Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Still-Empty Sky

Much has been written through the ages about the elixir-like qualities of time and its effect on all wounds. Candidly, while I understand the general notion - and I suppose there is more than a kernel of truth to it - it is certainly not an absolute.

I was reminded of that fact on two separate occasions yesterday. The first was in the early afternoon as I headed into West New York for a deposition. As I headed north on the Turnpike, towards the Lincoln Tunnel, my eye was drawn across the Hudson River to the Manhattan skyline. As I allowed my gaze to drift southward from the Empire State Building towards Battery Park, I was drawn to the omnipresent hole in the sky.

It has become an issue of some contention in Lower Manhattan that as the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks looms slightly more than thirty days out there is a hole in the ground where the Twin Towers once stood. There is still no permanent memorial at the site honoring the memories of all of those souls who were murdered on that late summer's morning. And yet, in the national collective attention span, the memories of those who were killed have been pushed to the back burner - or off of the stove top altogether. We are a busy people of course - with only 24 hours a day to devote to the pursuit of all things Jacko and Jon & Kate - the TV whores we all hate - and as time has passed, we have found the business of remembering those who were murdered simply too exhausting.

And it occurred to me yesterday afternoon that the enormity of the exercise lies in the numbers. We inadvertently dehumanize the process by treating those who perished as statistics. We can wrap our heads around a figure such as 343 - the number of members of the FDNY who died that morning - with less sorrow than we can if we stop to think of each of them individually.

Last night on the ride home -as I traveled east on Route 22 I glanced across the highway at the homemade memorial necessitated by the death of Brenda Reina, a young woman who I did not know from the town where I have lived for the past two decades of my life. A young woman who died shortly after graduating from high school as a member of the Middlesex High School class of '09.

I must confess that I do not notice every day on the way home whether there is someone stopped at the roadside memorial erected in Brenda's memory but it does seem to me that at least several times a week there is - as there was last night - at least one car stopped so that its occupants can pay their respects. So that they can visit a place that they associate with one they love. One who they miss as much, now, as they did on the day that she died.

No matter where you are and what direction you look, a loved one's loss leaves a bare spot on the horizon line - at the point of intersection between the horizon and the sky. And that spot remains, regardless of the passage of time, ever vacant.

I want a kiss from your lips/I want an eye for an eye. And neither are anywhere to be found.


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