September 14, 2015

The Wound

"Well, it was only 3,000 people and we've moved on. Why can't you? Carpe diem, man."

The huge wound in my head began to heal
About the beginning of the seventh week.
Its valleys darkened, its villages became still:
For joy I did not move and dared not speak,
Not doctors would cure it, but time, its patient still.

-- Thom Gunn, The Wound


Simon Dedvukaj, 26, Mohegan Lake, N.Y. janitorial, foreman, ABM Industries / Confirmed dead, World Trade Center, at/in building 2

EVERYONE WHO WAS IN NEW YORK ON on "The Day" will tell you their stories about "The Day." I could stun you with an eight figure number by running a Google on 9/11, but you can do that as well.

"The Day," even at this close remove, has ascended into that shared museum of the mind to be placed in the diorama captioned, "Where Were You When." The site has long since been cleared and scrubbed clean. There is even an agreement on the memorial which will, I see, use a lot of water and trees. "The Day" has become both memorial and myth.

Less is heard about the aftermath. Less is said about the weeks and months that spun out from that stunningly clear and bright September morning whose sky was slashed by a towering fist of flame and smoke. You forget the smoke that hung over the city like a widow's shawl as the fires burned on for months. You don't know about the daily commutes by subway wondering if some new horror was being swept towards you as the train came to a stop deep beneath the East River. You supress hearing over the loudspeaker, always unclearly, that the train was being "held for police activity at Penn Station." Was that a bomb, poison gas, a mass shooting, a strike on the Empire State building? You were never sure. You carried a flashlight in case you had to walk out of the tunnels that ran deep beneath the river. Terror was your quiet companion. After the first six weeks you barely knew it was there.

If someone tells you that the melted wax from the candle shrines at Union Square had a radius of 20 feet and a depth of 4 inches at some points before it was scraped away, that's just a data point.

If someone mentions that there were pictures of those we called 'the missing' put up on walls about the city, you might recall that. What you won't recall is that they appeared everywhere and grew in numbers on nearly every surface on the island until there was no block and no main station that didn't host a grim and large gallery of these images.

You've forgotten about the shrines, large and small, that appeared at the door of every fire and police station of the city overnight. You don't remember how they grew and then shrank until only a few vases of flowers and faded flags remained.

I could show you the Post's headline from the 12th declaring: 10,000 FEARED DEAD. Many of you would now say, "Well, it was only 3,000 people and we've moved on. Why can't you? Carpe diem, man."

Wounds, as noted in the poem above, heal. Lots of Americans like this fact. Many now make their living from the process. Explainers, obfuscators, politicians, pundits -- they're all part of yet another bogus new-age industry, grief counseling. Let some disaster, small or large, occur and these locusts descend from wherever they spend their off-hours to feed on the fear and pain of that other bogus group, "the survivors." Many of us are proud to be members of this group. I'm sure somewhere someone is selling t-shirts and badges that say "I'm the Proud Survivor of ______" (Insert disease or disaster of choice).

Wounds heal. Those that don't become "mortal wounds." All others heal. That's the nature of wounds. What isn't often mentioned is that wounds, in healing, leave a scar. A scar is different kind of skin that covered the wound and, because it is stronger than the original skin, it is called "proud flesh."

Along with grief, scars are another thing our brave new age sets out to eliminate. With the application of money and skill most scars in time can be made to disappear, to be made beautiful. Americans approve of this process. We like to make new fresh flesh appear where old proud flesh once was. All smoothed out. All traces eradicated. We move on. We get over it. We wear white trousers and walk upon the beach. Tomorrow is another day and we will never be hungry again.

Wounds do not heal, they only seal themselves up and we erase the scars with myths and monuments. Unless we are required to, every so often, go back and look at what was without sham or falsity.

Selecting a few images from a very bad year takes you back into that time. Because you fear opening the wound, you work at some remove from what the images return to you. Until you come to one that takes you back and you find yourself there, in that time, in those weeks and months after 'The Day.'

Mine was a picture of a flyer posted around the city. One of the thousands of flyers posted everywhere. I'd hardly noted it at the time, but kept it in a folder called "September." It shows three pictures of Simon Dedvukaj. He's in a tuxedo with the jacket tossed over his shoulder in one shot. Another shows him wearing the cap and gown of a high school graduate. The third is a candid snap taken, I imagine, in his room with some out of focus possessions in the background. There's a prayer at the bottom and at the top the information: "February 15, 1975 -- September 11, 2001.

