Last month I celebrated 20 years living in St. Louis. I love St. Louis. But I am not from here. And if you’re not from here, well, then you are not from here. I can’t answer the imfamous St. Louis question (“Where’d you go to school?”) and I am still amused by the crackers and goofy cheese concoction that passes for pizza here. Although to the dismay of my childhood friends, I’m a true Cardinals fan now and there is no better baseball town on earth. The Rams, well, that’s a different story.
I am from New York. Born in Queens. Raised mostly in the northwest suburbs of NYC. I generally make a trip or so a year back to New York. When flying into LaGuardia, I always make sure to get a window seat on the left side of the plane (the “A” seat). A good percentage of the time, the arrival path into LaGuardia from the west flies right by the Statue of Liberty, around the lower part of Manhattan and up the East River with downtown on your left. There is no better view of the NY skyline and anyone from there can name the landmark buildings. I was not emotionally prepared for my first flight back after 9/11/2001. As I looked out the window I began to cry. The two giant towers that marked the lower tip of Manhattan were not there. Intellectually, obviously, I knew that. But the emotional impact of not seeing them there was devastating. Every mental image of mine, and, every poster, postcard or painting of NYC was anchored by those Twin Towers.
Beyond being from New York, and a proud American, there’s another personal connection to the 9/11 tragedy for me. A brave, good looking New York Fireman named Michael Weinberg perished that day. There are so many stories of so many heroes, but because I share the name of this hero, it strikes close to home. Michael Weinberg was off duty on September 11, 2001, about to tee off at a golf course when word came about a plane striking the first tower. His sister worked in the World Trade Center. He dropped everything and somehow made his way to his firehouse in Manhattan. I’ll provide a link for more details, but the bottom line is that while his sister managed to make her way out of the building, Weinberg did not survive. He was found alongside a captain and the fire department chaplain, Mychal Judge, under a firetruck where they attempted to take shelter after exiting as the building collapsed.
Today is a day to reflect and remember. This is not a day for politics or politicizing. Every American was attacked on 9/11. And I am somewhat disturbed by the short memories of so many. I, for one, will never forget. My New York heritage and connection, even by name only, to this heroic young man tie my heart to Ground Zero and the events of that day in ways I really can’t even articulate.
Peace and comfort to the friends and families of all who perished that day, and a special blessing to the family of Michael Weinberg of the NYFD. We will never forget.