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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise


Submitted by on September 12, 2007 – 12:36 AM23 Comments

It's funny, the things we believe — the reasons we have for believing those things. I read far too many ghost stories growing up, and I did said growing up in an old house which enjoyed nothing more in the evenings than to do a bit of noisy, spooky "settling." So, I believed in ghosts; I believed that our house had ghosts, although I had never seen one; and I believed that an old white cat named Ding could protect me from these ghosts. Could, and would.

I can't explain the logic, quite. I'd read in one of my scary-story compendia that, if you sense a ghost but can't see it, looking between an animal's ears in the direction of the ghost will render the ghost visible to you. But it's not like seeing a ghost will get rid of it, so I don't know why I believed that Ding served as a shield. I had to help her up onto the bed half the time (see above re: old), and once she got up there, she would sit and blink patiently until a bent knee presented itself for her to curl up tightly behind and fall asleep. Not exactly what you look for in the spirited-defense-against-the-restless-dead department — but I believed in it. We loved each other, that cat and I, and so I believed she would keep ghosts away.

I never saw a ghost (not in that house), so maybe she did.

Reading the paper today, a couple of things struck me — first, that the 9/11 coverage in the Daily News amounted to only a few pages (not counting a lifestyle story about a guy who grows "corpse flowers," which I would have to characterize as, at best, oddly timed). The lead story, in fact, talked a lot about how the anniversary is changing for victims' families, how some of them have started marking the date without going to Ground Zero, how it feels a bit different now that the five-year point has come and gone. It did feel a bit different today, out and about in the city; it seemed less hushed than in years past. I didn't get as anxious about taking a train over the Manhattan Bridge as I usually do on this day.

I leafed forward through the paper, thinking that surely I'd find more — more stories, more pictures — but I didn't, besides a few editorials, and the In Memoriam section of the death notices. And this is the second thing: the living didn't just write their memorials about the dead. They wrote them to the dead. "Another year passes. Happy Anniversary in Heaven, Gerald. Peace, Schulz." "Always in our hearts and prayers. Your loving aunts, uncles and cousins." "May you always walk in sunshine. Love always, Louie (Snapple) Florio."

"(Snapple)." Louie Florio wrote a comparatively lengthy paragraph about his late friend Daniel Suhr, a man he loved and admired. The writing is labored, but you can tell it's because it's important to Louie Florio that he get everything good about Daniel Suhr in there and get it right. And in case his friend sees it, and by some chance had another friend named Louie Florio, this Louie Florio made sure to include "(Snapple)." It is completely illogical for Louie Florio to believe that Daniel Suhr is reading the Daily News on the anniversary of his own death, or that he wouldn't know which Louie Florio wrote such lovely things about him if he were, but they loved each other, Daniel Suhr and Louie Florio, and so Louie Florio believes if he puts "(Snapple)" in there at the end, Daniel Suhr will know for sure that they're still friends.

And of course they're still friends. Louie Florio has the important part right.

Six years on, I wonder about Don. Six years, and no sign of him after that ferry pulled in and he went off towards it. Did I imagine him? Did I need someone to talk to, to walk with — someone, in short, like a friend — badly enough to conjure one? And so I believed in Don?

Unless and until he presents himself…no way to know. Maybe I did, but I don't believe that. Happy Anniversary on Earth, Don. Peace, Bunting.

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  • Katie says:

    I still remember reading what you wrote in 2001, and as every year since, I've been waiting all day to see what you would say on this day; as always, I'm grateful. Your words have always told 9/11 better than mine, which got lost in that damned dust cloud that swallowed us up. Thanks, Sars.

  • Karen says:

    You know, I was wondering just the other day whether you ever found Don or not. It was an "Operation Find Don" banner ad that first brought me here from TWoP a few years back.
    Wherever he is though, I bet he still thinks of you (at least) once a year too.

