We’re mere weeks away from the 10th anniversary of the horrific 9-11 terror attack on New York City, and I still can’t decide whether Becky’s 9-11 experience is a case of genuine ESP. I’ll let you decide. Here’s her strange story, based on the taped notes from my original interview for The Gift:ESP.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, Becky Carter had never heard of Capt. Michael Horrocks. Horrocks was co-pilot of United Flight 175, commandeered that morning by Islamic terrorists shortly after it lifted off from Boston’s Logan Airport on its way to Los Angeles. According to television reports, at 8:42 AM, Flight 175’s transponder was suddenly shut off and the jet made an unexpected U-turn over New Jersey back toward the north, heading for New York City and the south tower of the World Trade Center. Horrocks’ plane had been hijacked.
On that same day, thirty thousand feet below and several hundred miles south, Becky told me she had just finished making breakfast for her husband John, a district attorney, and their nine-year old son Matthew, in her kitchen in North Carolina. Becky didn’t know Michael Horrocks, or the desperate situation he was in. She had her own worries – how to get out of a promised trip to Disneyland in Florida without making her son, brother Steve, and his son Scotty very angry at her. She had already upset her husband John with her bizarre behavior.
She had planned the Florida trip three months earlier, back in June, and had paid for the airline tickets in July. They were booked to depart Sept. 11, 2001. The bargain fare even included a free seat for one of the kids. Everyone was excited and looking forward to the trip, Becky included. It was a family joke: Becky was always the first to pack her bags. She loved to travel and had no fear of flying. She and Matthew had just returned from a trip to New York City.
But as the departure date moved closer and closer, Becky had become unusually anxious about the trip, to John’s growing annoyance. The crazy feelings had begun two months earlier, in July.
“She started becoming very disturbed, distressed, disrupted,” John later told me. “She showed a strange anxiety that I didn’t understand, and she couldn’t explain to me.”
As the trip got closer, Becky started fishing around for excuses not to go. “She would talk about maybe Matthew not feeling well enough, he had a cold, things like that. I found her behavior very unusual since she had been so excited back in June when she first planned the trip.”
Becky remembers that the trip for some reason “kept laying heavy on me. The sensation almost smothered me. It got heavier and heavier. It increased in August. I would tell John, ‘I don’t know about this trip – something is not right,’ and he would say, ‘You’re just probably tired, you’ve been very busy this summer, you’ll be all right when the time comes.’ I wanted to scream and say, ‘John, I’m not tired! I’m not tired! And I’m not crazy!’ By the end of August, I felt like I was literally about to suffocate, I was so anxious.”
As her unexplainable anxiety increased, so did John’s understandable irritation.
John Carter, in his early 40s, is a rational, non-nonsense person, what you would expect from someone schooled in law, working as an assistant district attorney.
“I’m the classic example of your old fashioned, concrete thinker,” admits John. “My whole life, professionally and personally, I’ve been in tune only with what I can see, hear, touch.” Becky, part Cherokee Indian, balanced John’s rationality with her own strange intuitions and spirituality, something John tolerated with difficulty throughout their ten years of marriage. Whatever was bothering her didn’t make sense to John, and it certainly didn’t make sense to her son Matthew.
When Becky finally screwed up the courage to suggest to her son that they delay the trip, Matthew reacted angrily.
“He was very unhappy, he was crying and saying, ‘Please, momma, don’t do this to me. You know how bad I want to go. And Scotty’s gonna be so disappointed.’” Feeling terribly guilty, she reassured him they could go later. If they couldn’t go now, he demanded, when would they go? “I said, I don’t know, but not now.” But she still hadn’t cancelled the trip.
On Sept. 4, one week before Michael Horrocks’ 767 taxied down the runway at Logan into the morning sky, Becky suddenly awoke at 3:00 A.M. from a deep sleep, in great distress from a bizarre dream. In her dream she saw nothing, only felt spinning blackness, but heard a man’s voice urgently repeat the same number – 2830, 2830, 2830 – over and over. “It started in a normal voice, but got progressively faster and louder. The number was very clear.”
The man’s voice then started repeating a name over and over again, but not as clearly as the number. “I couldn’t quite make it out,” Becky later explained to me over the phone. “It sounded like ‘Rooks’ or ‘Horooks’ But the demanding voice was very insistent. It’s like it was saying to me, ‘Get up! Write this down! You’re not paying me enough attention!’ – like a little child does to his mother. The voice was so anxious, it made me feel very anxious too. It got to the point that it woke me up.”
