‘Tis I, I must be sorry,

With hands and feet together

Bound fast, must lie in hell.

The scourges and the fetters

And all that thou hast suffered,

All this deserveth now my soul.

A VIEW FROM THE WINDOWS OF THE WORLD

By Duncan Roy

I know this.  I’m gazing over the wide open city.  It’s difficult, ’cause of the thick black smoke, to make out what is going on below.  Obviously there is chaos.  Occasionally a small helicopter will peer at me from a long way off.  I can see men with cameras or men speaking into their hands in which, I presume, are microphones.

Even from this distance I can see every one of the men and women standing still, looking at this building, is appalled.  When I landed here I waved frantically at them but I’m not waving any more.  It seems so pointless.  My situation is very grave.

Reviewed by my peers, in a test designed to articulate our particular strengths, I’ve been told I’m very good at coping in stressful or difficult situations.  Each one of my co-workers, came out strong on my coping skills.  When I last saw them they were, each and every one, silently trading in a bubble of self-absorption.  Calculating and re-calculating the money they would earn for this particular day, September 11th 2001.

It is a beautiful day.  I can see birds on the horizon and wonder if they can fly this high.  I am momentarily jealous they can fly and I cannot.  If I could spread my wings I might take off into the East Village and drink cappuccino.  I would order my coffee ‘too hot to drink’ that’s what my lover would say.  “Too hot to drink, ‘cause nobody likes cold coffee.”

I’ve tried calling my lover but his cell phone is switched off.  I know where he is.  In bed, asleep, unaware.  Unaware there is chaos on the streets, unaware two jet planes have smashed into the place where I work.  He is recovering.  We passed silently in the hall as he came home from a late night and I set off to work.  He smelt toothpaste on my lips as he kissed me briefly.  I asked him if he’d been smoking cigarettes… again.  He smiled; pulling off his shirt and pants, curling into the warm bed I left behind.

I heard him say,  “Come back to bed, you work too hard.”  I pretended like I didn’t hear.

If I were a bird I would fly to the window where he sleeps surrounded by the things we own, in the smells that are ours.  This situation is grave.   He doesn’t love me anymore… he loves crystal meth and nameless men.  We are not tender anymore so, if I were a bird, I would also have another magical authority: I would travel through time and be with the man I first loved.  But I have no wings and this city is so wide.

Are you asleep?  Can you hear me?  If I think hard enough about you can I wake you?  “Jimmy, wake up!” He’s not asleep… he’s unconscious.  When he wakes he’ll still look tired.  Today, however, when he wakes and flicks open the case of his silver cell phone he will hear my voice explaining everything I wanted him to know when I was still alive.

“I wanted you to know… I loved you but I don’t love you any more.  If I had loved you… this morning I may have taken off my suit, climbed back into bed and risked everything, because I loved you.”

I tried to remember the day I met him but curiously the moment had been erased.

“Does this mean because I don’t love you… I am now looking over the city from the upper most floor of the fractured World Trade Center?”

I was frantic to remember.  Did we meet on-line?

“No, of course not.  It’s not your fault”

I can’t remember where we met!  I panic, my breath tight in my lungs.  Help me!  I think it but I can’t say it.  I can’t scream out loud because this is a fucking dream… isn’t it?  When I scream out in a dream my voice is strangled, my mouth cannot open wide enough and call out.  Who would hear me?  Help me!  I sit down by a huge pipe, amongst a forest of antennae.  I can smell the jet fuel; the wind whips around me, an ominous rumble, like an explosion deep in the heart of the building.  I get up again and run the length of the north side until I get to the corner and haul myself onto the edge and look down.

I say out loud, “I’m not scared.”  I wasn’t scared the first time.

The others were petrified, praying, paralysed.  Barney’s mouth, bleeding from the gash on his lip.

I shout out, “Why are you keeping me alive?”

Some of us tried to get up onto the roof but the door was locked.  After the first plane hit Barney told us to stay at our desks, the dislocated voice from the walls told us to stay at our desks.  When June saw the first woman fall out of the smoke a few minutes after the impact, after it happened to the other building. That building was our mirror.  Out of our mirror fell a fair latina woman with no expression on her face, dressed neatly in her white cotton blouse, tumbling through the air.  Arielle said, “Fuck that.” and left the office.  I stood up and looked around.  I expected to follow the women but the men stayed behind.

I was torn, I wanted to leave with the women.  June said to me, “Come on Ed, come with us.  The tower could fall.”

Barney screamed, “Are you kidding?”

I told them I would see them later.

“Don’t let that asshole bully you.” She said.

Now look at me.  I am on the roof and they are drinking cappuccino in the East Village looking in awe with millions of other Americans at the grave situation in which I now find myself, coping not screaming as determined by the company commissioned aptitude tests.

I am sitting demurely on the edge of the roof.  Looking at the batmen and women falling to their deaths, unable to fly.  I thought I should call my mother but then I thought better of it.

A gay son is a dead son and God will punish you for embracing the devil.” she said.

God would and could if he was sought.

I scrolled through the hundred odd names on my cell phone and could not see one name of one person I wanted to share my predicament, every one of the names on my cell were names of men and women with whom I could share a pleasant evening in the city, at the Hampton’s, skiing in Aspen, at bare-chested parties in Miami/Fire Island/white party/black party/Sydney Mardi Gras.  Every one of those names could cast a spell.  But how would I tell anyone of them where I was now?  Oh my God.  They might say “Oh my God.”  Then they would tell me help was on the way but I knew, the moment we felt the impact, help would never come.  And when the floor began to buckle and the smoke was hot and thick and the window smashed – I knew the truth of my predicament.  There was only one person I wanted to call but he was ten years in the ground, scattered in a field behind an English church.

