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9/11 In New York

My nieces were working in the city at the time, close by. I checked with my brother, everyone was okay. But the rest of those in the Towers and those coming to their aid… I almost hate to say it, but my lasting image of that day was and still is the poor souls who had to jump. I'm a combat Vietnam vet so the hell of it was in my skin. But that's enough of that.

Joe and Joanna of the Rockville Center Lazzaros and myself representin'. Easy into the lower city over the Brooklyn Bridge -- what a privilege -- mucking around a bit down around Battery Park, crowds of summer visitors headin' out to Ellis Island and the statue. As a distant native I always tell visitors I know to take the Staten Island Ferry trip for free. A sea voyage vista of the city without having to land on Liberty Island.

Parking no problem, the brand-new Liberty Tower rising up above the Memorial site, a gleaming, artistic tribute to those here who didn't make it home from work that day.

You have to admit that the twin Towers weren't exactly great art. My own view is, now of course they are gone, Manhattan Island is back in balance, the chess pieces of Manhattan — the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the Statue of Liberty are back center stage with the Liberty Tower as a beacon to this new place, its memories. Its determination intact.

Walking to the site we are taken by surprise by a bronze-brown frieze along a wall. It's a bronze-brown frieze of the firefighters who gave their lives, their names, their companies, their firehouses. There's 343 names. We pause. Joe and Joanna know some of the names. I know how and where they lived. We pause some more, Joe and Joanna close to these folks, Joe watching the second plane come in on the television at home with his wife Lori, Joanna at her school (Southside High guidance counselor). Both have close memories of the day.

Summer crowds across the street at the site. Somewhat odd to say, but the site has become a destination. We three mix in with the rest of the world. The whole world watched 9/11. The whole world changed on 9/11.

I had opinions of the site before I came home. I didn't like the museum design straight off -- to cold, too sterile, too odd, modern design too overall airline terminal.

But the names etched into the dark granite around the reflecting pool, this footprint, this reminder of what once stood here, renews my pride in the Vietnam Memorial design in DC, it's design, from here on, here are the names. You reflect. You come to grips. We are family.

9-11 Memorial Reflecting Pool
9-11 Memorial Reflecting Pool

There are so many names and the pools are so large, the falling water like always falling water, reflecting, inviting you in. We wish we could touch the flowing water. We thought about photos against the names but it just didn't seem proper.

The groves of trees have not grown full of yet. When they do this site will truly be a sanctuary.

Just for me I wish the reflective pools were smaller, more embraceable, but they are here as they are to reflect the former.

Just for me, if I remember right, I wish the site itself wasn't all concrete to walk. Paths through grass would have felt stronger, more solemn, but maybe the concrete is to reflect the plaza of the Towers. The three of us were certainly in the Towers, myself mostly in the Windows on the World restaurant. The view! What a game of chance that a Lazzaro son-in-law did not get a job in Windows. He most likely would have been at work that day. But isn't that the way of things? Fate?

Long line waiting to get at the museum. We were in agreement: too expensive, too reserved tickets, too much to bear. Controversy surrounding any endeavor to create a perfect memorial — what the families of those who perished wanted, what they expected, what they considered appropriate. The crowd of summer visitors certainly indicates that a lot went right.

Again, I think the design for the museum should have reflected the surrounding neighborhood or perhaps even a direct firehouse. But --

Here we are at the other reflecting pool where the North Tower was I guess. A lot more names, one white magnolia blossom among all the names like an eternal candle. We reflect on how fortunate we are to be living on such a glorious day. All those phone calls, all those empty cars at all those train stations, all those broken engine companies, all those shattered precinct houses. I look into the falling water like looking into an open wound — too harsh perhaps, but perhaps it is so. Anyway, count, count, counting blessings.

Back at the South Tower's testimonial, just the firefighters names and their companies on this panel. A reminder of those the folks from Rockville Center knew. To know, you can find a name of a video screen on site.

And the names of the dark villains who did the deed. A madness upon we humans. There's a woman's name on a panel with unborn child beside it. An evil upon the human race.

We are at peace. We end the day in Katz's Deli on Houston Street, raising our spirits, raising our pastrami on rye for those who couldn't be with us today.

And later in the day we are in Rockville Center, at the village's own 9/11 memorial, on the ample village green, set in the shade for itself, somewhat of a headstone memory to the innocent who died in the attacks. Joe and Lori and me, enough names to make it hurt. Lori, too, knows some of the names; perhaps the son of the name I recognize. I did Catholic grade school, St. Raymond's in East Rockaway, with CYO basketball battles with the mighty St. Agnes of Rockville Center. The name I recognize is from mighty St. Agnes. It is a small world, made smaller by 9/11.

I'm proud that I've come all this way, my friends proud that the world, Manhattan and Rockville Center, have remembered all those who… with such dignity. Sad that the world has to remember such a hell with such dignity.

Lori can create the hell out of any Italian cuisine. Pasta, meatballs in meat sauce raises our spirits, lessens our sadness.

One Comment

  1. Bob Hughes September 14, 2014

    My brother Bill wrote this piece and, as usual, he nails it. As he notes, his nieces, my daughters, lived through that day with all the thousands of other New Yorkers who were forced to evacuate Manhattan. I’m as proud today of them as I am of him.

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