For the seventh year in a row on Sept. 11, Ron Pusz of Meadville picked up the phone Thursday morning at 9:30 and called his son in Virginia just to say “hello.”

“It’s always great to speak with him,” Pusz said, “but what I’d really like to do is somehow pick up the phone and call God himself to say thanks, if I could only figure out how to get a hold of his telephone number.”

Pusz’s son, who had just changed jobs shortly before that fateful day, had recently moved into his new office located in the Pentagon’s basement in Washington, D.C. And while others have done their best to move forward following the events of the terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001, Pusz said each year he intentionally returns to it as his painstaking reminder of what could have been.

“Ron had just left KPMG, a consulting firm where he had just helped to develop the smart card (a pocket-sized card with embedded integrated circuits which can process data) and began working for Huron Consulting, a business and financial consulting firm,” Pusz said. “We knew he was probably in the building at the time, but for six long hours we didn’t know how he was.”

His son, who was only 24 years old at the time was, in fact, at work. And when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the military headquarters, it hit within 160 to 200 yards of where his son was standing. All 189 people aboard were killed.

“We kept seeing it on the television,” Pusz said. “The anxiety — it was the worst six hours of our lives.”

Pusz said as they watched and waited, it all seemed a bit surreal.

“My wife was almost in shock,” he said. “But I — well, I can’t explain it — but I just had a sense that he was fine.”

Finally, the phone rang with the news that both had hoped for: Their son had contacted his girlfriend and he was all right.

“Ron said he did what he could do to assist others, but was told that he had to leave the premises,” Pusz said. “It took him a long time to find someone with a cell phone that would work so that he could get a message through to us.”

When he finally had the opportunity to speak directly with his son, Pusz discovered that his son had not just narrowly escaped death once that day, but two times.

“When Ron had left KPMG, a woman was hired to replace him. She was on the plane that hit the Pentagon,” he said. He probably would have been on that plane, instead of the woman who replaced him. “In the blink of an eye he cheated death — twice!”

Pusz said that it could have been his son sitting on that plane.

When his son finally laid out the entire story over the phone to him and his wife, Pusz said his wife dropped the phone in disbelief.

“I’m an insurance agent at Pederson Insurance, and what happened not only brought me closer to my family, but it made me more sensitive to everyone’s needs,” he said. “And while I don’t know of anyone who likes to relive that day, every year I now give him a call just because.”

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