Today is 9/11 and there are ghosts. But a lot of us have ghosts. So I’m not alone with mine. I know this.
There are a lot of things that remain unsettled when it comes to 9/11 at least for me and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone with that either. I know about the unsettled moments because trickle in at my most vulnerable times; times where I least expect it; times where my guard is down.
Like getting hit from behind; a sudden, blinding reflection from the windshield of a passing car; a dying baby squirrel, its screeching mother and a bird of prey.
On most days, I cast out lines and those lines come back to me with some sort of punctuation. At the end of each day I look at all those lines and I have some type of map, something that makes sense—an outline. Sometimes there’s something new at the end of a line. Sometimes, I let a line go. But when it comes to the lines I casted out on 9/11/01, they simply snapped. They were too taut or something, too much of my mind to handle at the time and they just snapped.
So there are ghosts. There will always be ghosts.
Last year, I spent 9/11 driving a dying baby squirrel to a vet in Madison, New Jersey, the only vet within the 20 mile radius who would accept a “wild animal” of 2 weeks old. He had fallen from his nest. His mother stood above screeching, a sound I will never ever get out of my head. Pure distress. So I scooped up his little body and drove him to the only vet willing to show this tiny creature some compassion. And we sat there together and watched him take his final breath.
When I returned home, the mother was silent but a hawk circled the nest above. And I sat in the grass and sobbed.
This year, Toby Joe Boudreaux and I are going to see DC United play the New York Red Bulls and this seems kind of OK somehow. It seems perfectly fitting to combine these two cities on this day in this manner. You see, it’s selfish, but that morning all those years ago, I had one brother working downtown right where the planes hit and another brother working in DC married to a woman who worked at the Pentagon. And I kept calling and calling and calling hoping to hear that they were OK, that everyone I knew from DC was OK. And I got though to one brother and I talked him into leaving the area where the planes hit and heading 10 blocks north to me instead of staying put, which is what the police wanted him to do—to stay put. I talked him into leaving and then the buildings began to fall and I watched them fall with my own two eyes from SoHo and was pretty sure he was dead. And I couldn’t get him on a line.
He was OK. He showed up dusted in soot, dust, and minute particles of human remains.
Everyone I knew was OK that day, well, physically at least. But I have friends who lost relatives and loved ones and I don’t have the right words to write here to them. I never have had the right words which is why I usually don’t write any. So I’ll just say today that I am so sorry.
This year, I am going to surround myself by other people—mostly strangers—who are also surrounded by ghosts. And maybe we can cast out some new lines and find some punctuation.
And I hope to experience some joy.
And I hope that nothing falls from the sky.
And I hope you’re OK with your ghosts, too.