Sunday, September 14, 2008

My 9-11-01 Remembrance.

I did not post this, for a couple of days because I always have a hard time expressing what I feel about 9-11-01. I wasn't sure how much of this I wanted to share. I have decided to share it all.

A month before 9-11-01, I had decided to stop practicing law. I was fed up with partners who had lost their mission and become miserable people, clients who were only potential grievances and Judges and opposing counsel who lacked any sense of the professionalism I had been taught. On the day I decided to quit, I was sure, no one cared about justice anymore, just about standards and goals and money.

That day I was lying in a hospital bed. I had tortured myself for weeks with an undiagnosed deep vein thrombosis, and had blood clots that almost took my life. I had this condition for nearly 3 months. I laid in that hospital bed and thought about all those bastards who couldn't listen to me as I told them I was sick, and how they wouldn't miss me but my family would... I was through sacrificing for this "profession" that was a business when it should have been a profession, and a profession when it should have been a business.

I got lucky and managed to live through the 12 Pulmonary embolisms that were lodged in my lung. After a few weeks I got home from the hospital. I had not changed my mind. I told my friend and our managing partner I was through.

Later that day, I received a call from a friend. Mychal F. Judge,I was still in a sour mood and I told him of my decision. He offered to come to see me but I told him that we could have dinner later in September, as my wife was now going to need surgery and I wasn't sure there was any justice in the world order. He assured me that God was alive and would never countenance injustice. I would never see Mychal again, or hear his voice with it's soft Irish lilt.

Mychal reminded me how many of my clients loved me, and how many though they didn't say thank you, or even act politely, needed me. We agreed to meet in a couple of meetings. He said he would pray for MaryRose.

Mychal Judge is officially victim 001 of the World Trade Center Disaster. He was a Roman Catholic Priest. He was a friend to the brand new fire recruit, and to Presidents of the United States. He died administering rites to a man on the sidewalk, A body fell upon him, and took his life. A local writer said, Mychal had to die first, He would have wanted to be at heaven's gate to open the doors for the firemen who were meeting there. Mychal was their Spiritual leader, the chaplain to the NYFD Holy Name Society.

I lost many friends and clients on 9-11-01. My offices on Long Island were in the middle of an area that was home to so many municipal employees. I saw America's Mayor at funerals for the men. (I am not a big Rudy fan, but I appreciate what he and his staff tried to do in the weeks after the bombing to help us grieve).

After weeks of ceremony attendance and volunteering to help widows and orphans with paper work, I realized. I still loved law, I just needed to do it differently. I decided then and there in December of 2001, to go back, but to do it differently this time. I have, and I still do, and God willing will be doing so for a very very long time...

I had 2 cousins who were NYFD on 09-11-01. A father and a son. Brian the son, was a new recruit waiting to go to the academy, He was working EMS at Ground Zero and lived to tell about it. He was delivering victims to St. Vincent's hospital when the first tower fell. His dad, Joe, wanted to be down there too, but he was directed to Shea Stadium. Joe, a fire Lieutenant, was one of the first guys there. His job was to set up the command station which would serve as headquarters to get guys to units that needed them.

After 2 days of no sleeping, Joe was allowed to leave Shea. He went directly to Ground Zero. He was looking for his friend Capt. Brian Hickey. Brian was one of NYFD's most decorated heroes. He was the man responsible for Joseph's going into the NYFD. He was my friend and client. He was lost in the rubble. It was his first tour back after having been injured in the Father's Day Astoria Lumber fire in June of '01. Joe was there, day and night, until they found some of what was left of Capt. Brian Hickey NYFD.

Last year, we buried Lieutenant Joseph Colleluori NYFD. He died of brain cancer. The kind Ted Kennedy has now. Joe was the picture of health, till the brain tumor showed up. He had never been sick, was checked regularly. He is part of the lawsuit now being brought by responders to the site. I firmly believe his volunteerism killed him at age 52.

My cousin Brian, is still a fireman. Brian's first son, is named Joseph he was born just after his grandfather died. He will carry on the name of one of NY's Bravest.

I do not know anyone here in NY that was not directly touched by the events of 9-11-01. I will die with its memory ingrained in my mind, in my psyche.

It took a year to go to Ground Zero. My father and uncles helped to build those buildings. My friends and family worked in them. I went there often to dine or to work or to just have drinks. I was working on a Scleroderma Fundraiser when they came down. I think a part of every New Yorker came down with those buildings, and the people within them.

I wanted to see them rebuilt, exactly as they were. I also understand, that we all need a place to grieve and remember. The new plan is not perfect, but I have a feeling, like the much maligned Viet Nam Vet Memorial, it will, when finished, be far more beloved than it is in the talking stage.

I do not rank the seminal moments of my lifetime. I have a list: The Assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, and the attempts on Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Regan. John Glenn circling the earth, and The Landing on the Moon. Nixon's resignation, the taking of our embassy and its employees hostage in Iran; The inauguration of Ronald W. Regan. The fall of the (iron) Curtain and the (Berlin) Wall. 9-11-01 is not the greatest or first among these times, but it is the one I will never ever forget, the one that remains the closest, the one that makes me angriest, and the one that leaves me with tears in my eyes, now 7 years later.

So many of the most important things that have affected me, are in fact political. Our reactions to these events ought to be informed, and political. Our remembrance of those taken however is not political. 9-11 took Republicans and Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives, Religious and Atheists, Rich and Poor. Those attacks knew no boundaries. Those that worked to save those that were attacked, asked no political questions. On 9-11-01, at 8:47, we were all just Americans. When I think of 9-11-01 now, I just remember that those that died, were doing the most American thing that one could do. They were working, chasing a dream, and trying to do their best to make things a little better for someone that day.

May God Bless the fallen, and May God bless those that remember, and most of all, May God Bless America.
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