Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Happens To Us

A young man we met in Williamsburg, Brooklyn near the end of our 2011 journey offered up an interesting bit of insight regarding the attacks on the World Trade Center. 'Someday,' he said, '9/11 will go from something that happened to us to something that happened.' Twelve years removed from that day we are seeing this already, in the reflection of our children's eyes.

I took my two young boys to a memorial vigil this evening, at the fire house here in our new hometown of East Northport, New York. At six years old, my older son could understand the reason we were all there though it will be a while before he grasps things on a more conceptual level. My three-year-old was only interested in the fire trucks and the huge American flag hung between them and the cookies they were serving afterwards.

Many of the others holding candles were not yet born, or were too young to recall much if anything about that day. For them, as much as for us, we remember.

Particularly moving about tonight's service was the reading of the names of the victims of 9/11 (a few of whom lived here). Several people in attendance - maybe twelve, maybe twenty - had been given lists of names of those lost; during the service they began, all at once, reading those names. To close your eyes and listen would be to feel as though these people were all around, alive for a moment as their names flooded your ears. Then one by one those reading reached the end of their lists, and their voices, and the names they spoke, disappeared into the night.

My sons will never know any of those who perished in New York or Washington, DC or Shanksville, Pennsylvania. But they will, as long as we continue to remember together, know that September 11, 2001 was a dark day in America. And understand that, on a human level, 9/11 happened to all of us.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reminders Along Our Way

The idea is simple. The effect runs deep.

Memorials stand posted along a number of our country’s roads and interstates – the Officer Dave Chetcuti Memorial Highway sign in Millbrae, California and the Ofc James Fezatte Memorial Highway in Alabama, to name just two – to honor and commemorate public servants who have died on those stretches of road in the course of their service to the rest of us. The vast majority of those who see these signs may never know who Officer Chicuti or Officer Fezatte or any of the others was. What may stick in some people’s heads is the idea that someone died in this place – someone with a name; someone who loved and was loved in return; someone who lived with a purpose and died because of it. That road, that stretch of highway then becomes not just a space to be traversed as quickly as possible so as to get somewhere else a little sooner, but a place where we may remember that lives are easily lost. And the holes that take their place will long remain.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Remembering Their Neighbors

All across the country we heard stories of people deeply affected by the events of 9-11. Distance, it seemed, did not diminish. In Santa Fe we met a cop from Boston who, on the morning of September 11, 2001 was standing outside in view of Logan airport, drinking coffee and watching planes taking off. ‘I probably saw the one that was hijacked,’ he told us. His emotions of that day were still evident.

We’d also met many people who only ever saw the images on television, or in magazines. Some might not have ever been to New York, or even left their town or their county. Still, the emotion was there.
What did increase as we neared the east coast was the frequency with which we met people who knew someone, or lost someone, or was there on that day.

Naturally most of these stories came right out of New Jersey and New York. And in so many towns in the New York City area there are memorials dedicated to the citizens of those towns who were lost that day.

So while we ached, mourned and cried as a nation, communities suffered their personal losses.

In Heckscher Park in Huntington, New York lives the memory of 43 neighbors now gone.