one iota if there is even a drop of truth to the story. All that matters is that the night before he died, the last thought that he had was “In God I trust”…the story didn’t have to be true to move him, any more than a tear jerker has to be true. We are moved because we hear the “echo” of truth, and that lesson learned was indeed true.

    God is good, and in all things, can be trusted. That is where the comfort can be found. Not the story. The lesson.

  6. Lily
    February 5th, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

    Michael heard it from Father Groeschel while working with him on a book. It is hard to imagine many more trustworthy sources than he. So, as long as the family didn’t lie to Fr. G, I think we can trust the story– at least (a sop to skeptics) in its main outlines.

    But I’m with mk. Even if not a single word of it were true, it is a story with a moral that we can relate to.

  7. Carla
    February 5th, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

    I was very touched by this post. Thank you TRT.

  8. Kamikaze189
    February 5th, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

    “Word up guys, my best friend is autistic, and even he is not as socially inept as you are.”

    It isn’t being “socially inept” so much as not believing every ridiculous story. Skeptics aren’t as gullible as the rest of you, apparently. It seems you’ve all just ate this right up without even considering that it might not be true.

    “Does the phrase, ‘cold-hearted bastards’ come to mind?”

    No. The phrase “dislike for bullshit” comes to mind. I don’t care whether you make the garbage up yourself or repeat it as though it’s true. And I don’t care from what situation you make it. It’s anyone’s right to say “You do realize this fits numerous patterns of past lies?”

    I do have some empathy if you’re only gullible, or otherwise don’t know better, though.

    “You simply do not behave this way when someone is mourning the loss of a loved one.”

    Then every time that someone dies it’s a chance to peddle nonsense. Sorry. No.

    The day Falwell died, Christopher Hitchens went on a Fox show (because they wanted to get him to apologize for what he was saying, supposedly) and said, “If you gave Falwell an aenema, he could’ve been buried in a matchbox.” Those are precisely the kind of words that charlatans deserve.

    And this sort of thing has already happened. People wouldn’t question, when they should:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-484313/The-faker-9-11-Survivor-dramatic-tale-escape-World-Trade-Centre-up.html

  9. Carla
    February 6th, 2009 @ 9:23 am

    What if you’re wrong?

    You may leave this fool to her folly. I thought it was moving and I am sure brought comfort to Amy Welborn in the midst of her grief.

  10. Carbon Monoxide
    February 6th, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

    Wow, Kamikaze189, doesn’t your string of unfullfilling relationships (parents included) have anything to do with your attitude?

  11. Skeptimal
    February 6th, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

    “You may leave this fool to her folly. I thought it was moving and I am sure brought comfort to Amy Welborn in the midst of her grief.”

    I think a time of grief *is* a time that we as a society give people room to cope however they need to. That’s why I didn’t respond on her blog, but instead responded to RA’s decision to present the story here. I interpreted that decision as his belief that the story was true, but I may have been wrong in that interpretation, of course.

    “What if you’re wrong (about the story being false)?”

    Should we accept every extraordinary claim we hear because there’s a remote possibilit it’s true? Or should we subject the claims we hear to reasonable skepticism? Which is the healthier way to live?

    We all needed comfort after 9/11. It was a shock to be reminded how monstrous people can be. I can forgive someone who reached for short-term comfort at the time with a nice, if false, narrative. Should we, however, still accept as fact the fairy tales born from that pain when it’s been seven long years?

    The author was using this as an illustration, and he may not have believed the story for all we know. For the private comfort of a grieving widow, taking comfort in the message behind the story might be okay until she can come to grips with the change in her life.

    When it starts jumping around the web, though, I think it’s healthier to point out that the story doesn’t hold water. And it *will* jump around the web now that it’s out there. How many times a week do people forward you heartwarming, but ungrounded, stories like this?

    I’ll say again that I wish Amy and RA/RT no harm or pain. If I’ve caused her pain, then I sincerely regret my timing.

  12. Skeptimalism : The Raving Theist
    February 6th, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

    […] 6, 2009 Commenter Skeptimal opines that I “may have once been an atheist, but . . . apparently was never a skeptic.” He suggests […]

  13. Kamikaze189
    February 6th, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

    “Wow, Kamikaze189, doesn’t your string of unfullfilling relationships (parents included) have anything to do with your attitude?”

    Another christian assuming it knows more than it does? Does that -ever- get old for you guys?

