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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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

Echoes Everywhere
By Mat Tombers

This weekend my godparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
In the Hallmark section of a local pharmacy, I couldn't find a card for
60 years. They stopped at 50. But John and Eileen got married 60 years
ago in Minneapolis, began to raise a family there, continued to do it in
St. Louis and finished the job in New York.

They are lovely people, with ready laughs and a pack of children who
have had packs of children. Sitting next to John on Friday afternoon at
a picnic at the home of one his granddaughters, her husband and their
two children, he looked around the yard, jammed with sixty plus people,
and said to me, "You know, with the exception of you, Eileen and I are
responsible for all of this." And they were. Playing an aggressive
game of volleyball were their grandchildren and great grandchildren. It
was a delightful moment.

Then Sarah, Mary Clare [two of their children] and their husbands and I
all drove over to the condo in South Minneapolis where one of Mary
Clare's classmates from grade school held her First Friday party. All
of us attended the same Catholic grade school in Minneapolis, staffed by
Benedictine nuns, a humorless group if there ever was one. At the party
was Liz Russell, with whom Sarah and I had gone to school through all
eight harrowing years. I'd seen Liz about fifteen years ago; Sarah
hadn't seen her for thirty. They started talking like they'd seen each
other yesterday. It was a delightful evening of rummaging through a
shared past, members of the same community reunioning with their shared
memories, filled with laughter and behind that laughter some of the pain
that it hid.

Both Liz and I had lost our fathers during those years, unexpected
deaths for which we were not prepared. Sarah had lived through her
mother's double mastectomy, in the days when that was generally
considered a death sentence. Do you remember those days when "cancer"
was whispered in the way "AIDS" was in the early '80's? I do. We were

All of us have had interesting lives and this weekend was one to
celebrate. As the evening was winding down John and Eileen arrived to
revitalize the party.

Saturday evening my devout Catholic godparents went to afternoon Mass at
a local Catholic Community and renewed their wedding vows in front of
all of us. And then we retired back to the hotel where we were encamped
and attended a dinner that was a celebration of past and present and
future, because John and Eileen still live for the future, which is one
of the things I admire and love about them.

[Regular readers of this column will have encountered my godparents
before. John built the Adirondack chairs that sit on our deck. Eileen
organized all the funerals for those in her parish who died in the

Mary Clare and Sarah took turns introducing everyone in the room. At my
table was the old school tie contingent, including Liz and her husband
and Mary Clare's classmates Fay and Fran. There was a slide show that
took the room through sixty years and entertainment of various kinds by

It was at my table that I overheard Liz say something about how
September 11th had changed her life. Thinking of this column, I turned
to her and asked her how it had affected her, here in Minneapolis, far
away from Ground Zero.

It was a global reminder, she said, that time and relationships are
precious. She has three sons. They are all going salmon fishing this
year in Alaska, not the vacation of her dreams but of theirs and she
wants to share it with them because now she knows in a way she has never
known that this might be the last vacation they ever take together.
That is what September 11th has left her with.

So this morning, Sunday morning, I was curious as to what the papers in
Minneapolis would be like. What news would fill its pages?

First of all, before I saw the morning paper I was awakened by the clock
radio in the room with Minnesota Public Radio airing a debate on when,
if, why and how we might be invading Iraq. That was sobering, I
thought, sipping my coffee, wondering what the hell I was supposed to be
doing to influence a policy that I don't quite agree with.and wondering
exactly what I thought about invading Iraq.

Then I went down and got the Minneapolis Star & Tribune Sunday edition,
which was devoted in its main columns to the fact that this marks the
tenth anniversary of the Mall of America! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it
has been ten years since the Mall to end all Malls has opened its doors.
Actually, it was a very thoughtful look at the pluses and the minuses of
being home to the Mecca of Consumerism.

But what surprised me were the echoes of September 11th that filled the
pages of the paper. The FBI whistle blower, should you have forgotten,
is from Minneapolis and her actions have created a storm of controversy
in the FBI community. She's recently been roundly damned in a
newsletter that goes out to former agents. And a huge group of current
agents have stood up in support of her. Those that were trained under
J. Edgar Hoover do not like her. It might even be said they despise

There was also a very good interview with a young man from Wisconsin who
is on duty in Kuwait, who said that he was very glad he had gone there
because he realized how much he had taken for granted.

Yes! Let's have that kind of experience for more Americans. If he
feels like there was lot he took for granted by going to Kuwait imagine
what he would think with a few months duty in India?

It was good and healthy and I was delighted to see it printed.

Minneapolis is also corporate home to Northwest Airlines, which was not
commenting on its plans to cut or not cut flights on September 11, 2002,
while other airlines are being quite open with the fact they are cutting
down - out of respect and recognition that people probably won't be
flying much that day.

A group of local firefighters have created a firefighters memorial,
dedicated to the victims of September 11th. A feature story was about
the recently discovered tape from the firefighters on the 78th floor of
the Towers.

Thumbing through the pages of the paper and looking around me, I
realized that September 11th, painfully real to all of us who live in
New York, is also a seminal moment other places in America - a moment
that shapes the way we react to everything.