Facing 9/11 For The First Time


This post features photos of the Suffolk County, Long Island, 9/11 Memorial, which honors the 178 County residents who perished on a crystal clear September morning.  I recently visited the Memorial for the first time, morning dew coating each pane of glass, which is etched with the name of a resident and an emblem.  The glass panes form a room of sorts, with manicured landscaping on the outside and an inaccessible garden of native plants on the inside.  The inner garden is designed to grow untamed, symbolizing the passage of time.

Less than five minutes away from this Memorial is the new one, which is the basis for this post.

Suffolk County 9/11 Memorial

In the New York metropolitan area, 9/11 never really goes away.  It’s always present.  Throughout the year, the news media provides updates on the construction of the Freedom Tower and the deaths of rescue workers who were exposed to Ground Zero’s toxic dust in the days following the attack.

And as the anniversary approaches, 12-year-old footage is re-aired as a precursor to all of the memorial services, the largest of which — the one at Ground Zero — is usually broadcast.  In between are the smaller, more localized ceremonies, since so many towns and community organizations have their own 9/11 memorials.  It’s difficult to avoid the emotion of the day.

Suffolk County 9/11 Memorial

I should know — because I’ve tried to do just that for more than a decade.  My efforts begin with a self-imposed news blackout and an avoidance of all memorial services and dedications.  I’m not trying to be disrespectful of the day; I’m just trying to be respectful of my own emotions, to allow them out at my own pace and not according to the dictates of the calendar or the news.

This year, though, 9/11 has caught on to me and I will have to face it.

Suffolk County 9/11 Memorial

A local volunteer fire department is dedicating its own 9/11 Memorial and the Chief would like a small group of bagpipers and drummers to perform at the ceremony.  The request was relayed through one of my band mates, who has strong ties to that fire department.

As she outlined the program, my mind tore through my excuses to determine which one would sound the best.

I have a late night meeting.  I have a doctor’s appointment.  I don’t know how to play some of the music they’re requesting.   And the truth: I just don’t want to — can’t — deal with that day.

Suffolk County 9/11 Memorial

She then said the actual Memorial has steel from the World Trade Center, cement from the Pentagon, and slate from a field in Pennsylvania — and I thought of the words spoken by Todd Beamer, who was on Flight 93, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania.

“Let’s roll!”  Two words that summed up so much.  Two words that were a call to action for his fellow passengers to stand up without fear to face their hijackers — and here I was, unable to face the day itself, unwilling to play bagpipes at a service to honor them and so many others.

And that sound you hear is reality slapping me across the face.

Suffolk County 9/11 Memorial

I’ve spent the past two weeks practicing the selected tunes and readying my uniform for the September 11 service.  I admit I’m still a bit nervous about making musical mistakes or having my emotions get to me.

But I’m also quite sure that this is what I must do for so many reasons: for the victims, for their families and friends, for the volunteers, for my fellow band members, for myself. . .

For the day.

Suffolk County 9/11 Memorial

Additional 9/11 posts:

9/11 And A Summer Long Ago

Lessons Learned From A 9/11 Survivor

24 thoughts on “Facing 9/11 For The First Time

  1. I know how hard it will be for you – I am an emotional wreck each year – but I will be praying a little harder that you will be able to hold it together. May God be with you.

  2. You echo my own thoughts. I also live on Long Island and was incredibly lucky that day. My husband came home. I have never been so inside out as I was that day and every September rumbles my feelings to the core. Your words are a powerful reminder of community support and strength. This isn’t just a matter of showing respect to those we lost, but also a way of reminding one another that we’re here for each other. Thank you for agreeing to play. It means alot.

    • Hi Linda. I’m so glad you left a comment and shared your story. I was at work that day, in a middle school — and moments are seared into my mind. Yes, we do need each other now and always. Be well!

  3. Kev,
    Like you my heart is heavy with the thoughts of that day. Not just for KD, but for the other 342 firefighters that perished, 30 of which I knew. An additional 12 names have been added to the list who died as a result of breathing in the toxic smoke and particles.All died ftom strange cancers and they continue to die every month.Sad to say “We must never forget”. This is the least we owe to those who died on that day.
    Play your pipes proud on 9/11 Kev.
    Love Dad

  4. I can’t imagine what powerful emotions and thoughts will go through your mind. A beautiful memorial for an unspeakable day – our thoughts from Down Under will be with you all on that Remembrance Day. Good luck,
    Flavia

  5. Amazing opportunity, Kevin, and yet completely tied to such emotion that it hurts, I understand I will be thinking of you tomorrow. It’s a wonderful opportunity to tangibly honor those that lost their lives. Most of us always feel so completely helpless and incapable of doing anything meaningful tied to 9/11. I hope you’ll sense the importance of what you’re contributing.

  6. Pingback: Summertime Sadness & Wonder | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

  7. Excellent post….remembering is an important factor for all of us. No matter where! We shared this with my husband (Inion’s dad) who is from Long Island, New York. Thank you for the post Kevin. Our prayers go out to all of you.

  8. Pingback: We Are A Part Of A Hyphen Nation | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

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