Struggling awake, she switched on the light, found a pen and scribbled down the name and number, even as the voice continued in her head. She knew better that to wake John up. The next morning, Becky told John about her scary dream and the insistent man’s voice. “John, something’s going to happen,” Becky declared.
It was always the same man’s voice. Becky had a long history of psychic intuitions, as John learned when they first started going together. She had more than once correctly foreseen the death of relatives and friends, including her father, her mother and her cousin Michael in Baltimore. In the summer of 1982, the year she graduated from high school, Becky heard the man’s voice on several occasions say to her, “What would you do if your dad died?” Later that year, a week before Christmas, she received a call at college. Her father had been admitted to the hospital at Asheville.
“At that moment, I knew my Dad was dead,” she told me. When she arrived home, her mom, brother Steve, and sister were packing her dad’s things for his stay in the hospital. On the way to the hospital, Steve hurriedly tanked up the car at a Gulf gas station before jumping back in. Becky looked at him and said, “I don’t know why everyone is in such a hurry. Dad has already died.” Steve was incensed. “How can you say such a thing?” he berated her. When they got there, she remembers her mom holding her dad’s overnight bag and thinking how heartbroken her mom was going to be. As they made their way down the hall, they were intercepted by a doctor who ushered them into a room to tell them that he had already died.
Becky occasionally got premonitions of death for complete strangers. In a courthouse in Raleigh, John and Becky were listening to two lawyers trying a case. As one was making his statement to the judge, she heard the same, familiar man’s voice in her head say, “You know, he’s going to die.” A few months later, the lawyer died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. As a child, Becky had seen the ghost of her grandfather after he died. When she told her mother, her mother warned her, “OK, Becky, we believe you, but don’t tell anyone else because we don’t want people to think you’re crazy.” She had several clairvoyant dreams which came true, including one involving a fire in a Morganton house occupied by an acquaintance of their close friend.
Most of the time, John had remained skeptical, doubtful. “I spent a great deal of time wondering how much of this was just her over-active imagination, or histrionics,” John says. “I didn’t want to call it bizarre, but it was all very alien to my way of thinking.”
Neither John nor Becky had a clue as to what the number 2830 referred to, but John felt he knew where Becky’s subconscious had probably picked up the mystery name. A classmate of Matthew’s in school was named Rooks, and her father was a friend and colleague of John’s. It stood to reason that Rooks was the name Becky had heard in her dream. The number, John guessed, might even be the last four digits of the Rooks’ phone number. For John, case closed. But Becky had already checked out the Rooks’ home and business phone numbers. Neither had a 2830. John finally told her to ignore the dream. It was nothing to be concerned about. Trying to keep peace in the family, Becky joked that perhaps the number was their lucky lottery number.
But as she later told me, deep in her heart she knew that wasn’t the explanation for the scary, insistent voice that haunted her sleep. Whatever it was, the message was something important. She continued to feel that way as she prepared to leave for work on Sept. 11.
That morning, at 9:03 A.M., UAL Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, snuffing out the life of Michael Horrocks and his 56 terrified passengers.
Like the rest of us, Becky and John Carter sat glued to their TV set as the horrific tragedy unfolded, wondering what was going to happen next.
When the TV announcer read the names of the flight crew of UAL 175, and came to co-pilot Michael Horrocks, a stunned Becky immediately turned to John and gasped, “John, that’s the name I heard in my dream!” Becky now felt she understood her strange, overwhelming need to cancel the dreaded trip to Disneyland. An airplane was not a safe place to be that day. Not that it mattered – with America’s airspace shut down completely, and F-14s patrolling the skies, no one was going anywhere. (After the plane crash, a website was created honoring Michael Horrocks. Becky subsequently visited the site to learn more about Michael, and discovered to her surprise that their family and the Horrocks family from Pennsylvania had both vacationed in the same North Carolina coast town on Fathers Day earlier that year.)
Becky was convinced her mind had somehow tapped into the tragic events of Sept. 11th before they happened. John was no longer skeptical. They both immediately began to wonder whether the mysterious number 2830 Becky heard in her dream was also connected in some way to the inconceivable disaster that had rocked America.
