Sunday, September 11, 2011

A personal Sept. 11, 2011 story

I was driving on I-81 today, the young lad and I headed to Hawk Mountain, and I had MSNBC's anniversary coverage on satellite radio.

They cut to the New York ceremony and a man's deep voice said he was Jimmy Smith, the husband of Moira Smith, a New York police officer. Wow, I thought; I had just edited Bill Landauer's story of three York County people whose lives had changed after 9/11 -- and one of them was Moira Smith's cousin.

Jimmy finished talking. Then a young girl's voice: "Mom, I will always be proud to be your daughter ..." Oh my God, I thought, here is Moira Smith's daughter, who, by the sound of her voice, couldn't have been more than a toddler 10 years ago.

She stopped talking. There was a brief pause. And then I heard the first few notes of a forlorn but ultimately hopeful song, a child's lullaby that doubles as a farewell song: James Taylor's "You Can Close Your Eyes."

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
 I don't know no love songs, and I can't sing the blues anymore
 But I can sing this song
 And you can sing this song when I'm gone 

I've internalized that song over decades, and at that moment it hit me square. I drove the next couple miles with welling tears. Not for America or its institutions or our way of life, but for the people in the towers, the people in the planes, the people in the Pentagon, and the people who loved them. It is, to me, less a national day of mourning than a personal one.