My husband and I had a few experiences when we were living in NY that brought 9/11 to the forefront of our minds even though we weren't living there in 2001. We were on the Upper East side when the small plane belonging to a Yankee pitcher accidentally flew into an apartment building. Our Blackberries were rendered useless as we looked straight up the Avenue toward 72nd Street but we knew something bad had happened because we saw the billowing smoke. Everyone was running and we kept hearing that a plane had flown into a building. I would be lying if I didn't admit that it was frightening.
In July of 2007, Greg was at work and I was heading home after a day of soaking up the city. I came up out of the subway to make one last stop only to walk into the middle of another chaotic scene - people running, sirens blaring. There had been an explosion near Grand Central; fear and panic again and this time during the evening rush hour. The reality was that this explosion was a steam pipe explosion and not an act of terrorism, but this didn't dissuade people from running and panicking until officials had spoken their calming words.
A few days later, I was heading to LaGuardia and as is common for me, I struck up a conversation with my cab driver. I asked him if he had been anywhere near the explosion. I had no idea what I was unleashing when I asked him this question. He had been in the area; he heard the explosion and saw the cloud of steam which was reminiscent of the smoke on 9/11. His story very quickly started to unfold but he rolled the calendar back to 9/11. My cab driver had been a stock broker working in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I was being driven to the airport by one of the people whose fate was changed because they were late to work that day. He told me that he was one of only a few survivors from his company. He was so grief stricken and traumatized, he couldn't go back to Wall Street after 9/11 so he gave up his career and chose to drive a taxi instead. His marriage had fallen apart and his wife and child had returned to India to live with her parents. The steam pipe explosion had brought all of the pain and heartache of 9/11 back to him as if it were yesterday and as we neared the airport and my drop off point, I felt guilty for getting out of the cab and leaving him alone. I encouraged him to see a counselor; he promised he would but we exchanged emails and telephone numbers in case he needed to talk some more. He looked at my card and said, "You're a counselor. I knew there was something special about you." I felt so honored.
We communicated several times over the next year or so and I spent most of those times lending an ear and encouraging him to see his counselor. He was broken-hearted about so much and his emotional issues were way beyond what a phone call or email here and there could do to help. He told me several times that he wanted to take my husband and me out for dinner as a thank you but it never worked out. Somewhere along the way, we lost track of each other. I tried checking in on him recently but his phone number now belongs to someone else and his email is not valid. I hope he has found peace and happiness and was able to reconnect with his family in India. I'm choosing to think this. Nonetheless, I prayed for him today at mass, where ever he is. We all need a little extra grace today, even my granddaughter.
Amélie had a little episode with her sidekick monkey, Jorge this week. When my daughter, Ashli, went to pick her up, another little girl brought Jorge to her. Ashli was visibly upset when she looked at Jorge and saw that his ear had been cut off and his eye had been ripped out. When she asked Amélie what had happened to Jorge, Amélie insisted that this monkey was not Jorge. Regardless, he was the only Jorge around so Ashli took the injured Jorge home, thinking they would sort it out later. In the meantime, Amélie kept insisting that this ear less, eyeless monkey was NOT Jorge. The real Jorge finally showed up and the impostor was taken back to school. Jorge was indeed whole and Amélie proved that she recognized her own monkey.
Today Jorge went to mass with us. This is not unusual because Jorge usually travels with Amélie almost everyplace she goes. Generally, Jorge sits in the pew as Amélie and I go up to the front of the church for communion. However, today, Amélie insisted that Jorge go with her and in spite of my trying to pry him out of her arms, she refused. She tucked him under her armpit, folded her hands in her angelic prayer position and she walked up toward Father Tim. She stood in front of Father Tim waiting for her blessing but then after receiving it, she stayed waiting and I watched her as she turned her body slightly, pushing Jorge toward Father Tim. After I had received the eucharist, I bent down to maneuver Amélie away from Father Tim and toward our pew but it was obvious that she wasn't happy with me.
After church, Amélie ran toward the baptismal font and boosted herself up on the edge as she has been doing lately. She dips her right hand into the holy water and attempts to cross herself in her own variation of the sign of the cross. She has been so proud of herself because she "gets her own water." Today, she climbed up a second time and declared, "Nonna, today I need more Jesus water." Who can say no to that? But to my surprise, she dipped both hands into the water and then covered her whole face with the holy water. "That's better Nonna. You can have more too."
I didn't really realize until I was driving home that Amélie knew she and Jorge both needed a little more of Jesus today. Perhaps in this three-year-old's mind, she thinks Jorge has a little extra protection from scissors that might cut off his ear or mean children who might tear out his eyes. Maybe she sensed some of the sadness in Father Tim's sermon today about the remembrances of 9/11 and understood some of the words and she decided dipping her hands in the holy water would give her a little more of Jesus for this day. I don't know what was going through her mind, but I know that when we walked out of church today, Amélie had been in the house of the Lord and she knew just why she had been there.
After we left the church, she showed Father Tim her sandals, gave him a high five, and we walked over to the Italian bakery to get her treat - two chocolate cookies today. All I could think of was Jesus' words, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." We walked down the street to my car and I held her hand just a little tighter than normal. She's so recently from God. That feels good on this tenth anniversary of 9/11.