Still Haunted/Moving On
By Mat Tombers
It was summer in the spring, yesterday in New York. The temperature
Central Park hit 96, making it the warmest day this time of
So, of course, the news was full of stories about global warming.
warm, even at 6:30 a.m. when I stepped aboard the LIRR out
where I was picked up by my godparents. In their son's van,
the two Adirondack chairs and the table they had built as
present for me.
Together, we drove them up to Claverack, and in doing so
we got to spend
a full day together. They are wonderful people, my godparents,
their 80's and soon to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
Everyone will go to our home state of Minnesota for a party
summer, though the actual date is October 31. As we were driving,
the math and realized they had been married in 1942, at the
World War II and at a time when victory was not assumed.
Young, in love, they seized the moment and married each other
was home on leave before shipping out for the south Pacific.
ended, they had many children, seven, one of whom died as
another as an adult, killed by a drunk driver. Their granddaughter
last spring, complications from AIDS, contracted from a blood
transfusion during her second kidney transplant when she was
old age of twelve. It happened just before there was test
to find out
if blood was tainted.
In other words, ladies and gentlemen, they have seen their
life, both in the joys and sorrows. With a score of grandchildren
three great grandchildren, they keep moving and living, as
fully as I
want to when I am their age.
They live out in Manhasset, one of the towns on the northern
Long Island that was devastated by 9/11. Eileen sits on the
at the church that helps arrange funerals and for several
were several a week, including the son of one of their neighbors
closest friends. The man was a broker in one of the Towers.
speaks all the time about it, using the sound of his words
drumbeat of his healing. His wife has grown silent and into
saying nothing, and seeming to retreat into another world,
far away from
all the rest of us.
Time is moving on and people are attempting to resolve their
and wanting to move on. The paper has articles in it now,
survivors as they stumble toward the future. One widow has
and the reaction of an entire city is mixed. Was it too soon?
should we be happy that she seized the next chance that came
before it was too late?
A fireman speaks. He is not a hero. He was doing his job
That's what they all were doing. Could he stop being called
could he please just be as he was before all of this? We're
going a bit
overboard, he thinks, in lionizing those that were doing their
and glad to be doing it.
John and Eileen spoke to me on our drive of their depression
and their slow movement away from it. They understood my own
that came down on me afterwards, so bad that I phoned my old
Los Angeles who confirmed for me that what I was experiencing
natural - and I should be forgiving of myself.
On Sunday night, the towers of light went out for the last
burning all night until they were lost in the dawn, watched
for a long
time by a variety of souls who took comfort in them. Some
that last night, until they disappeared, hoping in the dawn
morning that took away the lights that they, too, would somehow
dawn that would take away their mourning.
Everywhere around us, we are still haunted by September 11th
but we are
attempting to move on. It is an enormous feat, this process
one foot in front of another, on our way into tomorrow.
Thinking of John and Eileen, standing in their wedding garb,
distant place that is 1942, I am so glad that they took a
affirmed the future, affirmed the possibility of a future,
there were no guarantees.
What frightened us - and what we could not quite admit -
11 was that there was the chance there was not going to be
a future, not
any kind of future that we could have been imagined only the
The future as we knew it was one of the victims of 9/11.
It will never exist; all is changed now. Innocence has slipped
into the light of another kind of dawn. We do not know where
going to go; we do not know what it is going to be like. We
quite imagine it and around us world events continue to threaten
future we thought we once might have, whatever it might have
are living in a new future, a less secure future, a future
realities that once seemed only distant possibilities.
And yet, like my godparents, we continue to take actions
affirmations of the future. We marry, we look for new jobs,
clients, go to the theatre, get pregnant, adopt children.
to live. We continue to affirm life by actions and celebrations.
It is the way humans have responded to tragedy since the
time. By continuing to live. Despite it all.