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A diving enthusiast, Suzanne Calley, enjoyed the sport with her ‘teammate/husband’ Frank Jensen.

Photo: special to The Dispatch

Suzanne Calley celebrated on a trip through country roads in Ireland.

Photo: special to The Dispatch

Suzanne Calley, 1958-2001, had a passion for scuba diving.

Photo: special to The Dispatch

Stagemasters
9-11 sorrow, but a joyful life

Sep 11, 2003
 By

GILROY - Sometime today, Frank Jensen will spread his wife's ashes in Monterey Bay, where the San Martin couple spent countless joyful hours scuba diving together.

Two years ago today, Suzanne Calley died aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when terrorists hijacked the plane and sent it crashing into the Pentagon. She was homeward bound from a business trip and planned to celebrate her and Jensen's 20th anniversary the next day. Her 43rd birthday would have been just a few days later.

Rescue crews were able to pull Calley's body from Flight 77's wreckage. Now, after a long period of hesitation, Jensen plans to let the Pacific waters take her cremated remains.

Is this closure? That's hard to say, Jensen said in an interview Tuesday at a Gilroy café.

"It's kind of the saying-good-bye thing that I have to do, but I don't know what it's going to feel like," Jensen said.

By all accounts, Calley was a woman with a rare enthusiasm for life. She wasn't afraid of sharks. On her mother's birthday, she took her skydiving. She and Jensen were world travelers, and she died one stamp short of a full passport. She was remembered by coworkers and friends as being unceasingly positive.

"Right after she died, I got e-mails and letters from people all over the world," Jensen said, "and the thing they all said was that when she was talking to you, you were the most important person in the world."

Jensen spent last year's anniversary of the national tragedy in Washington, D.C. There, a Pentagon official - assigned to Calley's family as a liaison - gave Jensen his wife's wedding ring, which had been recovered from the plane.

"That felt like a little bit of closure," Jensen said.

Nevertheless, he still thinks about his wife every day.

"I still find it so surreal," he said. "Every day, you expect Suzanne to just walk in the door.

Jensen and Calley had no children, and just getting through daily life sometimes seems more like an obligation than a pleasure for Jensen.

"You go through life," he said. "That's about all you can do. ... That's what Suzanne would have wanted me to do. ... She wouldn't want me just sitting around doing nothing."

Jensen is now working as a commercial passenger pilot and flight instructor. It's ironic, he said, since flying is how his wife died.

He had been a pilot before he met Calley, but then they had both worked for Cisco Systems, a San Jose-based computer firm. There, he said, the two of them regularly slogged through 20-hour days, seven days a week.

Cisco laid off Jensen in April 2000, and he decided to get back into flying shortly before the time of Calley's death. He remembered her joy that he'd once again be doing a job he loved.

Jensen said he still enjoys what he does for a living, despite the irony. Even though the couple had met in a computer-training course, they had fallen in love in the air.

"(On) my first date with Suzanne, I flew her to Tahoe," Jensen said.

The couple became enamored of scuba diving a decade ago and were active members of the Monterey Bay Dive Center, as well as avid diving instructors. Jensen still dives occasionally but doesn't teach much anymore.

"I used to think I really loved teaching diving," he said. "What I found was that I really loved teaching it with her."

Two days after Calley's death, Jensen shared with The Dispatch one of his fondest memories of her. They were diving together, and suddenly they saw their first live shark.

"Let's chase it!" Jensen remembers Calley saying. He didn't think this was such a good idea.

"She started to chase it, and I held her back," he said. "Then she gave me this smile that only she had, and she took out her (mouthpiece) and she kissed me."

In Tuesday's interview, Jensen had trouble answering questions about how the tragedy had altered his world view.

"I guess that's the hardest thing I have with this: I just can't believe there's that much hate," he said. "I don't think it's over by a long shot."

In the last two years, one of Jensen's nieces did military service in Afghanistan, another niece and her husband were stationed in Kuwait, and a third niece's husband was in Iraq. All returned home safely.

Jensen said his familial bonds have grown stronger since Calley died, as family members have learned to value each other more.

"You need to tell people how you feel," Jensen said. "One of the things that's gotten me through all this is, I talked to her about 10 minutes before she got on the plane, and the last words we said to each other were, 'I love you.' "




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