Sunday, September 11, 2011

What was lost.

The old Manhattan skyline

"New York! Just like I pictured it! Skyscrapers and everything!"

~ Stevie Wonder in "Livin' for the City"

I watched a man telling his story of 9/11 tonight. He was a first responder--a proud fireman wearing a hat with FDNY across the front of it. He was also wearing oxygen.

Turns out that this gentleman rushed in to dig through that rubble from the first moments after those towers came tumbling down. The dust and debris that he was exposed to during those efforts led to respiratory failure.

"Masks? There wasn't no time for masks. We needed to find the people. The people who could be calling for us from under those bricks and mortar." He said that between wheezes with a thick and authentic New York accident. And something about the passion behind the way he said it suggested that he'd do it all over again.

That man required a lung transplant. A lung transplant. That lung transplant failed. And you know what? With all that digging over those weeks, he never found a single living soul.

I guess my first thought had always been those who lost loved ones that day. Watching him talking with those animated New York hands and unmistakable intonation interrupted by oxygen-dependent hacks  reminded me of all of the other things lost that day. He had lost his health--his ability to breath. Because he was trying to save at least one life.


The downtown Atlanta Skyline

A few weeks ago I bought this poster at a festival of Atlanta's iconic places. Restaurants, parks, and all sorts of things were on it. It also had our skyline. That same skyline that made me gasp when I first moved near it and that has become a visual staple.  Our skyline has nothing on Manhattan's but I'd hate to see any part of it plucked away. It would be like being robbed of a part of what makes home feel like home. That makes me even sadder about how real, true New Yorkers must feel. Hell, I'm not even a real, true ATL-ien but my kids are. I thought of that as something that was lost that day.


Two summers ago, we went to D.C. to see Harry's best friend/Isaiah's godfather Shannon get promoted in the U.S. Army to Lieutenant Colonel. The ceremony was in The Pentagon and we took a tour of it that day. But before all that, it took an act of Congress to even get into the place and you damn near got tackled and tazed if you snapped a photo. Man. Everywhere you went there were service men and women.  Everywhere. Walking in that upright way that military folks do and whose faces were plastered all over the walls in every corridor. We learned that The Pentagon has always been that kind of place. Full of patriotism. Tightly secured. Inhabited by elite members of the armed forces.

That became my point of reference for The Pentagon. Men and women who are literally serving their country at some of the highest levels attainable on the military food chain working in a building that is supposed to be like a fort. I imagined the terror they and all of their family members must have felt that day to have that all breached. Remember? A plane crashed into that building on the morning of September 11, too. It's just as awful. We went into the 9/11 memorial in The Pentagon and even though our kids were small, we did our best to explain what happened. I felt ashamed because my mind always thinks "New York" and not "Pentagon" or "field in Pennsylvania" when I think of September 11.

But not any more.

Visiting with Uncle Shannon - Washington D.C. 2009

Shannon became Lt. Colonel Shannon that day, and we hugged and applauded and snapped pictures. The following year he was sent to Iraq for an entire year, separating him from his lovely wife and his two young children. A second grader who is now a third grader and a three year old who is now a four-year old. Separated from their patriarch. For an entire year.

Uncle Shannon with son Colin at The Pentagon

Our goddaughter Paige in the center at her daddy's promotion (with bffs)

Servicemen there in support of Lt. Colonel Shannon Jackson

With his committed wife, Michelle

What children miss when parents go to protect our country

See? Now I'm thinking, just maybe, if this all hadn't happened ten years ago today then, just maybe, Uncle Shannon wouldn't be gone away at all. His kids wouldn't be Skyping him on their birthdays or on the day before the first day of school. Just maybe.

So much was lost that day. So much. And today I am remembering those big things lost and also considering the little things lost in the chain reaction. Yeah. I'm remembering--with as much intention as I can. . . .

Because they all matter. They do.


1 comment:

  1. This is a lovely tribute. I, too, have been thinking a lot about our losses.

    Love to you.


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