Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11th and a dear friend

Meet Sherry Barber. Sherry is a dear, dear friend. And a kind one. Elizabeth and I were in California over Thanksgiving last year with nowhere to go to dine ... and she took us both in and fed us well. Sherry is also a phenomenal writer. And here is just one sample of her work.  This tale speaks volumes in many ways.

     "My birthday is September 11th.  In 1943, while James Cagney sang and tap-danced his way to an Academy Award for “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” Greer Garson acted her way to an Oscar for “Mrs. Miniver.”   I arrived at Seaside Memorial Hospital in Long Beach during a time of patriotism, and home fires burning.
     During childhood, my birthday usually got lost in the shuffle because it fell on or near the first day of school.  Shiny-faced students, in new trousers and dresses from Sears, were not yet acquainted with one another and certainly not buddies enough to drop by my house after school for cake and ice cream.  
     I would sit at my desk, hands folded, listening to the new teacher, secretly wondering if I dare tell anyone it was my birthday.  Instead, the teacher distributed pencils and erasers from the school supply closet and instructed us to write our names in the upper right hand corner of standard-issue newsprint with blue lines. My birthday was unremarkable. Until 2001.
     That year my son Justin called from Alexandria, Virginia to acknowledge my birthday and to tell me he was all right.

 “What do you mean?” I asked.  “Have you been in an accident?”
 “Turn on your television,” he said.

     Together we watched stunning replays of the World Trade Center attack; saw the billowing smoke and dust; held our telephone receivers in shocked silence.  Later Justin would tell me he could smell the Pentagon burning as he left work and walked to his car.  His wife had seen smoke from her office window.  The Pentagon – its construction had been completed the year I was born and was hailed as the largest, safest office building in the world.
      September 11th changed that day, not just for me but for the world.  It became a defining moment in history.  After that I didn’t even want to say the date, ever again.  It reminded people of their horror and grief.
      A year later I received a birthday card from my friend Christy Tunison Wait in San Jose, a card which arrived amidst the dirge of television retrospectives and documentaries. Christy had taken the time to pen these healing words at the bottom of the card: “I choose to remember the good things about today,” she said. “I celebrate you.” "

(This piece originally appeared in our local Daily News)


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