This past Sunday morning, as I was mindlessly reading the news, drinking black coffee after I had turned off the television news because I cannot stomach what’s spewing out from those talking-heads, I safely surfed over to a rerun for the original Ghostbusters, because I wanted the television noise to fill up the house. But as I glanced up I had noticed within the story they had driven Ecto-1 back across the Brooklyn Bridge toward New York City’s East Side, and beyond them within the city scape haze stood the Twin Towers.
I grunted and shook my head as I, being a bit boring, I had watched on a hot Saturday night an almost 3 hour documentary by Rick Burns about the building of the Twin Towers and all the Rockefeller politics behind the development of the World Trade Center.
But then I looked down to read the front page for the NY Post. (I prefer the NY Post because it’s got some hard news, but it’s also full of bubble gum for the mind.) But my eyes landed on the face of a little boy wearing a red bandanna. The child’s face triggered my curiosity.
As I learned, the little boy grows up to be a courageous young man, and he was the inspiration behind a new book, The Red Bandanna – a book, by Tom Rinaldi. In truth, I love to watch Mr. Rinaldi’s vinettes on ESPN about athletes befriending a cancer victim, or donating a kidney to teammate. He gets me every time.
Now, to be clear, I’m also the sap that watches the Olympics for the personal stories of ordinary people working for years and years at the Home Depot to become the Gold Medalist in, well pick your obscure sport, toothpick fencing, badminton, or whatever. I don’t care about the professional athletes, I care about the previously unknown man or woman getting 15 minutes or less, of well-earned fame, and then soon to be forgotten but for their family and friends, and maybe a mention in the trophy case at the high school they attended.
From time to time when I’m up in Jersey City, I take the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson), underneath the Hudson, and over to lower Manhattan. It takes less than 5 minutes, and I emerge inside World Trade Center station. After I move with the quiet crowd from all walks of life, and up the stairs into the West mezzanine, to where there are now lots of fancy shops. And by the way, if you’re a foodie like me, there is a really cool grocery called, Le District, anyway, or you can walk underneath West Street and the 9/11 Memorial site and on over to step up to street level inside this white-ribbed dinosaurs looking thing they call the Oculus.
And then you can be on your way to whatever destination you have on the island via the subway, bus, taxi or my preference, on foot.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a relatively small town, Lexington, Kentucky, that I can’t help but be a hayseed and marvel at the massive buildings, notice the city smells, but most of all, the people. In part, standing near busy street corners in huge cities, reminds me how utterly insignificant I am, and how we all have our own singular journey in life. But I wonder about the people – short, fat, skinny, old, young or like me, middle-aged, but they all seem like ants within an ant hill, “where are they all going? where do they go at night?” I don’t know why, I’ve always had those thoughts in my head.
But I like walking across busy West Street, and to maneuver past unaware tourists that are taking selfies next to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. In particular, I tend to stroll underneath the white oak and gum trees past the reflective pools and waterfalls that are in the center of where the Twin Towers once stood like gleaming 110 story identical twin brother and sister.
What I do every time I am near the footprints, I read out loud, really more like a whisper, a name inscribed on the bronze plates that surround the waterfalls. The names are not radomly placed on the plates, someone with a really big brain figured out how to place them near those they were near, be it an office, a fire station or on a plane that terrible day that scars our collective hearts. I wonder about them, not unlike I wonder about the names on tombstones in cemeteries. But I whisper their names out of respect for the dead.
The Red Bandanna is about one of those names. The young man could have easily saved his own life, but instead he helped those that could not help themselves. I love these stories, I love these types of books because they remind there are really good people, who selflessly do extraordinary things. I hope the book is a big success. Perhaps it will add to a positive legacy to put others before yourself.
I would like to think and pray that there is a paradise beyond us. I would like to think life is not all that random, but that a high-power created a series of well-orchestrated choices we get to make. As a sentient being I know with certainty that I will die, and this carbon based vessel that hosts my consciousness will go back to the earth and I will disappear into the ether. Perhaps someone will whisper my name.
Along my journey, I have learned not to judge someone based on their life choices, or based on their faith or lack of faith, or the color of their skin. I only view someone from my specific lense based on how they treat me. I think it is acceptable behavior to hold open a door for a man or woman, ananomously buy someone’s lunch. Perhaps I’m being selfish, but I cannot express how happy I feel after I do something kind, without making it about me. I highly recommend giving it a try, I think you’ll get hooked.
Maybe it’s the power I feel standing on that sacred dry land near the memorial with the knowledge it was the location for sensless violence, the violence broadcast live on television. Maybe it’s because I cannot wrap my small brain around the ‘why’. In truth, I don’t know why I write, I don’t know why I felt compelled to write about this book. I pre-ordered it. I know that will make the author smile. I know from hard experience, it’s really hard to get published, it’s even harder to sell books.
But I have learned never to question that gentle whisper I hear from time to time, I think it’s called, instinct. My duty is to simply listen. I think that’s how God speaks to each of us, not from a thunderous shout, but a calm resplendent nudge.
The one sensation I do feel, the one thought I have, was on that terrible day many flowers bloomed unseen, but their sweetness was not wasted in the dry September air.
The next time I take the PATH over to lower Manhattan, I’ll walk across West Street, and I’ll go find Welles Crowther, and I’ll whisper his name.