9/11

A clear, crisp September morning, sparkling blue cloudless sky: the beginning of a perfect day.
I was padding around my apartment, cup of coffee in one hand, the New York Times in the other, unemployed and preoccupied with thoughts of a business meeting in a few hours with a potential client.  I was jolted out of my reverie by the sound of my phone ringing. It was my youngest sister , Margaret, calling from Chicago. “You’re ok!,” she screamed, “Oh my God I thought you might be down there.”  “ Down where? What  are you talking about?” I said. “A plane just hit the World Trade Center, turn on the TV.” I hurriedly turned on the TV just in time to see a plane strike the south tower.  Thinking at first it was a replay, I quickly realized that what I was looking at was a second strike. I later learned that the time had been 9:03 am. The date was September 11, 2001. In the coming days and months, and for years to come, for all its horror and complexity, the day would be known simply as 9/11.
The next day I went downtown to visit some friends. The subways were not running so I took my bike and headed down Lexington Avenue. There were no cars and in the eerie silence of a deadened city I made good time. I was startled by the roar of two FA-18 Strike Fighters circling overhead. When I got toward 23rd Street I could see an crowd of hundreds in front of the armory at 26th Street. As I had to walk my bike through the crowd I noticed that they all seemed to be carrying pictures and flyers of missing loved ones hoping that someone would recognize them and direct them to where they might be found. Such hope in that outdoor market place. The armory was set up as a center for loved ones and family members to register their missing persons but the crowd was so large it spilled over onto Lexington Avenue.
A couple of weeks later I asked my friend Russ who drove a truck ladder if I could do anything to support his firehouse which had lost nine men. “We’re selling hats and sweatshirts,” he said, “Come on down and buy some.” So I went there and arrived just in time for lunch and a piece of chocolate cake. As I was finishing my cake, the alarm sounded and within a minute the engine and the truck were out the door fully crewed. They waved to me as they rolled and said. “Finish your cake, Eddie, we’ll see you later.”
As I stood there in the silence, I looked around and saw all their shoes scattered around the floor exactly where they had left them when they jumped into their boots. And then the image flashed in my mind that this was the scene on 9/11 when the men returned to find the shoes of their missing comrades in the lacunae of that firehouse floor..

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