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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

Still Haunted/Moving On
By Mat Tombers

It was summer in the spring, yesterday in New York. The temperature in
Central Park hit 96, making it the warmest day this time of year, ever.
So, of course, the news was full of stories about global warming. It was
warm, even at 6:30 a.m. when I stepped aboard the LIRR out to Manhasset,
where I was picked up by my godparents. In their son's van, they had
the two Adirondack chairs and the table they had built as a housewarming
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, now in
their 80's and soon to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
Everyone will go to our home state of Minnesota for a party in the
summer, though the actual date is October 31. As we were driving, I did
the math and realized they had been married in 1942, at the height of
World War II and at a time when victory was not assumed.

Young, in love, they seized the moment and married each other when John
was home on leave before shipping out for the south Pacific. The war
ended, they had many children, seven, one of whom died as an infant,
another as an adult, killed by a drunk driver. Their granddaughter died
last spring, complications from AIDS, contracted from a blood
transfusion during her second kidney transplant when she was the ripe
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 share of
life, both in the joys and sorrows. With a score of grandchildren and
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 side of
Long Island that was devastated by 9/11. Eileen sits on the committee
at the church that helps arrange funerals and for several weeks there
were several a week, including the son of one of their neighbors and
closest friends. The man was a broker in one of the Towers. His father
speaks all the time about it, using the sound of his words as the
drumbeat of his healing. His wife has grown silent and into herself,
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 grieving
and wanting to move on. The paper has articles in it now, following the
survivors as they stumble toward the future. One widow has remarried
and the reaction of an entire city is mixed. Was it too soon? Or
should we be happy that she seized the next chance that came into life,
before it was too late?

A fireman speaks. He is not a hero. He was doing his job that day.
That's what they all were doing. Could he stop being called a hero;
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 jobs -
and glad to be doing it.

John and Eileen spoke to me on our drive of their depression afterwards
and their slow movement away from it. They understood my own depression
that came down on me afterwards, so bad that I phoned my old shrink in
Los Angeles who confirmed for me that what I was experiencing was
natural - and I should be forgiving of myself.

On Sunday night, the towers of light went out for the last time, left
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 watched all
that last night, until they disappeared, hoping in the dawn of the
morning that took away the lights that they, too, would somehow find a
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 of putting
one foot in front of another, on our way into tomorrow.

Thinking of John and Eileen, standing in their wedding garb, in that
distant place that is 1942, I am so glad that they took a step that
affirmed the future, affirmed the possibility of a future, even though
there were no guarantees.

What frightened us - and what we could not quite admit - after September
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 day before.
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 away,
into the light of another kind of dawn. We do not know where it is
going to go; we do not know what it is going to be like. We cannot
quite imagine it and around us world events continue to threaten the
future we thought we once might have, whatever it might have been. We
are living in a new future, a less secure future, a future fraught with
realities that once seemed only distant possibilities.

And yet, like my godparents, we continue to take actions that are
affirmations of the future. We marry, we look for new jobs, hunt
clients, go to the theatre, get pregnant, adopt children. We continue
to live. We continue to affirm life by actions and celebrations.

It is the way humans have responded to tragedy since the beginning of
time. By continuing to live. Despite it all.