I was working in New York City on September 11, 2001.
Seventeen years later I still find myself crying involuntarily throughout the day, I’m crying now as I write this. I avoid television so I don’t have to be exposed to that horrific image of the towers on fire, and I’m not sure I can bring myself to visit the museum, it still feels so fresh.
I wish I had done more. I wish I had helped more. I wish I hadn’t been so afraid for myself and our country.
Besides, who am I to be sad? I lost no one close to me while thousands of others did. I was in midtown and didn’t witness the heart wrenching affect of gravity, or feel the heat of exploding jet fuel. I didn’t sift through rubble or call the names of the lost like so many other heroic individuals. The result is a deep rooted sense of guilt for my cowardice. I have resigned myself to accepting it.
But I went to work the next day.
It’s the one piece of American History that I want to preserve: New York City, September 12, 2001. The day New Yorkers earned their reputation of toughness. The middle finger to terrorists. We may be afraid, we may be sad but we continue on, with a few more American flags on the hoods of cabs, and deafening renditions of ‘God Bless America’ inside Yankee stadium, arms on the shoulders of strangers, swaying with tears in our eyes and screaming every word. When Yankee Stadium vibrates, you can’t help but feel united, and part of something greater than self.
By June of 2002, I moved into an apartment in Battery Park City. My window looked down into Ground Zero from twenty-nine floors above. I watched them rebuild, I crossed a footbridge decorated with the photos of lost friends and family every day for two years, I went to funerals of fire fighters, bought round after round for EMTs that came from the Carolinas to help (That was a St. Patrick’s Day I will never forget.), and said thank you to just about anyone who wore any kind of badge.
New York tried to repair itself as quickly as it could, but the country changed that day. I think many of us wish desperately for the days before. A time when things were simpler and more pure. We experienced trauma on a national level, and I yearn for the next September 12th; a day we can move on and get back to the work of enjoying life and finding whatever it is each of us lost. Will it come?
“Dad, I found another one!”
It’s my oldest, Mike. My wife has forced us into the car on a hot humid evening to go “caterpillar hunting” at nearby Szegda Farms. It’s a town-owned piece of land that embodies the beauty of Connecticut in a few small acres: close-knit steep hills, hazy sunsets, concentrated greenery, and small fields stocked with quick moving wildlife, tall grass and prickery wild-berry bushes.
Milkweed is the preferred food for monarch caterpillars, my wife’s obsession. We traipse through tall grass and I take pictures of huge spiders. My sons have cups and plastic cages to house the caterpillars they find and the leaves they will need to eat in the confines of the butterfly enclosure my wife has set up in the living room of our house.
The boys and my wife are ecstatic. They race from plant to plant, as quickly as the tall grass allows them. They bend the long stems and look carefully underneath. There are just enough caterpillars to keep it interesting. They aren’t on every plant, but they aren’t scarce either.
The gasps I hear are for the treasures they find on the underside of weeds. The monsters they see are huge spiders, terrifying and mesmerizing with their intense colors and iconic shape. The pace is not rushed though the sun is going down. The blues and oranges in the sky from thirty minutes ago are deeper and richer. I watch them from behind, the backdrop is a summer sky.
Christine blazes a trail and we all stay close. Our imaginations create a horror movie of hissing poisonous snakes, sharp thorns and salivating predators. The unwarranted threat of the unknown looms with every new step into chest high grass, but it’s ok, we’re together. And together we can handle anything.
Let’s get back to work. Find what you’ve lost. Look under every weed and be patient. Hope is there, munching away, getting bigger and preparing for a beautiful metamorphosis.
Tomorrow is September 12th.
Owner Spowerks LLC