9/11 was already tough for me. My mother had only several weeks to go on this earth and we were all holding on by a thread. I walked into the living room to find my father watching the unfolding madness on the TV across the room. As the cancer had eventually gone to her brain, Alvoy could only stare in semi-disbelief.
“I think they’re bombing New York,” my father said. Not a lot of emotion. Just the facts.
As I stood in front of my folks attempting to take it in, I was thinking the world was about to end and the shitstorm we already found ourselves in wouldn’t matter after all.
Just yesterday a friend was saying she’d been going through an awful divorce on 9/11 and finds it much harder to see footage today than she did then. She wasn’t sure why.
I am. There’s only so much grief allowance we’ve got in our bucket. After that, we’re done.
This afternoon, I read a transcript of the call between Todd Beamer and the 911 operator a friend from college had posted. A quarter way through it I was sobbing like a newborn. I don’t sob like newborns. Well, rarely. I guess I have the space for it now. And to all who endured that mountain of horror, I’m sorry I didn’t have room for it then.
I could only take in thirty minutes of the documentary I came across earlier tonight. A couple spoke of losing their son in the twin towers. Both agreed that since then they never looked for or expected happiness, but if any spec happened to find them, they’d decided they would greet it in kind. They’d always told their son he reminded them of a big bouncy Golden Retriever. As they were walking away from the rubble of the towers the morning after the attacks, another couple approached with a therapy dog. The Golden Retriever made a beeline to the grieving mother, who took her first breath of relief as she squatted down to love the big bouncy pooch making its way through the ash.
For many of us I think it’s human nature to put ourselves in the place of all these heroes and everyday people we’ve read about. What’s extraordinary is that, no matter what hell on earth they were going through, ultimately it was all about the love.
The transcripts are all the same.
“Please tell my wife how much I love her.”
“Let my children know how proud I am of them.”
“Could you call my father and tell him I appreciated everything he did?”
That’s it. All of it. And no matter what we’re trying to do here – climb the career ladder, buy the house, take the trip – it’s all about the love. Not any of that other stuff. Just making sure those we need to hear it hear it. If there was a collective thank you I could give to all the players on that day it would be how grateful I am to be reminded of that one thing.
That’s some legacy.
Whether we’re holding the hand of our loved one leaving the planet, or reaching out as we leave it ourselves, it’s still that one thing.
It’s just the love.