But nothing computed. “The airline flight numbers came out very quickly – Flight 93, Flight 175 – and Becky’s number obviously didn’t match either of them,” recalls John. The casualty count was another obvious possibility. But the first casualty predictions from New York police officials topped 10,000 dead. Failing to find a match between 2830 and the flight numbers, or the casualty count from the twin skyscrapers – indeed, with anything connected to the Sept. 11th tragedy – they finally quit trying.
On Sept. 13, John told Becky to write down the number she had heard in her scary dream a week before the attack on the World Trade Center, put it in a sealed envelope, address it to herself, take it to the post office so it could be postmarked, and mail it back to herself. It was an action befitting a district attorney used to dealing with evidence.
“I told Becky I still thought the number was going to eventually have something to do with what had happened on 9-11, and that she should preserve it in a way that it could be used as documented proof if the need ever arose,” says John.
Nine months later, in June 2002, District Attorney John Carter left a voice mail on my co-author’s phone. He was seeking a meeting for himself and his wife Becky, following a referral from a local mental health psychologist who knew Dr. Sally Rhine Feather was not only a clinical psychologist but also a trained parapsychologist. Dr. Feather’s famous father, Dr. J.B. Rhine, pioneered scientific investigation of ESP at Duke University.
The scary dream, the possibility that Becky had somehow foreseen 9-11, and had even received a warning about or from Michael Horrocks was very difficult for John Carter to handle. “The situation had become so troubling to Becky and myself that we decided to get some counseling.” But something else had also happened in intervening months. They believed they now knew how the mystery number 2830 fit into the whole puzzle.
When Dr. Feather got John’s message coming from a district attorney’s office, however, her immediate reaction was mild fear that she might have to scramble through her back files dealing with some clinical forensic evaluations that she had handled dealing with child custody or possible child abuse. But when she finally reached John, he explained that his wife was having psychic experiences that were bothering her, with the 9-11 premonition being the final straw. Their drive to see Dr. Feather would be a long one since they lived more than two hours away, but they needed some answers. She agreed to see them the following week.
On July 12, John, Becky and their son Matthew knocked on the door of Dr. Feather’s office at the Rhine Research Center. She found them to be an attractive, upper-class, Southern couple. All three were tanned and nicely dressed in casual clothes. Becky wore a pale green pants suit that suited her blond hair, and John wore a short-sleeved, pink shirt. John looked somewhat older than Becky, with a ruddy complexion. Both would have looked perfectly at home in a typical Southern country club.
John began right away to do the talking, and it was apparent that he was the one in charge, even while talking about her issues. If they had engaged her for marriage counseling, Dr. Feather would have intervened at the start. But she didn’t sense any real tension between them, so let him continue with his account. She soon realized that John was speaking out of his own guilt and true concern for his wife. Essentially, he was saying, “I was wrong. I have hurt her by my attitude in the past, and now I know differently. Help us figure out how to make this right.” At several points, he appeared almost tearful.
John had been shaken by the events. His comfortable, rational world had taken a body blow. “Given my background,” John told her, “it’s been very hard for me to understand the kind of intuitive things my wife experiences and has tried to explain to me throughout our marriage. It’s caused a lot of tension in our relationship. But her 9-11 premonition really opened my eyes. It forced me to consider possibilities I wouldn’t have considered before that.”
As Dr. Feather listened, John proceeded to lay out for her a possible connection between the number 2830 from Becky’s dream and the 9-11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
After Sept. 13, when Becky sealed the number in the envelope, posted it to herself, and received it back, they put it away and moved on with their lives, John explained. But a strange thing happened. The casualty count for the World Trade Center soon began to fall rapidly. After two weeks of confusion, frantic digging, and recovering bodies; of patiently contacting companies, families and embassies reporting people in the Twin Towers at the time of the strike; of cross-checking multiple, separate casualty lists to eliminate duplicate names, the official projected casualty count had dropped to 6,789. By late October, it had fallen to 4,864. A month later, as Americans sat down to their Thanksgiving dinners, the number had dipped below 3,900. John and Becky had also noticed the trend. Where would the casualty count stop?
“Sometime in October or November, we started to seriously consider the possibility that the final number would be 2830,” says John.