Three strips of wrinkled tape fasten this to a black metal surface. The photo, I know, was taken somewhere in lower Manhattan at 9:18 on September 11, 2002. The flyer is crisp and the tape fresh so someone must have spent time over the previous days printing the flyer up and sticking it to surfaces around the city. His family? His friends? Certainly one of those groups. Did they do it again on September 11, 2003? I don't know. I wasn't there to look.

What can I know about Simon Dedvukaj? I can know what you can know if you run another Google search. It's an unusual name and you won't get many hits. What I can know is this: "Simon Dedvukaj, 26, Mohegan Lake, N.Y. janitorial, foreman, ABM Industries Confirmed dead, World Trade Center, at/in building "

That's from an early list. One of many put up to track the dead -- "26" "janitorial," "foreman," "confirmed dead," "at/in building.2" There are thousands of other listings just as stark.

It is no wonder we move on from these facts, that we work to heal the wound and erase the scar. These are things too grim to carry. We have to put them down. Unless we know more than the stark facts above. Then we carry them with us. Forever.

I can know more about Simon Dedvukaj, a man whom in his janitor's uniform, would have never been more than another member of that faceless crew of New Yorkers who take the subways in at 4 AM to turn on the city, or take them home after midnight having cleaned up and shut down the city. I would have passed him without seeing him. I still would. So would you. But still I can know a lot more about Simon Dedvukaj. I can know about it from his sister Lisa:

July, 2002
From:Lisa Dedvukaj, submitted: 07/31/2002 5:45:28 PM
Simon is my brother. He worked in the World Trade Center, North Tower 1. He was and still is a great guy. Simon will always be remembered as that thoughtful person who always did good for everyone else and thought of himself last. Simon gave everyone strength and Simon made you smile and laugh like never before. Simon what a man you were. That smile you just couldn't resist it, you had to smile back. Simon I know you are in a better place and I know that you are watching over us. Please be there for us always and guide and comfort us through our needest times. I LOVE YOU!
Your Sister,
September, 2002
From: Lisa Dedvukaj, submitted: 11/13/2002 3:59:23 PM
It's been a while since I wrote in here but I wanted to let you know that I'm still thinking of you.. I can't seem to understand the negativeness that still surrounds us. Simon you are my life and it just hurts me so much to see that you are not here, I want to see you walk through that door again and sometimes I wonder if this was for the best. But I what I do know is that God has you with him and that you and the others are looking out for us and I feel you around me alot and it comforts me to know that you are holding me while I cry for you. I miss you Simon and I will always love you. Please be with us always like you are now, give us the strength and the love that we need. Protect our family and always keep us within your reach..
Last month
From: Lisa V., submitted: 01/11/2004 10:47:44 PM
I haven't written in here in a long time! I miss you so much and life will never be the same.. Reading all these posts here makes me cry, I always cry thinking of how life changed it is and how different we are without you here. I miss you so much.. I love you.
Love your sister,
Just a janitor. Just turned on the city and cleaned it up. "How different we are without you here...."

I called for armor, rose, and did not reel.
But, when I thought, rage at his noble pain
Flew to my head, and turning I could feel
My wound break open wide. Over again
I had to let those storm lit valleys heal.

-- Thom Gunn, "The Wound"

[Written SEPTEMBER 13, 2009]

Posted by Vanderleun at September 14, 2015 2:36 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Scars are visible reminders of hurts past. We can examine them and remember the mistakes we made that caused them.

That certainly won't do in this modern age.

Posted by: Chris at September 13, 2009 5:21 AM

It's this time of year. The slant of light, the roadside weeds going into autumn, this anniversary - the way we resist its heft.

The Simons haunt us, our personal ones and those 3,000 spirits sent drifting forever on that day.

We Lisas are left to tally the days and years and to grow amazed that life continued when it seemed time could not exist beyond the horror and pain.

Posted by: Cathy at September 13, 2009 5:35 AM

The America that was made "stronger at the broken places" turned out in force yesterday in Washington, D.C.

It is a solid consolation that 9-11 was the catalyst for so many to reconsider; and to fight off the seduction of identity politics, entitlements and excuses. We could start with Gerard here, and make a wonderful list of men and women who abandoned grievances and are now shining their lights on the constitution and all that is right and good in America.

