I wrote this twelve years ago a few days after 9/11. It showed up in some of the local papers. I thought I’d share it with you all. A lot has happened in the years since. Stay safe.
I took the Staten Island Ferry to NY this morning, as I have countless days from the time I was in high school, through my days at Hunter College, and for the past two decades working in the "city that never sleeps." In all respects, the trip was exactly the same as it has been every one of those thousands of days... except it wasn't.
As I came through the turnstiles on the Staten Island side, I found myself looking for faces. The familiar faces that we ignore everyday, but are so
much part of the background of our lives. I didn't see many. Perhaps I will see more tomorrow.
I stopped for my morning coffee at the Dunkin Doughnuts stand. The same Middle Eastern man who always serves my coffee with a smile and a good morning. Except he didn't smile today. He looked hurt. Maybe he'll smile tomorrow. I hope so.
I took the very same seat on the boat as I always do. Usually I open my coffee and bury my face in a book or read the sports pages. Today I didn't.
Today I took a minute to really taste my coffee. Funny... most days it has no taste at all. This morning it was the best cup I ever had. I hope it tastes
this good tomorrow.
I continued to look for familiar faces. People who also take the same seats every day. I did see one young lady that I "know." She usually travels with her friend. She wasn't there today. Maybe tomorrow. I hope so.
I stood out on the foredeck as we passed the Statue of Liberty. Funny how I never really noticed just how beautiful the old lady really is. Was she
standing just a bit straighter today? It must be my imagination... at least I think so.
The cloud reaches out over the water this morning and I could smell it while we were still five minutes from the dock. Everyone was looking at the naked skyline, now barren of its grandest symbol. The eyes of my fellow passengers became very hard. Not anger...not fear...something else. Something that told me that I wouldn't want to get into a fight with us. As for me, I glanced over to the Empire State Building. She dominates the skyline once more. How lonely she looks.
Walking up past Battery Park to Bowling Green Station, I saw every eye was turned up Lower Broadway. The Towers and the shade she cast downtown now gone. The acrid smoke brought coughs from many people. We wore the coughs somewhat proudly, I think. It was sort of like doing pennance. Perhaps the air will clear tomorrow.
On the train a pretty girl smiled and said “good morning” to me. Normally suspicion or shyness would have prevented that. Will she smile tomorrow? I hope so.
My shoes still have the dust that collected on them last Tuesday when I walked along South Street to the ferry. I noticed the shoeshine stand in Grand Central was back to normal. Several men were having their shoes shined. I'm not quite ready to part with my dust just yet.