Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Later

Five years ago today I was sitting on my couch waiting to be driven to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. Six weeks earlier I had been released from the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, having completed the intensive chemotherapy treatments (four in all) which drove my Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia into remission. That previous July I nearly died of fungal pneumonia in both lungs, and I was to have my weekly checkup with Dr. Roger Strair, my chief oncologist (and the best doctor in the universe). I was beginning to breathe easier, and no longer needed supplemental oxygen. I weighed about 120lbs, had almost no hair, and needed help to walk to the car.

We never got to the car. Watching the Imus in the Morning show, waiting for my wife Deb to come downstairs, the program was interrupted to report a small plane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. My wife sat next to me as we saw the flames lick the side of the building which I had been to many times. We were not alarmed until the south tower exploded in flames. Deb saw what I and the people at MSNBC had missed ~ a plane travelling at high speed had crashed into the building. We never left the house that day, as Robert Wood Johnson hospital was put on alert. We live 15 miles due west of the Empire State Building, and we heard jets scrambling overhead. I was too sick, too weak to be afraid. I sat numbly watching the days events unfold. I will always be thankful for the calm voice and pitch-perfect words of Rudy Guiliani. I thought of people who I knew might have been working there. I remembered standing in the window space of the 92nd floor and looking down at the "ants" below me when I was a teenager. I saw the Brooks Brothers store where I bought so many shirts and ties used as a soot-covered morgue. I thought of my father, a retired NYC fireman, and whether or not he knew men "on the job" who had perished. It was all so surreal.

Five years later, the skyline still looks strange to me. I was about seven years old when the WTC went up. I never new the city without the ungainly towers. I wish they were still there. I wish something to be there. I read yesterday that in 2005, the United States allowed 96,000 moslems to legally emigrate to our country. All I could think of was how stupid we are. I am sure 99.99% of those immigrants are fine people, but what about the others? Some of the 911 hijackers had lived near me. Who lives near me now? What are they planning? How can we be so naive? I am a native New Yorker, and the towers are gone, and the firemen are buried, and I drove by a mosque recently, its minarets soaring into the blue sky. I was numb that day five years ago, but I now I am afraid ~ for my city, for my nation, for my civilization. Or is that fear too politically incorrect to name?


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