One Passenger’s Powerful Message to His Wife on 9/11

Brian Sweeney and Julie Sweeney Roth smile in an old photo.
Brian Sweeney and Julie Sweeney Roth.

When Julie Sweeney Roth first saw Brian Sweeney, she told a friend “that’s the kind of guy [she] would marry.” Seven months later, she and Brian had their wedding on Cape Cod, a place Brian had always loved and where the couple would eventually live permanently. 

In the months before September 11, 2001, Brian, a former pilot and instructor for the United States Navy, got a job with a defense contractor, allowing him to primarily work from home or bring his laptop to the beach. Julie was set to continue her career as a teacher after the summer. 

On 9/11, Julie was teaching in her high school classroom when she was pulled away to answer a phone call from her mother-in-law, Louise. She told her that Brian was a passenger on what turned out to be highjacked Flight 175, the plane that crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

When Julie eventually returned to their home, she found a message on her answering machine. It was from Brian, who had called from the back of the plane using a seat-back Airfone, minutes before the plane crashed. In his message, Brian expressed his love for Julie and his family, telling her: “…I want you to do good, go have good times, same to my parents and everybody.”

“When I got it, it was just so Brian,” Julie said in video produced by the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. “I’m thankful for it. So thankful for that message. Because, at least I know, without a shadow of a doubt, what he was thinking. The calmness in his voice soothed me… And it’s very powerful. He made very powerful statements with that message.” Brian’s poignant message is now a part of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s collection.

In the years since 9/11, Julie remarried and had two children. She currently works as a substitute teacher and volunteers at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, interacting with visitors from all over the world.

On September 11, 2020, Julie Sweeney Roth and five others will share their stories as part of this year’s fifth annual Anniversary in the Schools webinar. Register for this free program here.

The webinar is made possible thanks to generous support from The New York Life Foundation.

By Molly DePippo, Education Specialist, 9/11 Memorial & Museum

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