The year was 1993. I was sixteen years old. I’d woken up one particular morning, and had a dream that I decided to tell my mother about. I’d dreamt I was getting married. My mother replied to me, saying, “Oh no. That means someone in the family is going to die soon.”
I did not know if I believed in such things, but I filed it in the back of my head for later. In the dream I dreamt I was introducing my half-brother Johnny to a man that did not appear in my dream, but that I was getting married to.
A few days later, my mother and I were coming back home from church. In those days, you still had an answering machine. There were several messages on the machine. The day was October 24, 1993. One of the messages was from a detective from New Jersey, stating that John Anthony Rivera, my big brother, had passed away. His death still plagues me to this day, but I’ll not dwell on that in this essay. I will say that it felt like perhaps my dream had been an omen. Perhaps the universe or what in my religion is called my ,”muertos” (the dead, which is to say your ancestors) where warning me. Perhaps.
One day about three years later, I was dating a boy named Jeffrey Neiss. We were both young, barely 19 years old. We hadn’t been together very long, maybe three or four months. One day, Jeff and I were out. He and I were talking, and he told me, “Ya know, your brother verbally accosted me!”
At this point, I am realizing I need more information, but I was interested. I do have two other half brothers, so I needed to get more information from him.
“Well, what happened?” I ask him.
“Basically he told me that if I break your heart he’s gonna kick my ass. What the fuck Diana!”
“What did he look like? Did he have caramel skin and black hair, or was he white looking like me, with tattoos?”
“No, he looked like you only with a scar on his lip.”
I asked him, “Jeff are you SURE you ACTUALLY saw him?”
“Yeah and I told your mom and why did she say there’s no brother living hear?” He asked me slightly peeved.
I informed Jeffery that he had basically described my brother Johnny who had been dead for at that point, three years.
I know he wasn’t lying because twenty years later he and I are close friends and while he’s admitted to many lies, he remains that he saw my brother Johnny.
Many years later, it was September 11, 2001. I was commuting into New York City for work. My usual hours were 9:30 to 5:30. That was a Tuesday and I got paid on Tuesdays. My normal routine was taking the PATH train into the World Trade Center, and changing for the N train there, since I worked close to Grand Central Station. I’d normally get to World Trade Center around 9, but that particular morning I’d gotten there early.
I arrived at the World Trade Center at 8:35. I figured I had so much time, perhaps I’d grab a cup of coffee and relax at Borders Books for a bit. I remembered I didn’t have much cash left on me. I circled around the floor of the World Trade Center wondering what I should do. I then remember I saw Johnny, my brother as clear as day. For whatever reason, I was not scared. He came to me in flesh and blood and told me, “Diana just go to work a little bit early.”
In my head I was arguing with him, thinking it was too early for me to head in to work. He reminded me of the Amish Market next door to my job. You could get a large coffee and a chocolate chip muffin for $1.50. Again he told me, “Just get to work early. Leave here.” So I did. I left the World Trade Center at exactly 8:40. Five minutes later the planes hit.
All I could think about when I got to work and heard my coworker screaming was how my life was spared. How I had seen my big brother Johnny and he spared my life, and I wondered why I was spared and so many innocent people had to die in the name of religion. I cannot explain this away through science. I can only tell you what happened to me. I truly saw my big brother that morning of September 11, 2001 and he came to me to spare my life.
I met Cliff through Okcupid. We texted for a while and then agreed to go out on a date. We hit it off, and got along well. From this point it was the start of a wonderful relationship. He was tall with dark brown hair and a handlebar mustache. He stood at over 6 feet tall. He understood me. He just got me. He knew the kind of person I am and was okay with me just as I am. I didn’t have to change. I didn’t have to be less of an alpha female. He liked me just for me. We were friends but so much more than that. We truly cared for each other. He was wonderful.
I’d heard him mention that he was going to New Orleans to visit a girlfriend he’d broken up with. When he got back I was going to spend the weekend at his place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I missed him. I’d planned on telling him how I felt about him.
One particular day, I went out for a walk and saw a flock of ravens. In my family a flock of ravens usually meant death. That night after seeing these ravens I had a dream again that I was getting married. The next night I dreamt of Cliff. It was a lucid dream and felt like he was there with me, talking to me. The next day I heard news that while I lay sleeping and dreaming of him, he had hung himself.
My father says that sometimes spirits say goodbye to you before they pass away. He said this because before his ex wife passed away, the very night she passed, he dreamt of her. He hadn’t been with her in 30 years, so the idea of him dreaming of her was not a normal thing.