  14. HBanan
    February 7th, 2009 @ 12:35 am

    I am a Catholic who was initially extremely skeptical of this story, though I think people can sometimes have spiritual revelations. I don’t think Michael or Fr. Groeschel made this up, but as Fr. Groeschel didn’t give his source (or Michael didn’t) it’s hard to know whether this story is second-hand, third-hand, or even more removed from the source. I thought he could have heard a nice story from another priest, who heard it from a parishioner, who embellished it after hearing a less exciting version from a relative, who maybe heard it at the funeral.

    I did a little investigation — it took all of 2 minutes. Don’t know how helpful this will be, but there was only 1 victim in the WTC named Diana, according the list of victims on Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,62151,00.html

    I discovered this by pasting the list into an Excel spreadsheet and sorting the data alphabetically by the 1st name. Diana J O’Connor is the only Diana, and her obituary indicates that she was a pious Catholic: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E00E1DE113FF937A25753C1A9679C8B63

    Nothing on there about dreams, but I didn’t expect there to be. I won’t be contacting the bereaved to interrogate them about their loved one, preferring simply to pray for them (and for Michael and his family). Someone more interested would potentially be able to. My investigation ends with stating that the publicly available facts do not contradict the touching story.

  15. HBanan
    February 7th, 2009 @ 12:39 am

    Oh, yeah, and Mrs O’Connor did work for an investment banking firm, as described in her obituary.

  16. HBanan
    February 7th, 2009 @ 12:51 am

    This was supposed to have been my 1st post. I am having problems posting the longer comment for some reason.

    So, I am a Catholic also skeptical of this story, along with most charming stories, but at least the publicly available facts match up.

    I am having problems posting links to my sources.

    I found a list of WTC victims on foxnews, pasted it into Excel, sorted the data and found there was only 1 Diana.

    I then found her obituary, and found out she was a devout Catholic who worked in an investment banking company in the WTC.

    This took me just two minutes.

  17. HBanan
    February 7th, 2009 @ 12:52 am
  18. HBanan
    February 7th, 2009 @ 12:57 am

    K sorry for all the multiple posts, but I tried before to put them all together, and they never showed up. I do want to say that I was skeptical despite thinking Fr Groeschel and Michael wouldn’t make up something for kicks, but I thought that Fr Groeschel could have hear an embellished story 3rd hand several times removed. For instance, someone at the funeral could have exaggerated a story about Diana having a premonition, and then told it to another person, who told it to a priest, who told it to Fr. Groeschel. I honestly did this quick investigation because I wasn’t even sure there would be a Diana from the WTC.

    I’m not saying these facts *prove* the dream story, but I am at least happy we are arguing about a real person who was as described by Fr. Benedict. May perpetual light shine upon them.

  19. Margaret Catherine
    February 7th, 2009 @ 1:25 am

    That, and with a maiden name of ‘Vega’, it’s safe to assume she was indeed Puerto Rican.

  20. frustrated(mk)
    February 7th, 2009 @ 7:18 am

    HBanan,

    The same thing was happening to me, until finally it wouldn’t take my posts at all. Hence the addition of “frustrated” to my name.

    I’m not frustrated because of the discussions, but because the site wouldn’t let me comment.

    I think I too, tried to post too many links and the site now thinks I’m spam. Try changing your name and see if that helps. Even just changing one letter.

  21. Lily
    February 7th, 2009 @ 10:14 am

    It is definitely true that the blog software is quick to call “spam”. It threw a comment of mine into moderation because it contained 2 links.

  22. DarwinCatholic
    February 11th, 2009 @ 10:24 am

    As another generally skeptical Catholic, good work HBanan. Certainly not clear proof, but there’s certainly a lot of circumstantial evidence there that the Diana story does tie to a real person who died in the WTC and otherwise fits the details of Fr. Groeschel’s story.

    So this leaves the Skeptimals of the world to answer: Does it make more sense given that the circumstantial details check out to assume that Fr. Groeschel did the work to look up a real person in order to fabricate a inspirational story about her, or to assume the story actually originates with Diana and her family and is in some sense based in fact?

    Now obviously, this wouldn’t be proof of God in the sense that people who want to be empirical about everything would want. There could well be millions of people who have dreams that could seem prophetic of immanent death who don’t proceed to spectacularly die. I’ve had dreams about death once or twice (though not of Christ calling me) and I’m clearly still alive.

    However, it seems to me you also can’t rule out the possibility that the story is real the dream was indeed prophetic.

  23. Eileen
    September 11th, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    It’s true. Mrs. O’Connor dreamed that she was in the midst of crumbling concrete, Jesus was there with a Crown of Thorns on His Head. He was crying.

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