We are equally respectful and appreciative to those who lost husbands, wives, fathers, sons and daughters, their friends and relatives at the WTC and those whom have generously and candidly agreed to share their thoughts, open their hearts and answer our questions to make the following Post possible. All of these people who have shared with us did so with the understanding, by their own requests, that their identities would remain private for their own personal reasons. We have promised each of them that they would remain anonymous.At the end of this post the reader will find a partial list of links to some of the FDNY , NYPD and PAPD Memorial Pages for some of those who spoke to us for this post as well as some of the last duty assignments for those they spoke of and for.
As the local TV news began to confirm the initial reports, before President Obama addressed the Nation from the East Room of The White House, a certain, distinct silence ensued in apartments and houses across the Tri-State Area, in the residences that had been homes to so many of the thousands who perished on that bright September morning almost ten years ago, victims of that man, so recently killed by United States Navy SEALs half a world away.
The world’s most wanted man did not die the noble death of the warrior he claimed to be. he did not go out in a blaze of glory. Rather, when the SEALs entered the room in which he hide, he grabbed one of his wives and a firearm. Using this particular wife as a human shield he chose not to obey the orders shouted at him to surrender. His death was a cowardly act, perhaps a true reflection of the devious mind and darkened soul who ordered and financed the attacks on America in 2001.
His death came by way of two bullets, as has been reported by the Pentagon. Likely the first shot, the one that pierced one of his eyes before exploding his cranium and brain into a cloud of bloody mist and fragments, killed him instantly. Perhaps, if he had a nanosecond to have a thought, it might have been that the Americans have found me. He chose not to surrender and was summarily killed quickly, cleanly, efficiently in a manner far more merciful than those who perished on 4 hijacked airplanes, at The Pentagon, in an unremarkable field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania and in our Twin Towers.
Maybe he was welcomed to Paradise by 72 virgins. Maybe he was well received in Hell. Who knows. One beefy FDNY veteran from Ladder 24 commented,”It don’t really matter does it? I mean, okay, the scumbag is gone but, we got a wall full of pictures of guys we lost that day. Engine 1 lost that day. Am I glad he’s dead? Sure. But what does it mean?” As humans we are wired to search for “meaning” in events large and small particularly when they have forever altered our internal conscious landscape.
“I went down there with my guys to do whatever we could. I remembered the bombing in 1993, I was on the job then, in Patrol in the 13th Precinct. September 11 will always be something I can’t get outta my head. No, it doesn’t get in the way or, at least not very often. So, this piece of shit is dead? Good. I believe in hell because I grew up believing in it and I saw it on that day. I hope Bin Laden is there”, said a 28 year veteran of NYPD who assisted in the evacuation of the South Tower.
There is a story for every person who was in those buildings, in The Pentagon and on those doomed jets. There are amazing stories of self sacrifice and heroism, some known, some known only to God. Each of those who was present that day and survived has spent at least a portion of the past 3521 days seeking answers, searching for meaning and, oddly perhaps, living with some sense of guilt, with some part of their innermost self wondering how and why they survived while so many didn’t.
Cops, Firemen and other First Responders are expected to run into environments from which everyone else is frantically running out of. They sign on to that the day they take the oath. Those people who showed up for work, on time, that gorgeous New York morning probably never gave a moments thought to their own mortality or the random nature of chaos and evil as they commuted by bus, subway, bike and walk to work on that morning. “I remember thinking to myself”, began a veteran Homicide Detective assigned to the recovery effort, “that the parts of these people we were finding, the ‘biologics’ as they were called, ever gave a moments thought that morning that that day could be their last. At least, as a cop, I was in touch with how quickly my life and the life of my family could change. I don’t know how to explain it to you, ya know what I mean”?
So be it. Some of us may, on occasion believe, at least on some spiritual or neural level that our survival was meant to be. Again, who knows. We talk and debate in hushed tones on the phone about the death of Osama Bin Laden. We disagree about aspects of it from its overall significance in America’s ongoing battle against terrorist elements seeking to inflict us harm. We wonder what his capture might have meant. we ask each other how we feel about his death and if it really makes any difference in what we lived through and live with. We are permitted our disagreements; we’ve earned them. We speak with the wives and children of the men we once called Brothers and do what we can for them.
We all realize that they have the strength and resolve to do fro themselves what non of us could ever do for them. We mourn our friends and strangers alike. We think about the people we carried on our backs from one floor to the next in the North and South Towers. Some of them, we know their status; others of them, we haven’t a clue. All we know is we got out while some of the best of the best, civilian and public servant did not.
The Obama Administration reports that Bin Laden’s corpse was given up to the sea. New York City is a port town, a coastal city. We understand the power and infinite depths of the waters that wash with amazing regularity on our shores.
Life has gone on and will continue to do so. The moon will wax and wane and induce our tides accordingly. Perhaps, someday, years from now, a young child will find a sun and salt bleached bone fragment out in Coney Island or Jones Beach. Who knows whose bone that may be?
If cosmic justice exists in some form or any fashion, the child who finds that bone fragment will toss it back into the surf.
The sea tells know tales.