Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine years ago...

It started when I turned on the radio in my car while driving to work. The usual morning chatter was somber and concerned, almost hushed. No jokes or promotional antics. Just an indelible, yet vague description repeated among the DJs:

A plane had struck one of the Twin Towers.

Checking station after station, the magnitude of it grew. By the time I pulled into the parking deck in New Brunswick, the streets were almost silent. Before I got of my car, the second tower was hit.

Along the way to the office, I ran into one of the assistant managers from Old Man Rafferty's. I got lunch at their deli counter pretty frequently but I didn't remember the fellow's name.

"I just heard," he said in chilled shock. "They just hit the other tower."

It was a coordinated attack, that was clear. But my brain could not call up an image of what was really happening. At the time, I could not conceive such devastation taking place.

In the office, the news team gathered around the radio in the office trying to sort out details. Some of the other reporters found TVs to watch at local bars. The breadth of the attacks become more clear.

John Greenwald, our managing editor at the time, joined the newspaper just that summer and he brought a wealth of experience to the newsroom. He focused the team, got us calling people to find what information we could. It was outside what a business newspaper is expected to cover but our role was clear. We were journalist. The people needed answers. We had a job to do.

Back then, our online presence was negligible. The Internet was still establishing itself as a news platform. We publish weekly so the events of 9/11 would be days old by the time our stories reached our readers.

John shaped our plan well. We spoke to people who did business in Manhattan, found out where they were when everything happened. We asked what they did to check on their people, make sure they were safe. We spoke to people who lost colleagues and friends. We let them tell their own stories of handling a then-unimaginable day.

Many people have sought answers to what happened. We know the details of what took place, but people have a need to resolve "why?"

Here is my response: A malicious effort was made to wound this country, to scar the strong brow of the nation. The attacks were the work of cowardice, not Providence. It was spite, that man-made venom which lies in wait to strike. Throughout history, those who have committed violence have attempted to dress their actions under the color of authority. 9/11 was an act of twisted pseudo-politic flailing for legitimacy.

Providence, I say, was with the survivors. It was their rescuers. It looks after the families still coping with lost loved ones. And it shall be with all of us if we embrace our strengths and grow.

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Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away