The grief was overwhelming for Emily Cozort Cranford ’91. Her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Eric Cranford ’92, was working at the Naval Command Center in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when an airliner crashed into the building, killing Eric and some of his colleagues.
In the months following the death of her husband, Emily found herself searching for answers. There was no prescription for the grief Emily was feeling. She had lost her best friend since childhood, having grown up with Eric in Drexel, N.C. She knew she needed something.
And, it turns out, something needed her. Guinness was a beagle whose owner had died. In November of 2001, Emily rescued Guinness, and Guinness did the same for her new owner.
“That one gift changed the rest of my life,” says Emily, who adds that the beagle gave her unconditional love and held no expectations as to how the widow should grieve. “She didn’t expect me to be stoic or emotional. She didn’t ask me questions.”
T.J. Mumford tells this story of healing and love in his children’s book Guinness and Emily: A Tale of Love.
Mumford and his wife, Fran, became friends with Emily while living beside her in Baltimore. He says Emily was open about her loss and healing. So Mumford, an educator at Delaware Technical & Community College who had written two previous children’s books, decided the story had to be told.
“We all have losses in our lives, whether they be economic, social, religious or love losses,” Mumford says. “Out of that loss, other relationships have grown. You don’t have to be bitter. You can make a new life.”
Emily says she supported the idea because the proceeds could be used for charity. After Mumford covers his printing costs — the book is self-published — all proceeds go to animal rescue or to the Lt. Cmdr. Eric A. Cranford Scholarship at NC State. When you purchase one of the books on the website, you choose the recipient of the profits.
Emily knows her story is a special one, admitting that she wanted others to know they can heal when faced with a personal tragedy.
“I wanted the simple message that there is healing,” she says. “There is the kind of love that rescues you, and it’s not always found where you expect it.”
Lt. Cmdr. Eric Cranford will be one of the many honored this Sunday, when NC State holds a 9/11 memorial service at the Memorial Belltower. The event will start shortly before 2 p.m. The event is open to the public. For more information, click here.