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The Wound

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

“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

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 suppress 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 a 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 2. “

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]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Casey Klahn September 14, 2018, 4:35 AM

    Keep telling it, brother. Tell of it even when the soulless ciphers turn away, and tell it in the most excellent way.

    I nightmare my deepest wounds. That’s what you do when there’s no place to deal with a thing. Still, you push it out. You tell it.

    Hang in there, America. You are the shining city on a hill.

  • Jaynie September 14, 2018, 5:35 AM

    Verklempt. And for the unfortunate men, woman and children who shared in Simon Dedvukaj’s horrifying fate I pray for each and every one of them. Thank you for memorializing and humanizing the iconic 9/11

  • Jeff Brokaw September 14, 2018, 5:41 AM

    Such an epic story, and you tell it so brilliantly, thanks as always. 9/11 changed my life almost as if I was a live witness to the events. Part of that is just me, I seem to have this odd affectation where I can literally insert myself into the middle of news stories and feel them intensely, especially the emotions that would be associated with them. This is not always a good thing, as one can well imagine.

    My youngest son was born just days before, and my wife spent countless nights awake at 2 or 3 a.m. nursing our new gift of life, crying, watching news coverage of human suffering and devastation. I would hear the stories in the morning, when we would watch more. She still talks about it. It is part of our memories forever attached to our youngest.

    We most definitely did not just “move on”.

  • Casey Klahn September 14, 2018, 7:26 AM

    Jeff Brokaw: we have the same story. My son was 11 days old (Aug 31st, 2001) when the towers came down.

    We live in fly over country – wheat country. At night everything is totally silent, except for the sound of aviation. Not after 9-11, though, since all aviation was grounded. I’d be up at 3 AM feeding the baby, and eerie silence prevailed. Not as eerie, though, as the sound of America at war on the homefront. In early October, I was doing the 3 AM feeding in the front yard, and I heard a plane go over at altitude. Then, after 7 minutes, another; and then at intervals of 7 minutes more planes headed West across the Pacific to a war. I never thought I’d experience a tactical fly over of the US mainland.

  • Mary Ann September 14, 2019, 6:32 AM

    @Casey, on the morning of the 13th I went out to my patio where I had painted the “heart of Chartres” labyrinth and where I said morning prayers before I left for work. We were close to Cleveland Hopkins airport and planes were part of the sky. For a day and a half there were no planes, but on that morning when I got to the center and looked up there was one plane so high it was just a speck in the perfect blue sky. I thanked God and that mother’s son for watching over.

  • Bunny September 14, 2019, 10:09 AM
    • Kevin in PA September 13, 2021, 5:45 AM

      Sadly, Bunny, your video links do not work. Apparently, YOUTUBE doesn’t want you (or anyone) to hear or share those stories.
      I have remained silent all weekend and chosen not to comment. 9/11 is a solemn day for our nation, but tragically, the truth of is still unclear….perhaps it will forever remain that way.

      My grievance over the events that took place on that fateful Tuesday morning remain.
      To Wit;
      The attacks on 9/11 were an utter failure of the national intelligence agencies. The billions of dollars spent every year to ostensibly protect the American people was not enough. Why?

      In the aftermath, the nation consumed with grief and mesmerized by the horror of the constant replay of planes crashing into the buildings, terrified people jumping to their deaths, the towers falling down, the dust cloud and heroes that worked so valiantly to save lives.
      In our national grief, we chose to not hold anyone accountable for this failing.
      No one in the FBI, the NSA, CIA, the Pentagon, not one single person, was hauled out on the carpet and scolded for this massive failure. Hell, no one was even brought before congress to explain how such a massive failure could happen!
      None of the agencies that failed the American people on that day received budget cuts. In fact, every damn agency (and new ones were created – TSA….) received huge budget increases. All of the alphabet soup agencies got a big boost in funding and were also granted powers to turn their searching for boogey-men inward toward the American people.
      No one was held to account. Why?

      However, the biggest insult comes from that nasty Globalist bitch, Hillary and the equally vile Globalist doofus, G.W.Bush, with their comparisons of American patriots to the Taliban. The uni-party has spoken and it is nothing less that a continuation of their lies.

      I pray they burn in hell for the betrayal and ongoing deceptions.

      • ghostsniper September 13, 2021, 7:36 AM

        I hope they get their just reward on this plain and I get to witness it.

        • Vanderleun September 13, 2021, 8:28 AM

          I hope I get to implement it. Unlikely, but a man has to have a dream at any age.

          • Kevin in PA September 13, 2021, 10:16 AM

            I would pay good money to see it.

            I honestly feel compelled to retch every time I see members of the uni-party blathering on about ….anything.

  • Bob DoboliNA September 13, 2021, 9:45 AM

    It’s heartbreaking to read his sisters posts to her brother. I honestly do not understand why we didn’t glass a bunch of the middle east. We should have. We should have turned Tehran into a parking lot, Mecca & Medina into glass skating rinks, and the entire of Afghanistan into radioactive valleys.

    No camel jockey is worth a single dead American Soldier.

  • Callmelennie September 13, 2021, 10:56 AM

    The death toll is now approaching 10,000. It is said that 5-6000 deaths can be linked to the dust clouds caused by the collapsing towers. A significant number of people engulfed by the dust clouds have died of cancers and emphysema. Workers who spent days searching the rubble for survivors also contracted cancers and other lung ailments

    One thing not fully understood is that, in a sense, we were lucky. The hijacked plane that hit the Pentagon, from the standpoint of causing mass casualties, was an inefficient use. The impact of the plane was blunted as it struck the ground first. Also, the Pentagon walls are thick and thete are only five stories. What if that plane had targeted the Chrysler building instead

    Consider this. Mohammed Atta may have saved thousands of lives by flying straight over Manhattan, which caused him to strike high up on Tower 1. What if he had chickened out? There would have been no warning when Marwan al Shithead* struck Tower 2 at the 75th floor 20 minutes later. Inasmuch as the towers would have been rapidly filling up to its normal 30K people, that hit would have killed 6000 to 7000 people

    And what was the story with Plane #4? Why did it take so long for the hijackers to take over? That plane flew past Cleveland, Ohio before turning around. Thats why the passengers were aware of what the hijackers intended to do. Thats why they were able to make the courageous decision they made. Well never know why that happened, but that delay may haved saved our Republic

    *(Thats the memnonic tool I use to remember Marwan al Shehhi’s name, since I refuse to reserve any space in my memory banks for his actual name)

  • Eileen M Wahl September 13, 2021, 9:38 PM

    9/11 changed my life in so many ways. It led me down paths that I didn’t know were there. Why and how were the impetus to my journey and slowly my naivete and blindness became reluctant clarity. How could I have been so misinformed on history, Islam and so much else? I was already angry but to find out that, educated as I thought I was, I wasn’t. Even worse, was discovering that a fairly large minority of America and the world thought we deserved it. I felt like my soul was ripped to shreds. Seeing this filled me with horror. I’m not sure which is worse. Some wounds never truly heal but I recognize evil with no ambiguity.

  • Don Rodrigo September 13, 2021, 9:44 PM

    That was beautiful. Very affecting.

    Haven’t been here in quite a while. Am glad I stopped by.