Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Late Indian Summer Morning Nine Years Ago

The death of someone we love affects us the rest of our life. Since each of us is a unique individual we each grieve in a manner that is unique to us. That - in my experience - holds true not only in the immediate aftermath of the loved one's death but also as time marches on - as it inextricably does. As it must.

I have buried my share of loved ones during four-plus decades on this planet. Death of a family member is something that hits all of us and does so at more than one time in our life. It is the maddeningly non-discriminatory thing about death; right? It cares not what one's color, race, creed, gender, sexual preference or religious persuasion is. We are all equal in its eyes I suppose.

The line between private grief and public mourning often times gets blurred. And today, given the solemnity of the day and given the fact that nine years later it remains a day that continues to resonate emotionally - and in some cases viscerally - among the many of us who count ourselves fortunate to not have lost one (or in some cases more than one) we love to the deliberate actions of cowards, it remains also a day on which that line is especially blurred.

Those of us who have never had one we love murdered by another cannot ever understand the full depth and breadth that the events of September 11, 2001 had upon those who were added forever to that luckless list on that particular late Indian Summer morning nine years ago. We may empathize with the families of the murdered but we cannot approximate their grief. Outrage is shared by all of us. As is anger. As is horror. Grief is not. We cannot fully grieve those we ourselves did not lose.

I know not whether enough time will pass to allow this day, while belonging forever to the families of those who were murdered, to belong exclusively to them as well. I do not think it shall. And, selfishly, as an outsider I am not sure that I would ever want it to. Empathy may be all that I - and perhaps you if you too escaped a direct loss that day - ever have to give to the grieving and for this event, for this incomprehensible outrage and immeasurable loss, the reservoir of it is limitless.

My friend Phil Ayoub - a man whose only recognizable character flaw is his blind devotion to the Boston Red Sox (and which is more likely the result of genetics and geography than anything within his control) - shortly after September 11, 2001 wrote a song about the events of that day. The song, White Feather, was included on "School bus Window Paper Heart", which is a CD he released several years ago. It is among the most thoughtful, evocative pieces of pop music I have ever heard regarding that horrible day (and consider if you will the depth of my affection for Mr. Springsteen and his own opus on the subject) and includes the lyric that served as the title for the CD:

Some ask when do we dance
Hope needs repair faith’s in a trance
School bus window paper heart’s our only chance

He has said that the inspiration for the lyric came from footage he saw on the news of little children riding on school buses in the days after the attack, which the windows of the buses were adorned with hearts the kids had made themselves as a symbol of their own sorrow over what had happened and their support for those who had been directly impacted by it. A simple gesture made by little ones. It means as much today as it did nine years ago when they did it. It - like empathy - was all they had to give to try to help assuage the grief of others.


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