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Saturday, September 11, 2010

My 9/11 Remembrance

This is a reprint of a post from last year. I don't have it in me to write something new. There really isn't much more to say. The hole in the skyline is still there. And so is the one in our hearts.

My 9/11 Remembrance

You had to be there to understand. 9/12/01. The stench of burning jet fuel, plastic, paper, and human beings wafted over the City. Every rear car window and front door sported an American flag poster, as did fences around schools, churches, security grates on storefronts.

Everyone waited patiently in security checkpoint lines at the bridges and tunnels. No bosses said a word if you were late for work. No horns, no reckless driving-there wasn't anyplace that seemed important enough to hurry to anymore.

The sounds of commercial jets had been replaced by F-16's flying over the City at regular intervals. The wail of sirens sent people into fits of tears, and there was always someone, often a stranger, there to comfort them, help them.

Candles started appearing at dusk. In windows, on front porches. In my Queens neighborhood, people were spontaneously drawn, carrying anything they could find with a light source, to an impromptu march down the main drag, Bell Boulevard, led by a fire truck, a parish priest from Sacred Heart Parish about to be recalled to active duty, and exhausted police officers and firefighters. We lined the sidewalks, waving flags, burning our fingers, holding hands, singing God Bless America.

I didn't think to take a camera to record it. I was too busy comforting a bereft friend and my kids, barely restraining my own emotions after the horror of the previous day.

A whole block of parking meters was adorned with votives, flames dancing in the warm breeze. While the fires raged downtown and frantic rescue efforts were underway, candle wax dripped over glass and metal onto the concrete sidewalks while viewfinders flashed "time expired."

I could never re-create that moment, and the feeling of comfort those flickering points of light in the darkness inspired in me, and no doubt many others.

Before the old-fashioned parking meters disappeared, to be replaced by muni-meter boxes that issue tickets for your car window, I immortalized a few as a reminder of that moment in time.

There is still a big empty pit at Ground Zero. The smell is long gone, but every time I look into that hole filled with construction activity, surrounded by a chain link fence, the memory of the stench returns, I gag. My heart still races when I hear a siren in the night, a low flying jet screams over my house, or a helicopter hovers with beacons flashing, looking for someone or something.

I will never forget the routine morning that turned into one of the most horrible I ever experienced, making me wonder how people in Israel, Gaza, and other war-ravaged nations survive.

I will never forget The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the lowly parking meter, forever linked in my memory.