It was a welter of words. The solipsisms of the anchors, telling us of their grief over a year’s time, how they really, really felt and repeating the cliched assurance that that day changed us forever without ever saying exactly how, in what way, and maundering on to the next mawkish self-conscious interview.
It was the decency of a President who spent an hour and a half with families in the ground zero circle, unself-consciously doing the right thing by those who had lost so much by hugging them, signing their cards. Later, from Ellis Island, he would repeat his hallucinatory belief that the passengers of flight 93 committed suicide by driving their plane into the ground rather than allowing it to fly to some unspecified target in Washington, D.C. Oh well, we must all have an illusion or two to make the date bearable at all.
The illusions must remain until we are sane enough to have a long, demythologized look at these events and study with cold eyes building codes, stress loads, insulation, emergency service communication. Later. For now we live with our illusions. And I could have borne the day were it not for Marianne.
At 17, Marianne Keane is a child of our time. She had a stepfather, Franco Lalama, an engineer for the Port Authority, who died in the attack. Strike that: was killed in the attack. Strike that too: was killed by the attackers. Miss Keane had written a posthumous farewell for her stepfather and she read it yesterday in that welter of images and words. I wish I hadn’t heard it. I also thank God I did.
“Franc,” this young woman wrote, “as I look back on these days, I realize how much I’ll truly miss you and how much I truly loved you. You were the best father I could ever ask for. I miss you and I hope you didn’t hurt too much. Love, Marianne.”
And there it was, stripping away all the euphemisms blowing in the dust of ground zero: I hope you didn’t hurt too much. Stark, honest, a realization reaching into the truth of the moment and wishing it not so. A young woman still child enough to speak a truth all had avoided and will continue to avoid in order to speak of it at all.
You broke my heart, Marianne. And for that I thank you.
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