Remembrances

Terror surrounds us and sneaks up on us all too often.

The recent tragedy in Boston was unconscionable.  The London marathon is this weekend, and everyone is getting cold feet about running and spectating.  What a shame.

When did the world become shrouded in invisible but persistent terror?

I guess 9/11 is the obvious answer.

The events of September 11th have been on my mind lately.  That day always lingers with me because my house in Greenwich was once home to a young man, Michael Rothberg, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and lost his life in the attacks.  I remember holding his bereaved mother’s hand and crying as we worked through the sale of our home.  Other builders were interested in the property and willing to pay more, but Michael’s parents offered it to us because we loved its quirky antiquity and promised to preserve it.  Nearly 13 years later, our old home is the only house that has not been demolished in our immediate vicinity.  All around us, bulldozers have razed quaint modest homes and replaced them with pre-fab mini-mansions.

I recently had a chance to “visit” Michael.  Over break, Jackie, Jeff, and I went to see the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.   It was very moving to take the tour guided by a retired fireman, Steve, who was not on call that fateful day but rushed to his Bronx firehouse to wait for orders.  His best friend and fellow fireman was one of the first responders.  He was last heard from on the 12th floor of the North Tower where he was working to aid handicapped people in wheelchairs who could not evacuate because the elevators were not working.

In his ripe New Yawk accent, Steve explained the significance of the Memorial’s twin reflecting pools which are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest man-made waterfalls in North America.  The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood.

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The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools.  While talking to us, Steve dipped his hand in the water beneath the panel of names and dragged his wet hand across his buddy’s name, treating the pools as if they contained holy water and saying a blessing.  We found Michael’s name and doused it with blessings of our own.

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Prior to our NYC visit, Jackie and I had gone down to Washington, DC for a few days to see friends.  We visited the Newseum, a fabulous museum that celebrates history through the lens of the news media.  Jackie was 3 years old on September 11, 2001.  When I picked her up from Preschool that day, she had no idea what had happened and was too little to see the frightening news coverage.  She was very solemn as she sat next to me at the Newseum and witnessed the footage from that day, observing people leaning out windows, towers of steel collapsing, bodies covered in ash, and civilians running for their lives.

Sadly, she is old enough to understand the news now.  The images in Boston of trauma, blood, tears, and fear are all too familiar.  That the tragedy occurred on Patriot Day is all too poignant.

Maybe one day the reign of terror will end, and we will find a peaceful resolution.  The glorious cherry trees were in full bloom in Washington, DC.  Their beauty is not only breathtaking but symbolic.  The flowering trees were a gift from Japan in 1912 and “symbolize friendship between nations, the renewal of Spring, and the ephemeral nature of life“–

An inspirational message and image to remember.

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