Early the next morning, I woke up and briefly thought I saw my mom sitting in a chair. When I was more awake and got out of bed, I went looking for her. I ran through the entire house, calling for her, checking every room. When I didn’t find her, I ran out the front door to see if her car was parked outside. I realized that seeing my mom must have been a dream. My brother and I stayed home from school for days. The house filled with more relatives and friends. I waited and waited, hoping to see her so I could just run into her arms and hold her forever.A BIRTHDAY LIKE NO OTHER After two weeks, there was still no word. We had returned to school. And still we waited. One day, my dad sat Aaron and me down in the living room. It was September 27, 2001. My mom’s 33rd birthday. Dad told us there was little hope and that Mom was not coming home. I froze. I couldn’t breathe. I cried. My brother and I held each other.