I want to tell you a story.
A few weeks ago I was in my home town on Long Island to say goodbye to an old friend. There were a good many faces there that I hadn’t seen in some time. One of them was that of the younger brother of a classmate of mine. His family lived on the next block over and his sister married the youngest son of the old friend for whose life I had come to show my respects.
He had brought his wife and two young daughters to the celebration of my old friend’s life, and soon we got to talking about all the things that people talk about when they haven’t seen each other in 20 years. I finally asked him if he still lived on Long Island. He said no, he had moved his family out to Sussex County, New Jersey (a beautiful part of northwestern Jersey that nobody seems to know even exists). We talked about all the congestion and traffic on Long Island and about what a wise move he had made for himself and his kids.
And then I asked: “Do you have to commute to the City every day from Sussex?”
He paused for a heartbeat or two, and then in a low monotone said: “Not any more. Not since they blew up my building.”
It was my turn to pause. “You were there?” I asked softly.
“In the street.” he replied.
His eight-year old stopped sipping her Shirley Temple and piped in cheerfully as she wrapped herself around him “Daddy was late!"
My friend said nothing. He just looked at me, stone-faced, and stroked his child's hair. And in his eyes I saw him seeing all of the horrors of that day. And through his eyes I watched it with him.
Maybe only a few seconds passed. But it was enough. I clapped him on the shoulder and said “Let’s go get a beer.” Nothing more was said about it.
This is how life is for some. They won’t watch the specials and documentaries commemorating the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. They don't need to be reminded. They carry that movie in their head. In towns and villages all over Long Island you’ll find small memorials bearing the names of those residents who didn’t come home from work. It isn’t forgotten there. It is etched in stone.
My friend’s daughter was only a toddler when the towers came down, but she knows that it was good for Daddy to be late that one day. Nothing more need be said.