I felt like writing all day yesterday. I just couldn’t do justice to the 9-11 victims and their families. Yesterday was a day of remembrance for us but more importantly for them. Those who suffered horrific losses in the attacks in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania.
I remember where I was that day. I remember watching the attacks from a broker’s office in South Jersey wondering if my wife would get out of Manhattan. We were living in Manhattan at the time. Cell phones didn’t work. I couldn’t get in touch with her. Luckily for us – we made contact – and I picked up Helene and her dad at the Atlantic Highlands ferry later that day. Others – particularly others in Lower Manhattan weren’t so lucky.
As the days and weeks passed life in Manhattan changed. Smoke still billowed from the WTC site. The smell was in the air even where we lived on 33rd street. Sirens were a daily and nightly occurrence. But the memory – for me – was the pictures. Pictures everywhere of missing persons. Pictures of regular people that were never found. Pictures of thousands of innocent people with families. Husbands, wives, sons and daughters. Pictures posted on every lamp post, street sign, hospital bulletin board.
The INDELIBLE memory – the one that still sticks with me today – was a man (boy) who sat outside Border’s Book Store on 2nd Avenue between 33rd and 32nd EVERY SINGLE DAY. EVERY SINGLE DAY he sat there in front of Border’s with a collage of pictures on a sign hoping to find his missing fiancé. EVERY SINGLE DAY he sat in front of Border’s with that collage of pictures, trimming the thorns off roses and adding them to his pile. EVERY SINGLE DAY I walked by him. I parked our car six blocks away from our apartment (I was even cheap back then) and I walked home from the garage and passed him EVERY SINGLE DAY. Without fail, he was there. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to invite him up. The Jewish holidays were coming up. I wanted to invite him to spend them with us. What could I possibly do for this guy? How could I possibly understand his grief? His entire life was ahead of him – a fiancé – and one morning it was gone. I think about that guy every 9-11. I think about him and hope that the pain has eased and he has found new dreams.
I met a woman from Westfield through this blog and through Twitter. She lost her husband on 9-11. They had young children. That’s what I always come back to in this Cancer. What about the children? How do they cope with loss? What can I do to make this easier on them? How do they feel when I fall asleep at 8:30 PM? How do they feel when I rage out on them because of the steroids? How can I be a more tolerant father today to make sure that if they ever need to fall back on their memories of me that they are positive and loving?
Helene and I have been together for 17 years – married 14 this month. That’s longer than my kids have been alive. We have so many great memories to fall back on. Somehow – in our 40s – we can intellectually process loss. It’s not easy but its understandable. How do kids process loss? Do they understand it? How do you fill that hole?
I marvel at people like my new friend from Westfield. She has the strength to overcome that loss and raise wonderful children. That is a way tougher task than fighting Cancer. I always say that everyone’s got shit to deal with. Sometimes our shit is worse than other’s. Sometimes other’s is worse than ours. Everyone has strength. Everyone has the ability to rise up and defeat the enemy – whether its Cancer, loss, grief, fear – anything. It’s just a matter of getting after it.
Circumstances don’t define you – they reveal you. I am blessed to be able to fight for my wife and kids every day. The victims of 9-11 never had a chance to fight.
Bye week ends today. Ready for cycle 9 tomorrow. Bring it!