11 years ago this morning, I was asleep after a long night shift and really didn’t want to be bothered for a plane crash in New York. I knew it would be on the news later, no need to get up now. When my mom said another one crashed I was mildly stirred, but grumbled again that I’d see it later. When she came back and said a third plane crashed in a whole other state, I finally understood that something was very wrong. My family and I stared at the TV for hours, mesmerized, watching every piece of that awful story unfold. In the days and weeks that followed, a hush fell over the entire country. People were quiet everywhere we went. An entire country in mourning is a strange but oddly comforting thing. We all lost something, whether it was a person or an idea. Sharing that loss with millions of people connected us all, made us strong. We cried openly in public, but we stood taller and firmer, with more dignity and pride in our country than I’d ever known in my lifetime.
It was months, maybe a year, before I could listen to a patriotic song without bursting into tears. “God Bless the USA” was a popular one to play at public events. As soon as I heard the first few strains of the melody I’d well up. Memorials always get me emotional, too, and I know I share this with my fellow millions. I was okay today: no tears or much emotion, until I came across this picture:
A former coworker took this at the 9/11 memorial in New York, built over the site of the fallen Twin Towers. Three-year-old David was in the second plane to hit the towers, with his parents, Ron and Dan. This would break the heart of anyone that has one, but what turned on the waterworks for me was his birthdate: David was exactly one month older than my son, Andrew.
This one. This lanky 14-year-old who knows and loves all things Dr. Who, will do anything to impress a girl, wants to form an improve group with his friends, has a wicked sense of humor, and would shrivel up and perish if something happened to his beloved iTouch. David might have been this way today. What is more profound to me, though, is that David could be any teenager. He could spend his Friday nights sitting on the curb at the local farmer’s market, or on a picnic table in a nearby park, with his feet on the bench, the way our neighborhood kids do. He could be complaining about wearing a bowtie in this heat before a piano recital. He might be slouching behind his dads en route to his grandparents’ house, secretly happy to get homemade Filipino food. David should be a contemporary of my son, and his fathers should have as much grey hair as I do. That is what broke my heart today.
I found this wonderful blog post, In Honor of David Reed Gamboa-Brandhorst, about David and his family.
Be gentle to each other today.