Our grandparents taught us that men can best be known by the small things. After the inauguration of Barack Obama, after "Earth Day", after the anti-war protests, The Mall and all of D.C. was a-swirl with tons of litter. After the Tea Party yesterday? Hardly an energy bar wrapper to be seen.

Res Ipsa Loquitur. It is left to us to teach another generation of Americans to suffer proudly for the right causes, and to make good use of their scars.

Posted by: AskMom at September 13, 2009 7:13 AM

I still have a hard time forgiving NPR's Brook Gladstone.

In an interview last year with Seattle's NPR feed, KUOW she said, talking about another reporter, listing his many positive attributes "...he's gotten over 9/11..."

I can't write what I screamed at the radio..this is a family website....

Posted by: Doug at September 13, 2009 11:31 PM

Gerard - Keep reminding us of that tragic day in American history, at every possible opportunity.

I was told of a couple who visited the site after a long time. They joined a tour conducted by the National Park Service. The guide referred to the site as "the place where the accident happened".

DAMN THEM TO HELL! Obviously they've moved on and want history to forget "The Day"

Posted by: BobH at September 14, 2009 11:16 AM

Vengeance is a reaction. A lashing out to perpetrators without thought to why it was done.

This loss requires a reckoning, as the 'Root of the Problem (tm)' remains.


This loss needs to be remembered if there is going to be a reckoning.

Posted by: Cond0010 at September 14, 2011 2:34 AM

Cond0010 - You are, of course, right. The cause of this problem is the one that has been at war with all that's good and decent for 1,387 years - at least. Islam. And Islam will not see out this century - at least in its present form.

Whether the end comes swiftly, in thunder, starfire and mass death, or less swiftly by soldiers too small to see dismantling anyone who utters the Shahada cell by cell, or finally cutting off their access to Western money, throwing them all back into the cesspit they came from and letting them starve - it doesn't matter. The 1400-year war will not become 1500.

We can all do a little, and for my part I'm doing it. You have a c-store or newsagent locally, run by Pakistanis? Don't shop there. You have a business yourself? Don't sell your goods or services to Moslems. And don't employ any, either; you don't have to give any reason for not employing someone. Cross the street, if it's safe, when an apparition in a niqab or burkha goes by. If it's safe, and there is a group of Muslims in their five-daily arse in the air pose and they are in your way, go right through the middle of them. Bonus points for accidentally dropping bits of your bacon sandwich on one as you go past.

Make them unwelcome enough and they will leave.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at September 14, 2011 3:18 AM

God has shown us the way. Nuke Mecca. Then I will feel better.

Posted by: Fat Man at September 14, 2015 11:40 AM

I remember a brick wall near St. Vincent's. About half-way down the block I broke down. Other people were crying also, and others walking with that face that you get when you live in that town, plus a little something extra. I used to watch the late night shows regularly, I have not since. I didn't listen to music for about two years, maybe more. I did start to drink heavily, and know a few who just never got off that barstool. One woman who was already New York nervous to begin with, had a massive heart attack upon hearing one of the terrifying but fairly common underground transformer explosions, and died in her cubicle. The five years afterward that I remained, were one story after another, some miraculous, most just awful. I know some who are tired of hearing about it, but it's a cultural thing, a little to close to home, if you will, but for me, no. I was in church on the tenth anniversary and kind of broke down again, but that was a thousand miles away, and those that remembered there, know because they saw the television reportage. I still don't know why it's not an official day of remembrance, I'm still angry it took years to put up a memorial, I'm still angry that with all the money in the world and resources the real events of the day have not been captured, and no, I cannot forget.

Posted by: Will at September 15, 2015 12:28 PM

I lived and worked in North Jersey, when it happened. We were sent home that afternoon, early. I could see the plume of smoke drifting southward in the wind.

At home I turned on the teevee, put an empty VCR tape in the machine, hit 'record,' and let it record until it was full. I did that for the next, oh, I don't know, week or so.

I've moved twice since then, those tapes always come with me, even though I no longer own a VCR (who does?). I don't even know if they are still playable.

I've never been able to bring myself to watch them, anyway.

Posted by: Flyover Pilgrim at September 15, 2015 3:05 PM