  • Pegkitty says:

    I was wondering about Don over the weekend myself. You (and he) are the closest I personally was to what happened that day, and it is your experience that I think of whenever 9/11 comes up. Happy Anniversary on Earth to you, too, Sars.

  • Lizzo says:

    Word. I read your Sept 2001 entries every year. I do not ever want to forget. The mind may clear itself of the worst memories over time, but the ghost is still there.

  • Ellie says:

    It's funny. Ever since I read your 9/11 entry, I think of Don every September 11th, too. I do hope you find him one day. Thanks.

  • alivicwil says:

    I don't need to write anything here, because Pegkitty said everything I was planning to.

  • mctwin says:

    My professor had the "What were you doing when…?" discussion yesterday. I gave him your web address to read your account because it is so real and touching and exactly what that day was. The day was shrouded in a fog where the ONE BIG EVENT overshadowed all other activities with a few very lucid moments. Your recollection explains it all so perfectly.

    I was thinking, maybe this one person reading your entry, would lead to Don! I hope you get to buy him that beer sometime.

    Thank you again, Sars. (and Don)

  • Tisha_ says:

    Your story is also what I equate the day with. I mean, I know where I was at the time and what my day was like… here in Oklahoma City. I think a lot of us around here were busy reliving our own fears that day. I know I was. Waiting for that familiar rumbling that thankfully never came.

    So when I read your story, I got the true picture of how it was there. Watching it on the news just isn't as "personal" as reading one person's account.

    Anyway, odd as it may be, you're the person who comes to mind every year. And I too wonder about Don.

    I linked to the story in a blog on my MySpace page this morning. Who knows… maybe Don lives in Oklahoma now.

  • Nik says:

    Every year I read your newest Sept 11 entry and I go back and read your 2001 entry again. Every year it touches me and every year I hope this will be the one that you announce you have found Don. I know you will find him someday!

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Bridget says:

    For me 9/11 was a day of cradling my 11 month old and sobbing; of frantically tracking down friends and family; of knowing I could not possilby know how it felt to be there, and being unable to stop myself from imagining it. You confirmed my deepest fears and my dearest hopes about what it was like. Six years on and I still think of you and Don every anniversary. I wish you both peace and comfort, this year and every one to follow.

  • RJ says:

    After six years some of it is starting to fade … I don't have flashbacks anymore, or nightmares about planes suddenly dropping out of the sky. I didn't lose anyone personally that day, but I still remember walking by all the photographs of missing loved ones and I think that was the hardest part in the days that followed.

    Two names stand out in my mind – two strangers I never met, but their pictures are still in my memory – Giovanna "Jenny" Gambale and Paul Ortiz, Jr. They stayed with me although I never knew them; they stay with me still. I remember their pictures, taken by those who loved them. That's what I carry with me; that, and the fact that the day the first plane flew overhead and hit the first tower, my life as I knew it ended and I started a new one. That's what it felt like anyway – as if I literally exited myself at that point, and became a different person. That's what shock will do.

    I hope someday you find Don.

  • Charity says:

    I started blogging myself a couple of weeks after reading that original Sept. 11 entry, Sars. Both the events of that day and the inspiration of your writing about it seemed to be what I needed to get off my duff and do something I'd been thinking about for a while. (In case you're curious, here's my first entry, typos, mediocre writing, and all: It's about my first day into the city after that day. )

    It still gets to me all these years later, even without any personal loss. I avoid the memorial stuff and the news every Sept. 11 because it still upsets me, I still have the occasional nightmare, and I don't like putting myself through that. At the same time, I don't want to forget. What a dilemma!

    I hope you find Don this year.

  • Cindi in CO. says:

    Sars, I too think of you and Don on Sept. 11. Your account of that day was so personal and poignant that I've never forgotten it. Maybe someday Don will need your help, and then the universe will lead you to him. I'd like to think so anyway. Peace to you today and always.

