This is the day that never should’ve happened.
Today is the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, when I stood with a crowd across the street from the World Trade Center and watched life as we knew it go straight to hell.
That day was also my father’s 80th birthday and the day after my parents’ anniversary.
My mother was in Lutheran Medical Center’s intensive care unit at the time, but they moved her in anticipation of a wave of injured victims that never came. On 9/11, it was just the living or the dead.
I recall the horror of that day, the chaos that followed; I remember the flyers, the desperate appeals that papered the city, looking for missing people who would never be seen alive again.
And I remember the smell, how I remember that awful stench that hung over the city like a funeral shroud.
I was listening to the radio on Sunday and Jonathan Schwartz played this fabulous recording of Frank Sinatra singing “Where or When.”
He made that record nearly 70 years ago—on September 11, 1950, the day after my parents got married in Our Lady of Angels Church in Brooklyn.
How different the world was back then. This country had recently emerged from World War II and people knew nothing of jihadists or radical Islam back then. They were hopeful about the future.
I didn’t get to the memorial service at Ground Zero this year, so I listened to the reading of the victims' names on TV. I didn’t stand outside the Brooks Brothers store where I was on the day the planes hit.
Until the Shadows Lengthen
I work from home now and I don’t go to Manhattan unless it’s absolutely necessary. (That sounds awfully lame as I read it.)
I was looking through my strong box for my Social Security card the other day and I came across all these old papers and photos and mass cards that had my crying in no time at all.
And I found a mass card for a young man named Neil who was killed in the Trade Center attacks. I don’t recognize him and I don’t know how this card came into my possession, but I’ll gladly keep it with my other artifacts. We were all family on 9/11.
Neil, who was 28 years old, is smiling broadly in the photo and news reports said he loved to cook and had planned to join his family in Italy in mid-September.
I wonder about Neil and all the other victims, what their lives would’ve been like had they been allowed to remain in this world.
I think of the children that were never born, the relationships that never happened, the great vacations, the wonderful memories, the incredible ideas, the good times, all brutally cut short.
The front of Neil's mass card bears the image of St. Francis, restorer of lost things and the Prayer for Holy Rest appears on the back.
“Oh, Lord,” it says, “support us all day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and evening comes and the busy world is hushed and the fever of life is over and our work is done, then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.”
Amen to that.