It is hard to believe that it has been close to sixteen years since the attacks on 9/11. Living in metropolitan New York at the time, I was professionally and personally impacted by the horrors of that day and the days and weeks that followed. I ended up conducting three memorial services/funerals for victims, including a memorial service for a young friend and parishioner, Jennifer. Jennifer Louise Fialko.
I had not been back to the World Trade Center site since the attacks. I had many opportunities. I continued to live in metropolitan New York for over eight years after that terrifying day. And I have frequently been around and even in New York since moving to Florida. But I never have been able to screw up the courage to go to the site. Until this week.
My wife Linda and I had taken two of our granddaughters into the city for the day. They had never been there before, and so we did the usual tourist things: we gazed at the Statue of Liberty; we had lunch near Times Square; we went up the Empire State Building; we rode the subway. And for some reason, maybe the prompting of the Spirit--it was the Monday after Pentecost after all---we decided to take them to the 9/11 Memorial.
Neither of them were even born when it happened. And the younger of the two, Megan, wasn't even sure what had happened there. So it fell to me to explain it as we approached the footprints of what had been the Twin Towers. It was all I could do to give them a very brief description of that day. I found myself tearing up several times. Especially when I told them about Jennifer and the other two victims whose services I had conducted.
As we made our way around the outer perimeter of what had been the North Tower, we read name after name after name. Some with the added words "and unborn child." But we didn't find Jennifer's. Nor Brad's. Nor Scott's. I couldn't remember which tower they had been in. So I asked a guard if there was a directory--which there is. A computerized directory, complete with pictures of the deceased. And suddenly, there she was, looking out at us from a computer screen. Fresh and vibrant. With the location of her name on the Memorial.
As we found the spot where her name was engraved, it all became a bit more real. And I was reminded once again why it is so important to honor the dead with such markers, memorials and rituals as well. I don't know if my granddaughters fully understood why their grandfather suddenly went quiet. It was just that I couldn't really say much more. The Memorial--especially that engraved name--spoke for itself.