Sunday, September 11, 2016

Real Things Gone

There are simply too many people to ever know them all, 
to unravel all of their secrets.
Nobody in such a vast and various place can absorb everything.
You know the people you love and with whom you work.
The rest is glimpses. 
And on certain days, yes, you want to live forever.
- Pete Hamill 
"Downtown:  My Manhattan"

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was one of three dozen of so lawyers in the courtroom of the Presiding Judge of the Civil Division, Bergen County, the Hon. Peter Doyne.  We were there for the Calendar Call and, depending on the availability of judges and the readiness of our case, to be assigned out to another judge in the Civil Division for trial.  It was a warm, sun-splashed Tuesday morning.  As I pulled my car into the parking lot at the Bergen County Justice Center in Hackensack just a minute or two past 8:30, the two stories receiving the most attention on Don Imus's radio show were the season-opening defeat the New York Giants had absorbed in Denver on Monday night and the mayoral primary elections in New York City.  Within a half hour, neither mattered much - if at all. 

Having been inside Judge Doyne's courtroom when the North Tower of the World Trade Center was struck at 8:46 am and, still, when the South Tower of the World Trade Center was hit less than twenty minutes later, at 9:03 am, I was unaware of what had transpired until after both attacks had taken place.  Not knowing what to do, and having not been ordered to evacuate the building, Judge Doyne maintained a semblance of order by continuing to call attorneys into his chambers to discuss our cases and to gauge our trial readiness.  I was in His Honor's chambers with my adversary, Patrick Little, discussing our case when the North Tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m., echoing the tragic fate of its partner, the South Tower, which had fallen at 9:59 a.m.  Judge Doyne, Pat, and I were watching a small television that his law clerk had placed atop a cabinet in His Honor's chambers, which television was tuned to either Univision or Telemundo (I know it was a Spanish-speaking network but I cannot recall which one), as we watched the North Tower collapse.  None of us understood what the newscaster said.  It mattered not.  The images spoke for themselves.  They were infuriatingly self-explanatory.  

I have family members who grieve still for good friends they lost fifteen years ago today.  I have good friends who grieve still for family members taken from them on that dreadful day.  The events of the day did not touch me personally.  Among the things that I shall never forget is just how fortunate that makes me.  I remain ever mindful of the fact, also, that being sorry for a loss that another has sustained does not fill the void that loss created in that person's life any more than the erection of a new, defiantly beautiful World Trade Center fills the void forever left in the New York City skyline by the loss of the buildings that once occupied that space.  

Fifteen years later, we mourn still the deaths of those who mere murdered that day because they were real, the effect they had on the lives of those they knew and those they loved was real, and the loss that reverberates still through their families is real.  

And that shall never change.  

Sentimentality is always about a lie.
Nostalgia is about real things gone.
Nobody truly mourns a lie. 
- Pete Hamill
"Downtown:  My Manhattan"


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