Reunion 14-years in the making: Artwork brings two strangers together

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ROANOKE (WSLS10) - It all started 14-years-ago when a patron of Famous Anthony's took home a drawing a nine-year-old created in response to the September 11th attacks. The customer told us the artwork "spoke" to her because, many of her friends died inside the towers. For many years the identity of the drawing has been a mystery.

The search for the mystery 9-year-old artist began back in October of 2015. Every Famous Anthony's in the region hung a replica of the original drawing. Finally, right before Christmas the restaurant heard a response. Wednesday, nearly 14-years later, these two families met for the very first time.

‘They can destroy our famous American buildings, but they can't destroy our famous American pride' is what the picture reads.

"These words have been so comforting to me for so many years; I want to thank you for that," Wendy Jones choked out in tears.

These words touched Jones, a patron of Famous Anthony's restaurant. At the time Jones worked for Morgan Stanley, the World Trade Center's number one tenant, remotely in Virginia. She said she lost many good friends the day the towers came crumbing down. But now, Jones celebrates with the once young boy who gave her comfort during a dark time.

"At 9-year-old a lot of things didn't quite make sense, but I knew that this was still America," said Aaron Lyles, the artist of the drawing. "I knew this was still the greatest country on face of the earth no matter what."

Aaron, now 23, said the September 11th terrorist attack was a sensitive time for the entire nation, but it also reflected a tough time for his family. The day before, his grandmother passed. It was at the funeral home where he watched the stories pour out from New York.

"I don't guess I ever thought it would speak to anybody," commented Aaron. "It's kind of an outward gesture." It's a gesture that Jones has clutched and framed in her office. Signed by Aaron, nearly 15-years later Jones has her answer.

"I've always wondered who he was," Jones told us. "I always wondered if our paths crossed and if I knew him."

Ironically, both Jones and Aaron live in Botetourt and have run for city council, but this is the first time they've met. And now, they welcome a long friendship.

Aaron added it was his grandmother who actually remembered that moment of him drawing the towers and flag.