Memories of 9-11

As a NYer I remember all too well the tragic events of 9-11. Fortunately for me, I had a doctor’s appointment in my home borough of Queens that day and was not on Manhattan Island. My wife was on Queen’s Western tip in Long Island City and had a classroom that had a direct view of the towers. When the first plane hit they were instructed to draw the shades so as not to traumatize the children.

I lost two friends and a family member of my wife’s side of the family as well.

Debbie Welsh was a flight attendant on United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, PA. If you haven’t seen United 93 yet, I highly recommend it. Debbie plays a significant role in the re-telling and from what her husband had shared with me, it seemed like an accurate sequence of events. Check it out–and say a prayer for my friend and the others who perished that day.

Tom Cullen was a college friend and a firefighter. He died in the towers leaving behind a little son and his loving wife Sue (who admittedly, I think I knew a bit better than I knew Tom). My one memory of Tom was one of him always wanting to be a firefighter. Our freshman year dorm at Fordham, Queen’s Court had (of all things!) a pyromaniac living amongst us. Since the dorm was nearly 150 years old, a single match could really do some damage to the structure of this landmark building. (ironically, the dorm’s Southernmost wing was badly damaged by fire just a year later by a left behind candle in a dorm room). Tom organized what came to be known as “fire watch.” We literally took turns staying up all night trying to either dissuade or catch the alleged arsonist. At some point the said woman confessed to a friend who blew the whistle. Tom was livid at her actions but also had compassion for her, as she was obviously troubled. He gave us all a course in fire safety and taught us how to operate the extinguishers. He was already a volunteer fireman and was a member of Fordham EMS. He took good care of my college roommate (who was a sick kid and died too young) several times. Just a great guy, who I wish I knew better. Sue must miss him terribly as does his son, Tommy–who is probably getting big by now. I hope that Tommy realizes how much of a hero his father always was–even in my college days. I saw him race into our dorm when it was on fire once to wake up one of our many friends who failed to evacuate the premises. He didn’t think twice about it. Just as he didn’t think twice about heading into those towers on that fateful day. Be proud of your dad, Tommy. He sure was proud of you and your mom.

My wife’s cousin, Jenene also died in the towers. She had just called her mother and told her that it was the other tower that had been hit and that she was just fine. After hanging up the second plane came barrelling into her building. On a high floor Jenene never had a chance.

A divorced mother of one, she left behind her mother as well. It is such a tragedy for a mother to lose a child–and since her son now lives with his father, I sense that Jenene’s mom feels twice as bad.

While these three people are just three of those that were lost, one person lost was too many. These were just my three. Friends and extended family. I’m not lucky or blessed that more people that I knew didn’t perish. I’m devistated that I have to tell this story at all.

The towers are firm in my memory. I ate at Wild Blue and Windows on the World on those top floors several times when I produced a food show on WOR Radio. (probably people who served me but that were nameless to me died that day simply doing their job). My wife danced all night at the Greatest Bar on Earth during her single days. I caught the PATH train to New Jersey with an old girlfriend many times in the basement and window shopped the high end stores that called WTC their home.

Keith Olbermann put it best on MSNBC last night. The fact that there is still no memorial and still no construction going on at “Ground Zero” is a tragedy. We do dishonor by continuing to ignore the memories of those lost and continuing to kill others in their name. I think a large dove should be erected their to remind us of the tenacious spirit shown by NYers and all Americans that day and in the coming weeks. We put partisian beliefs behind and huddled together. We held people we hardly knew and comforted those tenderly who had lost their loved ones.

Mostly, we believed that our God reigns. That the madness of terrorism is no match for our God of love. God will sort out the mess once again as only God could do, and has done for ages. This madness did not have to happen. God did not will this act, despite the call of the terrorists who stated that it was God driving them to kill. The hands and feet of Jesus were pierced again that day and a God who intimately knows human suffering all too well felt the pain of scourging once again.

But we need to remember as does our government that death never has the final word. Our lives need to go on and not forget what happened that day but to honor those who died with our very lives. Like Christ, they now have no voice but ours.

That voice needs to shout strongly for peace.