Rachel Carr Goodrich ’90
At six seconds before 9:03 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 175, with Peter Morgan Goodrich ’89 and 64 others on board, flew into the south tower of the World Trade Center.
At that instant, Rachel Carr Goodrich ’90 paid lifetime dues to join a club she can never leave.
It’s a tragedy when any woman is widowed at age 33. But when the husband becomes part of an iconic American tableau, the young widow is left to play out a complex and painfully public role. “It is a double-edged sword,” she says. “Everybody understands and is so kind to me, which is comforting and reassuring, but at the same time you can’t get away from it.”
In Sudbury, Mass., where she still lives in the house she and Peter bought in 1997, Goodrich is nourished by the comfort of a community that has embraced the families of the three residents killed on Sept. 11. On the second anniversary of the attacks, the town dedicated a memorial garden. “It has been an amazing experience to have that much support, have people care that much, and see people come together and help
“But some days I do wish it would go away. Other days it’s a wonderful thing. Some days I wish I could just sleep through the whole day.”
Over the years, Goodrich has intentionally tried to live outside the glare of Sept. 11. “It’s wonderful if you have the courage to be out there. I am not that type of person. In terms of being the center of attention, I prefer not to,” she said.
Wide recognition for her part in an iconic event makes it difficult to move forward, Goodrich adds. For her, moving forward means preserving what she had.
“I spend a lot of time remembering the gift I was given,” she says. “I spent 15 years with Peter, and he was one of the most amazing people I ever knew. I try to live as he would live, do things as he would do things, and treat people as he would treat people. He brought out the best in me and he continues to do it every day.”
Her freshman year, Rachel Carr and sophomore Peter Goodrich lived on the same floor in Page Hall. “I fell in love with him at first sight,” she says. “My roommate, Monya Smith ’90, and I spent an inordinate amount of time learning his schedule and trying to put me in his path. Peter always said it was fate that we met. My roommate and I laugh about that — we worked really hard to make ‘fate’ work.”
Carr and Goodrich were married Oct. 10, 1992. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, they both went off to work: she to her job at a Boston bank; Peter, a software company manager, to Logan Airport to catch a West Coast flight. “Peter was late for his flight, which was not uncommon,” she recalls.
“I was in a meeting, and someone walked in and told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I was a believer that things like this don’t happen to me, so I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, these poor people.’ I never envisioned that I could be one of them. My boss immediately started to go online to check Peter’s flight, and at one point I couldn’t get hold of Peter. I got more and more nervous, so I called United, and they put me on hold for a very long time. They finally told me that the plane was missing.”
Even five years later, Goodrich can give only a halting description of that day. “The unbelievable sadness. It was the first time in my entire life I was not able to put into words how I felt. It is a day that I cannot even begin to describe to people. There
are no words. The emotion…it was un-believable.”
Peter Goodrich’s remains were identified, and in December 2002 the family held a small, private funeral in a tiny cemetery in Sudbury, about a 10-minute walk from the home he and Rachel shared. “I never realized how much that would be a healing process for me,” she says. “I was able to sit down and process things that I was not willing to think about or feel.” It is fulfilling, she says, both to have honored Peter and to have a place to go and remember him.
In June 2004, Goodrich left her banking job. These days she is overseeing extensive renovations to her house and assessing the direction of her life.
“Six years ago, if you had asked me if I could survive something like this, I would’ve told you, no way,” she says. “But I did. I feel like I understand myself much better. I have a much better sense of what’s important. I don’t take anything for granted. I try very hard to tell the people that I care about how much I care about them. I try to do my best to be kind and I try not to let little things get me worked up.
“I try to live a more real life. I used to work so many hours and was so involved in my job. That was great and I loved it but I wasn’t really tapping into all the aspects of who I was. Now I try to do a better job of that. I adore Peter, and I wish he could see who I’ve become.”