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Life Arts    H2'ed 9/10/10

What About the Day BEFORE 9/11?

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There was a wonderful scene in the movie "My Cousin Vinny" where Marisa Tomei's character learns that her fiance' Vinny is about to go hunting with the corrupt judge to earn some brownie points. He asks her what pants he should wear to go hunting. Horrified by it all, Tomei's (Oscar winning) response is,

"Imagine you're a deer. You're prancing along. You get thirsty. You spot a little brook. You put your little deer lips down to the cool, clear water - BAM. A f*ckin' bullet rips off part of your head. Your brains are lying on the ground in little bloody pieces. Now I ask ya, would you give a f*ck what kind of pants the son-of-a-b*tch who shot you was wearing?"

As the day once again approaches, even if we don't have personal stories of our own, the calendar and the media remind us of the tragic events that changed and now define life in 21st century America. Welcome to 9/11.


Part and parcel of the human experience is the ability to (usually) recall the exact place and time we were when historic events of monumental proportion struck. Up until "that day", life might have been a repetitious blur; everything else seemed to be going "fine".

And then, BAM.

Collectively, we are comprised of millions of lifetimes of "before" and "after" pivotal moments. There was the day before Kennedy was shot, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, you lost a loved one to a drunk driver, your house to foreclosure, your lover to someone else, your job to downsizing, Princess Diana to a car crash, Michael Jackson to drugs. There was the day before the hurricane, fire, earthquake and flood.

And then BAM erased most all of them.

I am a seeker of the odd and the curious. I always wondered what happened to the Baroness who almost married Captain Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" or the lone survivor of Jackson Pollock's otherwise fatal car accident. A part of me has to believe that on September 10, 2001 something wonderful (or devastating) was going on in the lives of individuals that suddenly had an entirely different outcome as a result of the BAM that followed.

There must have been an illicit affair or a tryst that went awry in the arms of that new lover when the following morning, one of them was lost in the Twin Towers. Each would forever equate that "loss" or "devastation" with knowing where they had parked their heads only hours earlier. All that excitement or promise must have been quickly replaced by anguish, sorrow or guilt.

The destiny of not one, but many was likely changed in more ways than we can measure by the simple fact that the day before BAM, life was different. For everyone.

But for the victims and/or the survivors, those differences are deeply etched into psyches we may never know or understand. Imagine the person who woke up sick on 9/11, or whose transport was delayed? Think of the person who for whatever reason, escaped death and must live with the haunting question "why?" and all the guilt and responsibility that must come along with that burden.

Now think about what might (or might not) have been going on in the lives of the victims and their families on 9/10. Try to think of the victims or surviving relatives and friends and what 9/10 might have looked like for any one of them.

There could have been a child that had surgery, a relative or a friend who went through chemotherapy, a burial, the loss of a pet, a promise that was broken or a secret that was kept. Perhaps there was a stolen moment that can never be given back. There's a ripple effect that few of us take time to consider. Their sorrows and struggles are images we may never see as they look upon their own reflections. The must see themselves in the mirror every day, not just on the anniversary.

Surely out of 3000 plus victims, someone had an argument the morning of or day before 9/11. Not every lost life was sitting around the hearth and ordering Happy Family from the Chinese menu on Monday 9/10/2001. There was probably an argument or two about (what else) money, kids, the in-laws or school. Maybe there was a hearing that day for a custody battle or a divorce decree. It's entirely possible that for one of the victims, a relationship ended or a great first date occurred. Perhaps someone elected to have an abortion on September 10, 2001 and the father or mother of the unborn child was someone that perished less than 24 hours later. Those are the stories we will never know.


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Patricia A. Smith is a writer and artist (and sometimes both at the same time). A former columnist, restaurant critic and cruise line executive, Smith has lived in London, Greece, Denmark, Hungary, Egypt, Costa Rica and France. She returned (more...)
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