The Late Great John Belushi / The Blues Brothers.
Through the years I’ve made it a point to avoid TV, group events and social media on September 11th. I still try to, but now it’s more out of my own quiet way to remember my Uncle Tim than it is hiding from the things that could cause me pain. There’s plenty of ritual though; I do the small things that remind me most of him: listen to the Dead (Europe ‘72 and Terrapin Station), drink a beer or three (usually Bud, but tonight Shiner Bock was in the fridge) and eat Italian food (a hot combo sandwich at lunch fit the bill). One thing I switched up this year is that instead of a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers at St. Pat’s, I took two long walks along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Save for a couple of stumbles while trying not to trip over the dog, I really didn’t break eye contact with the skyline across the river as I thought of my uncle, our family and all those lost, and for some reason that felt like a more authentic prayer with God than I’ve had in inside of a church for a long time. It also added a much needed lift to my own self-confidence, considering that 13 years ago today, from my parents kitchen in the suburbs, while glued to their tiny cabinet mounted TV watching the terrifying images unfold live, I promised myself I’d find a way to make the City my permanent home as a personal (and admittedly youthful) “fuck you” to the dread I was feeling and those who caused it. I followed through on my promise to Tim, undoubtedly with his help from above, as I walked a few blocks away to the home that my wife and I own in the greatest city in the world. I couldn’t help but smile.
Next month I’ll be moving into 1 World Trade Center for work. As fate would have it, I’m an employee of the company who will be the new tower’s first tenant. Uncle Tim would chuckle at that coincidence, but he wouldn’t worry or dwell on the eeriness of it. “Any way to make a buck bub, just make sure you’re out at 5” he’d probably say. I don’t worry either; it strangely excites me to be a part of something so historic and American, even in such a small way. But today… today it’s tough. Every Thursday since March I’ve been doing a walkthrough of our company’s future floors in the building to check on the progress for my team, and I had actually planned to go down there this morning. It didn’t occur to me until last night that today might not be the best day to visit, and that lapse in my memory socked me right in the gut. It took a few minutes, but I realized something important: I didn’t forget Tim, or the victims, or the pain, or the lessons learned. The day just snuck up on me, because after 13 years it’s as important as ever, but the dread isn’t as heavy or anticipated anymore. What’s to dread? His kids are incredible: Kev is away at college, MK is a knockout and Caroline is a goddamn teenager! Julie is as happy as I’ve ever seen her, remarried to an amazing guy, and my mom has emerged as such a calming rock for everyone in her life, that it’s liberated her and all of us to be confident, relaxed and full of love. There’s my uncle’s legacy right there, living and breathing as something to celebrate.
We all miss him and think about him constantly, and of course today is a day that amps those feelings up tenfold. But in true New Yorker and Uncle Tim fashion, not even days like this are worth navigating a big crowd of people. We’ll never forget, and we will always be grateful to everyone who gave their lives so that we can live ours to the fullest every day with those that matter to us most.