  • Jen S says:

    I was walking yesterday (writing this on the 12th) and thinking how stunningly perfect the day was–truly gorgeous weather, not too hot, not chilly yet, blue sky smilin' at me–and I realized it was just like the weather that day. You couldn't believe something like that could actually happen, out of such a beautiful clear blue sky. You'd think it would be gray, rainy, sullen, hopeless on this day, but it never is. It's always beautiful and perfect on the day that everything changes.

    I saved all the newspapers from 9/11 and the days that followed, and every time I read them again I'm struck by the unreality of the headlines and pictures–it's like looking at movie props. I read them to remind myself of what happened, but it was such a rift, such a huge hole in my world that it seems to turn more fantastic and strange every year.

    But I had the luxury of not being there. Peace to New York, Bali, London, Pakistan, India, Germany…everywhere.

  • cheryl says:

    Thanks again for your thoughts and your story of 9/11. I hope you find Don.

  • Moonloon says:

    My city, London in England, has been subject to lethal terror attacks by the IRA during my entire lifetime, and there is something about that that feels like an attack on oneself, there's a randomness and a pointlessness to it all.

    Let's thank our respective Gods, fates, or just the luck of the draw that our own countries are not wracked by ongoing war, of any kind, of the sort faced by innocent children in large parts of the globe where warlords of different types exercise their deficiencies by destroying the helpless and causing the kind of losses even our worst nightmares cannot contain.

  • cam3150 says:

    I'm from the Deep South, Alabama to be exact, and I've been an avid reader of your blog for several years.

    While we were not affected by 9/11 in the same way that New Yorkers were, we were affected just as much, just as deeply, and we are still just as emotional about it. We all wore red, white, and blue yesterday, we decked out our homes, cars, and desks in American flags, we all stood around and talked about where we were when it happened. Around my specific area, there were so many different public memorials and tributes going on that the news couldn't even cover them all.

    I have several different ways in which I remember the tragedies each year. I watch all of the memorials that I can on TV, I read everything I can get my hands on, I watch all of the United 93-related movies, I watch the reading of the names, and I cry, and cry, and cry. One other thing I do is I re-read your original entry regarding your personal experience that day. It puts me there in a way that nothing else I read does.

    So I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for putting your emotions out there like that. I can't imagine how difficult it was for you, both the being there and the writing about it. Reading your account puts a lot of what happened in perspective for me, someone who watched the events transpire on my TV set. So, I read it every year, and I wonder how you're coping with the memories of what happened….and I wonder about Don and if you've ever found him. So thanks for the update on that and know that you & Don are always on mind at this time of year.

  • Kim says:

    I too find myself looking here annually, Sars, eager–if that's the right word–to see how you will strike that common chord of memory and voice what so many feel, so much more eloquently than we're capable of. I think of your essays, and you, and Don, every year. Yesterday I mumbled a happy birthday wish to a man I've never and will never meet, three thousand miles away, and thanked him for being there for you, another stranger, a person I'm equally unlikely to meet except through your words here on the page.

    I initially misread Nik's last comment, above; instead of "Thanks for sharing with us," I saw "Thanks for sharing him with us." Which actually is also true, I think. Thank you for sharing Don with us; thank you both, for chaperoning so many of us through the darkest of days…far more of us than you or he could ever, ever imagine.

  • Jenny says:

    Sars, your 9/11 blog touched me deeply and I, too, think of you and Don on every anniversary. Here's hoping you find him one day and are able to buy him that beer. Peace to you and everyone else on earth.

  • Coleen says:

    Every year, I hope it's the year you tell us that you found Don. I believe you will someday.

  • Isabel says:

    You always know the right thing to say and the best way to say it. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • Sandy says:

    I too hope you and Don will meet again. I have a feeling it will not be as awkward as you might think. Happy Anniversary on Earth, Sars.

  • Sara says:

    I, too, look for your 9/11 posts and find them poignant, and above all, real. That day is burned into our memory and none of us will forget it. You and Don will meet again.

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