Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Tragedies of Picture-Perfect Days

A perfect fall day – the piercingly blue cloudless sky, the gentle warmth from the sunlight dappling the trees, and the air crisp from the tiniest hint of cool weather to come.

It used to be that such achingly beautiful days filled my heart with gratitude that I live in New England. Now they fill me with dread.

Those of us who live in the Northeast will never forget that September 11, 2001, began as one of those picture-perfect days. By the time it ended, our world had changed forever.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see the dark sedans parked across the street that confirmed my fear that the American Airlines pilot who lived there was aboard one of the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center towers. Although I did not know him well, I was certain even then that Tom McGuinness would never have flown that plane into a building, even at gunpoint. This could only mean that an unknown force of unspeakable evil was involved.

The terror and heartbreak of that horrific day left scars on all of us. For me, they were added to another wound that refuses to heal – the pain of a similarly gorgeous autumn day just two years earlier.

The foliage blaze of glory that greeted me as I drove out of the neighborhood with my son on the morning of Oct. 15, 1999, remains seared into my memory. Trying to concentrate on the day’s to-do list led by his dental appointment, I nearly missed the approach of my cousin’s car from the other direction. I was late, as always, and considered not stopping. But her unexpected appearance was too unusual to ignore.

I hit the brakes, put the car in park and hurried toward her vehicle, which by now had turned around and parked behind me in the middle of the intersection. When I saw her face, I knew something was terribly wrong. I never expected to hear that her brother Tony had been murdered.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of his tragic death at the age of 34. The man who stabbed him with an 8-inch fishing knife after the two argued outside a bar, and then drove away to leave my cousin bleeding to death in the middle of a darkened street, is petitioning to get out of prison early. The indescribable pain continues.

On a recent fall day not long ago, I glanced up at the unblemished blue sky and rather than be pleased with nature’s gift, I found myself uttering a silent prayer that the perfect autumn day would end quickly and without tragedy.

I told a friend about the unease I feel on beautiful fall days and she said she feels it, too, after 9/11. How about you? Is there a certain type of day that fills you with dread – or better yet, with joy -- because of a memory?


ESP said...

Well, I actually don't think bad things on a beautiful fall day like today. I really just enjoy them. The trees in Maryland will never rival New England's, but today they were pretty nice. Clear, blue sky, temps in the 70s. Ya gotta love it.

MaxWriter said...

I remember so well coming home from work on Sept 11, after spending much of the day with the rest of the company fixed to the television in the cafeteria. In shock. Weeping. And then sitting in my beautiful rural Massachusetts yard on that gorgeous day and wondering how the news could be real, how to reconcile that carnage and tragedy with the beautiful scenery and perfect blue sky.

Mostly I just feel sad every fall that all the delicious produce I have been eating, either home grown or locally grown, is coming to an end. And a little sad that I don't have any schoolboys left at home.

chris remick said...

The fantastic foliage, honking geese and, yes, even the bushy tail rodents gathering nuts for the coming winter are God's way of soothing our souls. Tony can never be replaced nor can the people sacrificed on 9-11 but they can live on in our hearts forever. God does provide peace amidst the pain.

PatRemick said...

Lovely thoughts, all.

Anonymous said...

There is the title for your next book and the material to get you started. As a teacher that day, I didn't even notice the weather. As you, I was on my to do list (aka lesson plans). How life can change so quickly. LIZ

PatRemick said...

Hey Liz, that would be an excellent book title. Hadn't thought of that! Thanks.

Kerin said...

My husband and I actually describe picture perfect days as "It is a 9/11 sky"... meaning, as perfect outside as it can get. Yet the reference does always make me pause and remember those who lost their lives. Perhaps that is a silver lining; that we never forget the heroes of the day.

On the opposite note, my fathers funeral was held last year on 12/27, during a blizzard! The roads were truly treacherous. My memories of the day though are filled with joyful memories... My father was a veteran, and he would have loved the Air Corps Lieutenants who stood at each end of his casket and who, though freezing, stood at utmost respect as they folded the American flag perfectly to present to my mother and recited their speech about the President's gratitude without a single waver of cold in their voices. Up close they had frozen drops of 'runny nose' at the bottom of their nose but they would never break form to wipe it away. In the distance, through the blizzard stood a soldier, barely visible through the snow, who played Taps with absolute perfection. I'll never forget the impact they had on the day; my dad would have loved it. A few days later, we were cleaning out my dad's room at the nursing home, and to our utter amazement, we found a little painted wooden plaque that read, "If a Kiss was a Snowflake, I'd send you a Blizzard". None of us ever remembered seeing it before. Now, we all LOVE snowflakes. My mom wears a little snowflake pendant, and we await those blizzardy snowy days of the upcoming winter with joy~

Glimmer said...

Snow in the morning. I feel the ache of it in my blood and bones before I even wake up. It literally hurts and I have no idea why. Some ancient hurt in the DNA, I guess.

My husband, who is from Iowa and cannot fathom this, pressed me once about it. And this is all I could come up with -- the notion I could die just by GOING OUTSIDE is too much for this deep south gal.