I keep waking up with the vague sense that something is wrong, and then I remember. Something is wrong. So many things are wrong. My dreams have been a hyrbid of fear and loathing and sadness, sometimes feeling worse than the real thing. Either way, it's a nightmare. Yesterday, DJ came home from school and said they talked about the situation in class. They never mentioned terrorism, they never talked about 10,000 people dying. Instead, they talked about the positive things that came out of the situation. People coming together. People giving of themselves. The people who did make it out alive, like DJ's teacher's husband. And maybe we should all act like 8 year olds today. Maybe we should go about our day looking for positive signs. I'm going to try and post more of that today. The stories that may make your heart feel better.
I was trying to upload a picture of Pete here and I went to my Freeservers account to do so and was greeted by the message that I have exceeded my bandwidth for the month. The amount of hits and page views I received the past few days freaked them out, I guess. This means several things: they are going to be charging me the rest of the month or they will take my site down; I can't update any of my pages besides the blog page. The banned books site, which is up there because of banned books week this month, can't be worked on. I can't even figure out how much they are charging me for the rest of September. So this is like the last thing I need to push me over the edge. Sigh.
Please read this article on Pete, whose wake I will be attending tonight.
Life moves, even if you want it to stop. I have to go to work today. There are trials to be heard and legal citations to research and mundane tasks to be tended to. Please find some peace today, in some small way. Hug a child. Call a parent. Watch an old, loved movie instead of CNN for a while. Walk through a garden. Read some poetry. Live your life, because you can.
Apparently one of our servers at work ran through the World Trade Center, hence no internet connection at work. I'm home now, couldn't concentrate on my job. I did, however, find something to make me feel useful in all this. My sister and I organized a drive at work to collect items that the rescue workers need to get through their shifts. Snacks, baby wipes, t-shirts..things of that sort. We found a place here that has become a clearing house for people who want to donate items, and someone loaned them 18 tractor trailers to haul the stuff into the city. I've already gotten a great response from my co-workers, so I'm hoping that Monday morning we will be able to take over a few truckloads of stuff to the bar.
About the bandwidth problem, I got some offers from some very generous people to either host my site or mirror it. Right now, I am going to let Freeservers charge me whatever, because I can't deal with any other issues today. I have Pete's wake tonight, and I've to get stuff together for the kids to be prepared to spend three days going back and forth from their great grandma's wake and funeral. I'm tired, mentally and physically, but all the emails and support I get from everyone revives me every time.
My mom got home from work today and there was a note from my dad saying that his friend, a fire chief from LA, stopped over on his way into Manhattan to help. My dad went with him. I'm so pissed at him. Yet proud.
Mom heard from dad. He's right in there, as I knew he would be. Standing at ground zero, waiting for someone to loan him equipment so he can go in. I understand why he is doing this. It's in his blood. These are his friends.
5 guys have been found alive. There is hope.
My cousin Stan came home for a couple of hours and had plenty of stories to tell. The most amazing story is that he twice narrowly escaped death. The first time, I think I mentioned this already, was the first day when he turned a corner that Pete Ganci didn't. Two seconds or so separated him from the same sad fate as Pete. Yesterday, Stan was in the building that collapsed, in the basement. He and another firefighter hit the ground and as they did, a piece of sheet metal came flying at them with such force that it stuck to the wall, an inch above their heads. Glad to see he was home for a while, but as he is the only commanding officer left in his department, he only had a couple of hours of luxury here before he had to head back. Haven't heard from dad yet, but I'm sure he's ok. This is my last post until later tonight, when I get back from Pete's wake.
Something big just flew overhead. Left a shadow across my window and a skipped beat in my heart. Strange how I got used to not hearing planes overhead.
Is anyone else just breaking down in tears at random times?
I can't put into thoughts right now how affected I was by attending the wake. The line to get in was around the block. And this isn't because he died a very public death, it's because that's the kind of man Pete was; that people would stand in line for hours to pay respect to him.
I've been to so many wakes in my life, more than I care to count. There is always an air of sadness, a sense of solemnity. But here, there was something more. We were mourning Pete because he was fireman in the line of duty, but we were also mourning him because he was a victim of terrorism. And that changes things. You could, in some ways, accept that a colleague, friend, family member died doing the job he loved. But it's so hard to accept when it comes this way. In such an unbelievable way.
The numbness and disbelief of the past few days melted away as I kneeled in front of Pete's casket, his Fire Department uniform hanging next to it. There were pictures on a table to the right. To the left, his golf club leaned on a table. The flowers, so many flowers: Beloved uncle, friend, father, brother. And I kneeled there and looked at all these things, and looked at the closed casket and touched it, ever so briefly, and looked at Justin next to me and cried. It had suddenly become real. The events of the last three days were no longer like a surreal dream that I was hoping to wake from. It's real. This happened. The proof lies in this casket in front of me.
I think of all the people that will be doing the same thing this week and the next, staring at a coffin and trying to deny the reality. How many wives and husbands and parents and children will stand there, kissing and hugging and accepting condolences? How much can we accept before we want to lay down and close our eyes and not let anything else in?
My father's view...
Dad's story: He got a call from the chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department that they were coming in on military transport with some special equipment. This is equipment that my father has given seminars on. They came to pick him up sometime this morning and headed to the city.
Keep in mind that my father was a New York City fireman for over 20 years, a volunteer fireman on Long Island for much more than that. He has seen many things. He has seen the disaster of airline crashes and carried the lifeless bodies of children out of burning buildings. He has lost friends, many of them, over time. But nothing he saw in his 20 years on the force could even compare to the carnage he saw today. In his words:
"It was unbelievable. Like nothing you can imagine by seeing it on tv." He keeps shaking his head as he's talking, as if to get rid of the visions of the day. "There were pieces of steel the size of (a room) embedded in cement walls. It was all...just steel and cement everywhere. Pieces of the building sticking up here and there. Guys using buckets to take out what they find. Moving pieces of the building one at a time. And the dust and soot, a foot deep in most places, not a place untouched. It was war, like Germany, devastation. I could not describe to you the devestation." His workboots, a tan color when he left this morning, where now gray, covered with ash so thick I could draw a line in it. He continued, "Fire, smoke, everywhere. Everywhere you looked, there were buildings with pieces of other buildings stuck in them. Every window blown out. Just waiting for something else to fall. Smoke...fire...it was just horrible." He looked up at us then, sad and shocked at once. "They will never find those bodies," he said. "Never."
I miss being comfortably numb.
The preceeding were my two stories for tonight and all I've got right now. I've got to take my kids to their great-grandma's wake tomorrow, and then Saturday I have Pete's funeral, where my father will be a pallbearer. It's getting to be too much. It's hard for everyone, whether you know someone or not. The enormity of it, the severity of it, no one is unaffected. We are all tired, we are all wired, we are all edgy.
Once again, thank you everyone for all your thoughts and comments. Thank you especially to the whole Surreally crew, you know who you all are, for the wonderfully expressed thoughts and wishes I received from you. Ok, I'm gonna cry now. Good night.