I can't think of a title.
My last memory of them was the day my beautiful boy came into this world.
My husband and my mom left the hospital to grab a bite to eat. I was alone in the room with my new baby, trying to figure out the whole feeding him with my boobs thing, when I heard a soft knock coming from the other side of the door. In walked the four most beautiful people I have ever had the pleasure of loving.
Susie floated in the room, her three musketeers in tow, her smile and presence lighting up the room, as it always did. As they always did.
Scooping Luca out of my arms, she quickly swaddled him and held him to her chest.
“I’m your Tia Susie, Luca”, she whispered to him in her soft voice.
Luca was then passed down the Jacomini receiving line, each of them holding him, welcoming him into our family. Our new, tiniest member.
Still way loopy from my c-section meds, I slurred, “Sue, how the fuck am I supposed to be feeding this kid.?”
She shooed the two boys behind the curtain and handed Luca back to me.
“Do you mind, Ali?”
Before I had time to answer, she whipped my right boob out, grabbed hold of it, and shoved it in Luca’s mouth. That was just like her. Never shy.
Vivi watched from the foot of the bed, so ADORABLY curious.
“Is that how you used to feed me mommy?”
How could I have known how special this moment would turn out to be? How could I have know this would be the last time I would see them?
Oh sweet, sweet, beautiful Susie-Q. My cousin. My mother’s sister’s, oldest daughter. The cousin who had always been more of a mother figure to me. You see, there was a big enough age difference between the two of us that she did not consider me annoying, much like my other cousins and sister did at the time. She always made me feel more special than anyone I had ever met. I worshiped her. I wanted to be her. I always thought that she was the coolest person I’d ever met. I still feel this way. She was.
One day, after kissing a few frogs not worthy of her, Susie met her Tommy. Soon after, they had their Vivi and Thomas, tiny replicas of each of them. The family was complete.
This is where I get stuck when I try and write about them. In my heart, I can go on and on about how wonderful they were, but when it comes time to articulate this, I am never able to find words that do them justice. How can I possibly express how amazing and special they were as individuals, and as a family, with stupid fucking words?
True beauty, inside and out. No words are worthy of them.
So, I’ve stopped trying.
I will never forget where I was when I got the frantic phone call from my mother. Luca had been in this world for exactly 10 days. It was a peaceful morning. Just the three of us Zapata’s hanging out, getting to know each other as a family.
I answered the phone and my mom told me to sit down.
The words came through the phone and punched me in the gut.
Susie, Tommy and the kids are missing.
Missing? I had no idea what she meant. Someone took them?
Panic started rising inside me and I asked her over and over, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN MISSING? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY ARE MISSING?!!!!”
They had taken a final summer trip to Steamboat Springs, before the kids went back to school.
They flew up in their airplane, with Tommy in the flier’s seat, as they often had. The four of them together, in their small plane, loving every second of it.
They were expected back in Houston on August 15, 2008, as school started the following week.
That horrific call from my mom came early in the morning, on the 16th.
They had not come in. No one had heard from them. They were missing. All four of them.
The next 24 hours are a blur. So many feelings.
Hope, that Tommy had to land the plane somewhere and that they were all okay, waiting to be found.
Dread, that the worst had happened.
And it had. The worst thing in the world had happened.
The wreckage of the plane was found on the side of a mountain, not too far from where they took off.
No survivors. No survivors. No survivors.
To this day I cannot stop hearing those two words. They changed our world forever.
Left behind to try and make sense of something, that will never make sense, are two mothers, two fathers, a brother, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, tiny classmates, and strangers who loved them, if only from their pictures splashed all over the news.
I. Am. Mad.
A year and a half later, this still makes no sense.
This was God’s plan, is what most people say.
If this is true, then I don’t like this God.
Can God feel the hurt in Susie’s only sister’s, heart? Can he comprehend how wrecked he has left my aunt and my uncle and the rest of us that were left behind?
Because, if so, that doesn’t seem very kind or loving to me.
My beautiful and brave cousin said to me, “I can choose to be angry or I can choose to be grateful for the time we had with them.”
Some of what I feel when she says this is anger that she has to be saying this at all. Angry that she has to go through this and so sad that I can do nothing to make it better.
I am so pissed that the world keeps turning without them in it. I am furious that someone else is living in their house. I am pissed off that this story cannot have a happy ending. That there is nothing or no way to fix this, makes me panic.
So, yes, I am so grateful for the time we were privileged to have with them.
But, less angry? Not really.
I want them back.