The Monday Memo
September 11, 2017 | Posted in:General
I will be traveling this week so The Wednesday Rant is on hold but had a few thoughts dripping out of my brain bucket, thought I would take care of it today.
Wrapped up in the memories from this day sixteen years ago, those horrifying moments of planes filled with people slamming into buildings, the fireballs shooting out the sides of the Twin Towers, those who jumped to their death rather than be burned alive, the blanket of smoke and ash that covered New York, the gaping wound in The Pentagon that belched out fire and more carnage and that deep furrow in the ground near Shanksville, PA where the fourth plane that was headed to Washington was rolled into the earth as passengers overtook the cowards and made sure the White House was not hit.
It was shortly after 9am eastern time, I was on the phone with Ginny Weissman when she told me get off and go watch the news. It was of course, scenes that will never be forgotten.
Before I left for the radio station, I made another call.
September 11th, 2001 was my dad’s 66th birthday.
I was living in Upper Michigan, he was 300 miles away in Chicago and when the phone rang he quickly answered. We sat in silence, except for the sound of him crying on the other end.
Finally, he said… “ I will never think of this date as my birthday again, only the date that everything changed.”
I think about the last year of his life, a lot. We spent a great deal of time together, closing old wounds that often come when the son thinks he knows more than the old man, until such a time that everything comes full circle. I took him up north to see the cousins that remained, Uncle Dick didn’t even recognize him when we pulled up at his house, the deep bruises on his arms from dialysis, shaggy beard and mat of hair sticking out from under his floppy hat was a far cry from the slicked back, downtown banker he once was.
But after a couple of minutes all was well, they sat on the driveway in the sunshine drinking Chief Oshkosh beers and reliving old times when both their Carol and Ruthie were still alive.
We continued north, to my adopted home of The UP, parked him at the Hillcrest Motel owned by friends and as if connected to some unseen power source, he rallied. For the better part of a week he hung out with new people, sat out in under the glorious night sky filled with diamonds, smoked his cigars.
He even agreed to a haircut and my friend Robin treated him like a king, full shampoo, beard trim and he walked out looking a bit like his old self.
He slept most of the way back to Chicago, had to wake him up at our favorite stop- Cracker Barrel- ” roast beef, two sides of green beans and that spiced apple stuff” was always the order and as we sat eating, I watched him close and knew he was slipping away.
He passed on May 24th, 2004 at the age of 69.
His death, while heartbreaking, was eased by the knowing that he and I had “taken care of our business” before he made his transition.
Those who left for work on September 11th, 2001 and their families had no such grace period.
I knew my father was dying, and the time was growing short. The conversations were difficult, hard edged and brimming with tears at times, but also filled with moments of his hand on the back of my neck, a broad smile and laughter.
The memories of this day are many for me.
Driving home after hosting a most difficult five hours plus broadcast, with my producer AnnMarie handling the phones, as the national shows were replaced by news, and seeing the churches jammed full. Stopping to lower our flag to half-mast at a small business that had become empty as the employees had rushed home to be with their families.
After hugging my family as never before, I needed to do something that had a sense of normalcy, so I grabbed my son Andy and we went out front to have a catch until it got dark. The cold air was nothing compared to the shiver that had been going up and down my spine all day.
It was the first day in my entire life I felt afraid…and the last.
Fear was replaced by anger.
Later that evening I called my dad again, we talked a bit more and I told him how much I loved him. We both agreed that the worst thing to do is to wait until our world gets turned upside down to set things right side up.
Here we are 5,840 days later from congress on the steps of the capitol, singing “God Bless America” forgetting who was on what side of the aisle. The honeymoon lasted a few weeks as we vowed unity and retribution.
2,996 Americans never heard them.
We said that we’d never forget, and yet our actions so often do not line up with our words that we spoke on that terrible day, still bent on tearing each other apart, from the inside out…as A. Lincoln predicted was the only way we could eradicate the republic.
Sad but also predictable.
However… today I also celebrate my dad, his picture from DePaul College Prep always greets me in the morning, back when his biggest concern was his bowling average and putting gas in his car. We have coffee together and every now and then I can still feel his hand on the back of my neck.
Today he would have been 82.
It’s 9/11…his birthday… and the day we said we would remember what was most important in life…life itself.
Take care of your business today, as tomorrow is promised to none of us.
Lest we forget.