The freefall gradually stopped. Three more months passed as the number slowly inched lower. By February 2002, most of the missing or dead had clearly been accounted for. On Valentine’s Day, the number reached 2838, only eight more than Becky’s 2830.
On May 15, 2002, nine months and four days after Michael Horrocks’ plane slammed into the World Trade Center, two professors from George Washington University published a study on the attack. The title of the paper was Federal Emergency Management in the United States: Implications of the Terrorist Attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001 In it, they announced that 2,830 people had perished in the World Trade Center inferno.
Becky’s exact number.
We will never know the final death toll. Three full years after the Twin Towers were destroyed, only 1,538 of the confirmed victims had been matched to bodily remains. More than 1,200 others were listed as dead simply on the basis of court-issued death certificates provided to families which could prove they had loved ones working or visiting the World Trade Center that day. We don’t know how many homeless people were inhabiting the area and killed, because many vagrants lose contact with family and loved ones, dying without anyone claiming their bodies. The federal government’s Official 9-11 Commission Report simply states “more than 2600 people died at the World Trade Center.”
The number will always remain an estimate. All we can say is Becky’s number is plausible – assuming the 2830 she repeatedly heard in her head was actually related to 9-11 at all.
For John, however, the days of disbelief were over. He felt he owed his wife an apology.
When Becky got her chance to talk, Dr. Feather found her quite verbal, though initially she appeared a bit passive and uncertain. There were a lot of ‘yes, ma’ams’ sprinkled through her speech, as many good Southern ladies do, but my co-author could sense a person at a crossroads in her life.
Their coming as a couple was a turning point in their marriage. Becky felt she had been stifled, unable to fully develop herself since so much of her life had involved psychic impressions she couldn’t really talk to her husband about. Now the dam had finally been broken, and everything came rushing out. Becky brought to the meeting a long, written list of psychic experiences that had occurred throughout her thirty-seven years of life, starting as a child. With John finally in her corner, supporting her, she could lay it all out. She wanted help. Was she crazy? If not, what did it all mean?
Despite her parapsychology background, Dr. Feather is quite cautious in her interpretation of psychic claims. Her Ph.D in clinical psychology and many years working as a therapist have taught her to look first for more mundane, psychological explanations.
While it wasn’t a professional evaluation, she didn’t pick up any significant emotional problems or delusional thinking on the part of either of them. Their obvious sincerity came through loud and clear. John was professional, quietly religious, a big hunter and avid outdoorsman, married for 10 years – nothing that would suggest a loner, an oddball, a social misfit. John also mentioned at the time that he was a candidate for district court judge (he went on to win that race).
Becky was also your average American. She had a North Carolina public school education, had earned her business administration degree from a small, Baptist-affiliated university, and was at that time working in the office of an ear-nose-throat physician in their home town. She was into gardening, photography, and pets (she had lots, including two prairie dogs!). She was part Cherokee, but didn’t seem overly concerned with her Indian roots. Dr. Feather wondered if Becky would perhaps explain her lifelong history of psychic intuitions by making some glib New Age claim to be the descendent of a Native American shaman. She didn’t, although the Cherokees do have a long tradition of prophecy and foretelling events, including receiving warnings of future dangers in dreams.
She and John were normal as could be. They had simply had an unusual, troubling experience that bewildered them, and they couldn’t ignore it.
John and Becky clearly welcomed the opportunity to share their experience with someone else. Like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, John had been knocked off his horse by the Light. Dr. Feather sensed his conversion was both honest and heartfelt.
The tragic events of 9-11 changed the lives of millions of people, mostly for the worse. Becky was lucky. In the end, her frightening 9-11 experience turned out to be a personal breakthrough for both herself and her marriage. She has finally come to accept her experiences. She no longer feels the need to hide them or apologize for them. A great weight has been lifted off her shoulders. More importantly, her husband no longer looks at her strangely and disapprovingly when she talks about her intuitions. She can be herself and still be accepted by those she loves most.
The unopened envelope with the number 2830 remained an object of wonder to them.
“It means something, maybe it’s proof of something, I don’t know what,” declared John. “I mean, what should she do with this?” It was a sincere question, a plea for help. “If you can give us any guidance on this, it would be a true blessing,” he concluded.
What does someone do with an envelope with a number in it and a story that stretches our belief, our definition of reality?
I believe you simply share it, and let people make up their own minds.