Sunday, February 26, 2017

Panel N-73

Whatever we were to each other we are still...
- Anonymous

February 26, 1993 was a Friday.  Unlike the weather we have experienced in February's final week this year, in 1993 late February felt and acted like...well, February.  Winter felt like winter in New York City. 

I was slightly more than half way through law school in February, 1993, having started the fourth of six semesters one month earlier.  In the Spring Semester, 1993, Friday was a day on which I had class only in the morning, which afforded me the chance to walk the couple of blocks to Newark Penn Station and catch a Northeast Corridor Line train that would deposit me in Edison shortly after twelve noon. From the train station, it was a quick walk across the street to my job - and to Margaret - at Payco, which is where I spent every Friday afternoon. 

Having taken two years off from the "school thing" after college, I found the level of socializing that went on at law school to be a bit unsettling.  I had not expected law school to bear any resemblance to college and, yet, inspired in no small part by the seemingly high number of my classmates who had matriculated to law school directly from college, it did.  Well, for them it did.  For me, it did not.  

One of the fellow inmates at the asylum with whom I bonded was Kelly Symons.  She, too, had delayed graduate school for a couple of years upon her graduation from college, which in her case was my old man's Alma mater, Fordham University.  Kelly lived in Manhattan.  On Fridays, after class, we usually walked to the train station together, grabbed a quick slice of pizza, discussed whatever the weekend's action plan hoped to be, and then went our separate ways. Whereas I headed to the platform at which the next Trenton-bound Northeast Corridor (local) train would arrive, Kelly would head towards the PATH platform.  She took the PATH train from Newark, through Jersey City, and then into Lower Manhattan and its final stop, which was the World Trade Center. From there, she caught whichever Uptown train took her home (Rob spent four years while at John Jay trying in vain to teach me the NYC Subway System). 

For whatever reason, on that Friday, we dispensed with our customary slice.  When we reached the station, we said our fare-thee-wells and then headed off to catch our respective trains.  I had not yet joined the "cell phone revolution" in 1993.  Once I was in the train, I was incommunicado until I arrived at whatever happened to be my destination.  

Upon my arrival at my job on that particular February Friday afternoon, a number of the people with whom I work, including Margaret, were discussing a horrible event that had occurred in Lower Manhattan while I was rumbling south on my train.  When they told me what had happened, I thought immediately of Kelly.  I called her from the phone on my desk.  After what seemed to be 1,000 rings (and which I am quite confident was nothing more than four or five), a rather shaken version of my friend answered.  In light of the events of the day, the very sound of her voice - shaken as it was - was music to my ears.  We spoke only briefly. 

On that cold, miserable February Friday afternoon, the horrible event that happened in Lower Manhattan was the detonation, at shortly after twelve o'clock in the afternoon, of a truck bomb in the parking garage beneath the North Tower (Tower 1) of the World Trade Center.    The decision, made in Newark shortly before noon, to eschew a pizza slice in favor of an earlier PATH train, saved my friend's life.  

That act of cowardice killed six people:  John DiGiovanni, forty-five years old, a Dental Products Salesman for Kerr Manufacturing; Robert Kirkpatrick, sixty-one, a Senior Structural Maintenance Supervisor for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey; Stephen Knapp, forty-seven, Chief Maintenance Supervisor, Mechanical Section, for the Port Authority; Bill Macko, fifty-seven, General Maintenance Supervisor, Mechanical Section, for the Port Authority; Wilfredo Mercado, age thirty-seven, a Receiving Agent for Windows on the World Restaurant;  and thirty-five-year-old Monica Rodriguez Smith, an Administrator, Operations Department, for the Port Authority who, on the day she was murdered, was seven months pregnant with her first child, a little boy. 

Eight and one-half years later, on a drop-dead gorgeous September Tuesday morning, the North Tower and its companion, the South Tower, were destroyed in a terrorist attack in which thousands of innocents were murdered.  The building in which John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen Knapp, Bill Macko, Wilfredo Mercado, and Monica Rodriguez Smith died, died itself.  

The space once occupied by the North Tower of the World Trade Center is now occupied by the North Pool of the World Trade Center Memorial.  And there, together now as they were on what turned out to be the final day of each of their lives, one can find John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen Knapp, Bill Macko, Wilfredo Mercado, and Monica Rodriguez Smith.  They are now what they have been every day for the past twenty-four years:  loved and remembered. 

May it always be so...

Panel N-73 
(North Pool - World Trade Center Memorial)


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