Assemblyman O'Scanlon's Original Post-9/11 Column
POSTED BY DECLAN O'SCANLON · SEPTEMBER 11, 2016 12:26 PM
This originally appeared in Assemblyman O'Scanlon's Carpe Eatem Column:
So what’s the author of an irreverent restaurant review column to do when the whole country is feeling somber and sick to its collective stomach?
Wow. I was in the middle of writing my first column after my summer sabbatical when the first plane hit the Trade Center. Every exclamation ever conceived by anyone throughout history has been used to describe the horror that occurred that day. I’m not an eloquent enough writer to improve on that. But I can’t simply crank up and move on without some form of acknowledgement. So here’s my humble, jumbled Carpe Eatem take. You’ll have to forgive me – I’m much better at irreverence than reverence.
Anyone who’s been a regular reader of this column knows about my belief in God. I’ve cited scads of evidence that irrefutably supports my conviction: in the smile of an old woman as you hold a door, in hot fudge sundaes, in the eyes of your dog when you get home, in that first bite of an Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel, in every touch from someone you love, in love itself, in Windmill Cheese Fries. Tomorrow the car will break down, my roof will spring a leak or a loved one (or 10,000 loved ones) might be taken from me unexpectedly. I’ll be mad and stranded and wet and sad. But that doesn’t change the evidence. But in case the everyday, whimsical examples of God’s existence, and supreme sense of humor, aren’t enough to convince you, witness then the reaction of people since September 11th’s destruction.
Like everyone after the attack I sat there before my TV. Dumbstruck. Flirting with contemplation of the horror. In shock. No appetite – which for me is a pretty big, sad deal. Having been sitting in front of my computer doing a food column maybe was what sparked my thoughts of the buildings. My first trip to the Trade Center was with my dad for what was likely my 10th birthday. Windows on the world baby. Nothing excites a boy more (before his 16th birthday anyway) than tree forts. The Trade Center towers were the motherload of tree forts. I still remember looking out those windows – convinced that I could see so far that if I strained just a little harder I could see all the way around to the back of my head looking the other way. I remember the layout of the place and the thin fried onions on my steak. I always just assumed that someday I’d bring my kids there.
On Wednesday night – the day after the attack – I sat late at night all alone on my back deck. It was so quiet with no planes in the air and no people on the streets that I could hear every cricket, and the sound of my dog breathing as he lay asleep at my feet. There was no wind – as if the world itself had stopped turning. And it was just time to cry. But I still wasn’t hungry.
I had to drive North into Connecticut on the Saturday following the attack. Almost every bridge had banners and flags flying from it. One, in particular, stood out. It was one simple word – FAITH. And each letter was written in Red, White and Blue. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Those of us who have lost someone we love know the worst feeling in the world – when you wake up the day after they die and you have to almost relive the moment you lost them all over again. Then you lie there. Listening to the world outside – the trains running as usual, phones ringing, people going on with their lives. And it seems wrong that they don’t know that the person you loved is gone. But that’s not the case with this loss. Those who are grieving for loved ones lost know that everywhere they go, every minute of every day, that every American is grieving with them. I don’t know exactly why that makes me feel so much better, but it does.
The United States of America was born out of a struggle with an opponent who underestimated our resilience, ignored our resolve and couldn’t comprehend our spirit. Since then we’ve vanquished numerous adversaries who made the same miscalculations. This one too shall fall. Rising to the occasion is our specialty. It’s all about FAITH.
It’s at the moments of our greatest adversity that we as individuals and we as a Country excel beyond everyone’s wildest estimation. We could dwell on the unfortunate reality that adversity frequently comes with the loss of people and places and things dear to our hearts. Or, we could honor those who have fallen by rising to this occasion like we have never before in our lifetimes. I bet our fallen loved ones would opt for the latter.
Of course one of the best aspects of this truly wonderful society that we’ve created is our irreverence, our wit, and our ability to survive even the most heinous devastation with our good humor intact. So while we’re busy kicking the butts of those responsible for this terrible attack we must remember – ya gotta eat. Toward that end Carpe Eatem will be here all along the way. One of a billion small efforts that will collectively show the world that our spirit can’t be beat. If only I had an appetite…
On the Thursday after the bombing I was still doing what everyone else was doing – watching TV in shock. The news was focusing on the rescue effort. They cut to a camera and sounds of the recovery area. The machines were loud and there was banging and clanging as the tireless rescuers continued to remove the shattered remnants of the Trade Center in a desperate search for survivors. All of a sudden I was aware of more sound than was coming out of the TV. Someone was banging and clanging outside my house. I looked out the window and had one of those faith affirming moments of hope that – if you’re paying attention – seem to show up just when you need them. The sound outside my window, which was melding almost perfectly with the sounds emanating from the rescue effort on my TV, was that of a guy across the street installing a giant, wooden stork announcing the birth of my neighbors’ baby. He was born Tuesday, September 11. Mid morning. Suddenly I had a craving for a bacon cheeseburger.