Thursday, September 10, 2009

My 9/11 - One of many stories

I realize the blogosphere is going to be teeming with tributes, memorials, editorials, opinion pieces about the attacks of September 11, 2001. And you know what? It should be. If you don't agree, oh away from this page for now. Here's how I saw the day:


"What do you mean, the Towers are GONE???"

My co-worker Scott said that when he was finally able to get through to his girlfriend on his cell. We'd just been evacuated to the far corner of the building on the 4th floor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The foundations of our building had just been shaken for the second time in an hour, our windows blown out. A wickedly fast-moving thick gray-brown cloud made us feel we were enveloped in a huge dirty cotton ball - we couldn't see anything. We had no idea what was happening. We knew the towers were hit by planes. Now we thought our building was next.

I had been on the phone with Lori when the second wave hit us. That horrid rumble, that ear-shattering constant explosion of breaking glass began as I was trying to get the story that was unfolding all around me from my wife, watching on TV. As the wave of destruction washed over us again, the phone fell silent. It would be hours before I would speak to her again. I wanted to crawl under my desk in the fetal position and stick my thumb in my mouth. The fire warden for our floor rushed us into the hall where we would remain for 2 hours. I helped fetch water and plug holes in windows with wet towels. I did it in order to not go screaming insane. It kept my hands and feet moving. It kept me from thinking of my wife and my children. It kept me from thinking about dying.

Hours earlier, looking up at the first plane-sized gash in the Towers from the steps of the bank, I was wondering in an off-hand way how in the hell they were going to get Fire, Police and EMT's up that high? I was likely in a bit of shock...I, and most of the people I was talking to that morning, couldn't yet conceive of the idea of, well, THAT...being deliberate. Half-jokingly, we postulated it was some drunken fool in a Cessna. The size of the hole in the building told a different story, and as paper from the doomed tower started to rain down on us as we re-entered the bank, I think we all started down the path to fear.

When I returned to my desk I decided to call my father, to see if he'd been watching the news or listening to the radio. He answered the phone confused...I'd woken him up and my Mom was already at work. I began to relay the events as I knew them, when


Author's note: There is no word in the English language that could adequately describe that sound/feeling. Comic book writers earn their bread and butter making up words to go with crazy sound phenomena (THOOM! KEEERRRACKKKK! Any lover of comics form the 70's knows what I mean) I could use one of those words right now...but the only word that I can come up with is BOOM

The air...quivered. I was inside a fortified Federal building, and I felt that BOOM in my toes. My first thought was "My God, the Tower fell over!", remembering the deep gash. Only being 2 blocks away on the 4th floor, we couldn't see much of anything that was going on at the Trade Center, and Security wasn't letting us leave the bank, now.

A minute later, Vadim, a coworker and friend of mine came running down the aisle, top-speed. "WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!!!! WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!!!!", he screamed. I grabbed him by the shoulders and told him to knock it off, he was scaring folks (I didn't know about 'folks', but he was sure as shit scaring ME.). He continued screaming, "NONO! The OTHER tower's been hit by a plane too!!!" He ran off screaming his message like a demented town crier.

The next 7-8 hours zip by in my memory as a blur, like fast-moving photos barely glimpsed at. Running out into the hall. Trying to run down the stairs and being forced back up...the 1st collapse...breaking windows...coughing...panic...tears. Plugging up the windows, getting water to people who needed it. The 2nd collapse...more breaking windows...more coughing...more panic. Rumors of a truck bomb at the State Department...rumors of planes dropping out of the sky like dead gnats...The Pentagon is breached...talking to my wife for that brief moment - she was watching the tower come down on TV as our call got cut off. All the while being enveloped by that brown cloud that swirled like a solid soup outside the windows.

Leaving the bank in the late afternoon in what looked like nuclear winter. Walking through 2-3 inch thick pulverized powder in the street...I don't even want to think of what that powder was comprised of (I kept my dusty shoes for 5 years without ever wearing them again). Walking to South Street Seaport to escape by Ferry. Somehow, some way, not drinking that day after less than 2 weeks of sobriety.

Home. My son, hugging me and asking why I was covered in dust. My wife, shell-shocked as I was, looking at me with blood-shot and tired eyes. The baby sleeping in his car seat, not a care in the world. I look up to God and begin to cry.

I am a lucky, lucky man.


I've no solutions. I've no opinions I'd like to share about the events of that day. I only ask you to hold your loved ones closer, tell those you love that you love them. The crazed panic that goes through your mind when you think you're about to die "Jesus, did I kiss the kids today? Did I tell her I loved her today? Please let the last things I said to them be kind words!"

Cherish. Cherish. Cherish.

Daily Mass Readings
1 Timothy:1-2, 12-14
Psalm 15:1-2, 5,7-8,11
Luke 6:39-42

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Wooden Bowl

I am usually not given to forwarding email chain letters, but this one grabbed me. I offer it to you here, with the promise that nothing horrible will happen to you if you do not pass it on.

It simply made me think of my Dad's recent medical difficulties and how I've centered on the outward annoyances of it...and how my reactions might be absorbed by my kids.

The Wooden Bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and
failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor.
When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

'We must do something about father,' said the son. 'I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.'

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.

There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, 'What are you making?' Just as sweetly, the boy responded, 'Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.' The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Author unknown

Daily Mass Readings
Memorial of St. Peter Claver
Colossians 3:1-11
Psalm 145:2-3,10-13
Luke 6:20-26