Friday, September 12, 2008


I went to a candlelight prayer group last night at Assumption for September 11th. I spent most of the day tearing up about things anyway..."God bless America" on the Boston Billiards Club sign, a gleaming new flag on a house near my parents, one of the HR ladies bringing in little American flags and handing them out gradually and without fanfare. I went to work, I went to Frank, I went to Chapel Choir and sang "You Raise Me Up." Then I went to the candlelight vigil.

This is the year it finally hit me...I'm not ever going to feel better about it.

I was tearing up before the bulk of the prayer group had even started. There were maybe 30 people there. I talked last week about the historical reference gap, and intellectually I know that September 11th isn't the event it is to me to everyone else. But I mean...shouldn't there be more people? Shouldn't we still be coming out in droves to remember and think and bear witness? On the way back, School Friend Cindy and I were talking a little bit about this, about my experience on that day and the ones that followed, and about why we don't really talk about it or analyze it anymore. I said that it was for going after Iraq full throttle after throwing a few rocks at Afghanistan that I would never forgive Bush for. I got so insanely angry, just talking and thinking about it. I got so incredibly sad. It was 7 years ago, and I still feel such unbelievably intense emotion that it freaks me out a little.

I kind of thought, once I moved back here and once we started to get free of the immediate aftermath, that someday, it would get better. I don't know that that's possible. I have never had an event in my life so confusing or traumatic, so I guess I just thought that someday, it would heal. Single people I know have died, but there were reasons for that...old age, illness, depression. They don't help undo what happened, but at least in time the reasons help wear down the intensity.

So what do I do? I guess I just keep waking up. I guess I just have to keep learning more, hopefully finding a way to change things. I guess I keep wearing black on September 11th. I don't know what else there is. I guess all there is left to do is try.

Every year, there is an update on Tomato Nation on a man named Don. Here is his story. Pass it along. I also recommend reading "For Thou Art With Us."

The latest news is that there is no news; if I hear anything, I will let you know, but I haven't heard anything…and it's starting to look like I won't. I don't think I would recognize Don if I saw him on the street, anymore; I doubt he would remember me, especially now that my hair is so different. It's also possible that Don does not in fact want to be found, or that he's in the Yukon or something, but I've done the paid name/birthday searches and I've hoped that six degrees of separation would loop around, and I still haven't turned him up.Thanks again to everyone who's mentioned it on sites they run or frequent, or to friends of theirs in the media, and to everyone who's sent words of support. I appreciate it. If you hear anything, or you want to mention it on your blog, please feel free — you never know.

Don: A (Very Very) Brief History
Don is a man I met on September 11, 2001. Don and I became "disaster buddies," and ever since, I've wanted to thank him for hanging out with me and helping me keep it together — but I haven't seen or heard from him since we parted ways late that morning.What Don Looks/Looked LikeDon is an African-American man. I would estimate his age at between 25 and 35 on that day — probably not younger than that; possibly older, but not much. That means he's 30-ish to 40 now. Don is between 5'9" and 6' tall, and probably weighed 160-180 pounds. (I suck at estimating men's weights.) In any case, at that time Don had a fit build — not pudgy, not skinny, well put-together. Don had short hair and a goatee at that time. I do not recall any jewelry; he may have worn a watch, I don't remember. No glasses. Don had on a grey windowpane-plaid suit and was carrying a black soft-sided briefcase. Don didn't really resemble anyone famous, except Blair Underwood around the eyes a little bit.

Other Possibly Relevant Facts
Don and I met in the lobby of the Bank of New York building, located roughly at Wall Street and Broadway. We left the bank together at approximately 11 that morning. Don lived at that time in Jersey City, or thereabouts — he took the ferry to Jersey City to get home, from a slip somewhere around Hester Street on the west side. Don had come into the city that morning via the PATH train, and had gotten off at the World Trade Center stop. He had come into the city for work, but I don't remember whether his business that day was actually at the WTC complex; I don't believe it was. If he had gotten separated from any work colleagues, he didn't mention it. I don't know what he did for a living, and I don't know if his job was based in Jersey City or in lower Manhattan, but I got the impression that he was in the city for an errand or meeting, and that he didn't regularly commute in. As I said, I don't recall a wedding ring; Don did not mention a wife or any other family at that time as far as I can remember. Don's birthday is September 11. No idea what year, but based on my estimate of his age it's probably in the late sixties or seventies.

Why You Should Care
Because it's a mystery, a puzzle, a story that needs an end. Because Don is everything good and friendly about the world. Because I owe him my thanks, and possibly a cold beer. Because it's his birthday.

What You Can Do
Do you know anyone in Jersey City, or anyone who lives or works near there? Have you heard a story like mine — secondhand, thirdhand, on someone's journal? Do you recall reading or hearing anywhere about people who ran for the Bank of New York, walked uptown a bit, and took a ferry to New Jersey? Post in the comments, or email me at sars at tomatonation dot com.And if you are in fact Don? Well, don't just sit there. Show yourself. My mom's friend swears you were an angel and she'll keep believing that shit until I can prove otherwise. Suggestions? Clues? Conspiracy theories? Send 'em my way. I'll add any new information as it comes in. In short: Don. He's still out there. And he's another year older.

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