It is a terrible thing to see a man ravaged with cancer.  Sonny died in my arms.  I wish I could call him now.  He would know just the right thing to say.  He would say something like: ‘take a breath’.  He would know it would calm me.  He never knew me get sober, but if he had known me… now he would tell me to: Accept the things I cannot change.

A few weeks after Sonny died I took the train to Axminster, took a taxis to the countryside, carried his ashes into a field behind a tiny medieval church where he had been happy as a child.  ‘Unfettered’ that’s how he described his childhood and I had to look for the word unfettered in the dictionary because I wasn’t quite sure what it meant.  I sat behind the quaintly hipped church for a long time that warm, fragrant July evening.  I sat and watched baby rabbits pull at tufts of clover and tiny bats flutter in and out of the hedgerow.  I looked at the hand drawn map Sonny gave me just before he passed.

I was sitting where x marked the spot.  He gave other instructions.

1.  Do not cry.

2.  Go where the love is.

3.  Delete my number from your cell phone.

4.  Stop drinking and taking drugs.

I tried not to cry.  I went where the love was but could not always identify what form the love took.  I drove back to London and found an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on the Kings Road and never took another drink or drug from that day to this.

It took an age to delete his number because for weeks his number was still operational and if I dialled his number I could hear his voice asking me to leave a message after the beep.  I would call when I missed him most and, knowing no one would ever hear, I’d leave messages pretending he was still alive.  Asking if he was on his way home from the office, would he please pick up some milk or make him promises I knew I could never keep.

Then, one day, the ominous single tone told me his number was gone, along with the cheery greeting.  I cried buckets, talked about it with my AA sponsor and without warning pressed the delete button and moved on.

I wonder how long it will take to delete my name from the cell phone of all the people I know?

The spring after Sonny died I returned to Manhattan. I found a small apartment next to the Russian Baths on E10th Street, between 1st Avenue and Avenue A just a block from the rat infested Tompkin Square Park.  The beautiful home I left behind in The Mission reminded me too much him.  Each well proportioned room now stripped of the life we once shared.  I left the kitchen gadgets Sonny liked to collect and I liked to hide away.  Still in their original boxes: a waffle maker, a small grill, a juicer, a coffee grinder, a magi-mix (unused) and countless other appliances.   I tried donating them to Good Will but they won’t accept electrical items so I sent them to my God Fearing Mother who could never throw anything away.   It made me chuckle.

The marine layer rolled over the city.  I sat in the misty gloom on the floor of our empty apartment.  I was wearing a mid-length, camel top coat with a beige velvet collar.  I’d bought the coat at Harrods in London with Sonny three years before.  We had a plan for our old age that included camel coats as essential accessories.  We would dress like English gentlemen and bowl along Sloane Street in out velvet collars and black lacquered canes.   Before I met Sonny I didn’t know anything about velvet collars, black lacquer, London or Harrods.  I was 20 years old and Sonny was 32.  Good God.  I met him in the zoological gardens in Sydney Australia.  He was staring at a huge cobweb strung between two trees.  The scribble of a Huntsman spider cobweb had captivated Sonny.

It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed him.

We had seen him laying in the sun with his friends at Tamarama, the gay beach.  My friends stared at him from under their dark glasses.  ‘Lordy, that boy is fine.’  Justin said and rolled over to stare at me.  Justin’s body all glistening and gay.  ‘He is fine.’  It was true.  Justin jabbed his cigarette into the sand.  ‘He could have any one of us.’  He sneered.

I hadn’t left the USA before.  It was my first year of out gayness.  Justin and his friends adopted me and insisted I come with them to the Sydney Mardi Gras.  Justin called it a ‘gathering of the clans’.  He sat in the Big Cup and painted a picture of gay paradise.  “Men hold hands on the street.”  When we got there the paradise he promised was true.

Every morning I got up early, even after a late or heavy night, I couldn’t bear missing out on anything… ever.  Justin, who shared my room but not my bed, would groan and tell me that at his age (26) getting up at that time (8am) was illegal.  I went every day, first thing, to City Gym and worked out.  I alternated body parts and split sets. Occasionally there was an attractive man in the steam room and if I was in the mood I might let him suck my cock or I his.  I would have breakfast at the Dov café in Darlinghurst opposite the red sand stone prison then take the 21 bus to Bronte, have a fruit smoothie in The Bogie Hole then walk the half-mile along the cliffs to the gay beach at Tamarama.   All afternoon I would lie in the sun with my friends or loll in the surf.

We had come for the big event, the gay and lesbian parade and the huge gay party afterwards.  Occasionally, instead of my gym routine, I explored the polite city of Sydney.   After looking at aboriginal art in the New South Wales Art gallery I headed off toward the Sydney Opera House by way of Lady Macquarie’s Park.  It was only 10.30 but already it was fiercely hot and I was ducking in and out of the shade to avoid burning myself.  On the pavement ahead I saw the confident man from the beach Justin said could have anyone he wanted.  He was wearing a well-cut pair of shorts, a white cotton vest and he was carrying a straw hat with a wide brim.

He turned, looked at me and said,  “Hello mister Tamarama.”  He was British.  “You thought I was American?  That’s ok… I live in New York.  I look like an American and my teeth are good like an American.”  He smiled.

I stood silently and listened to him think all those things about his teeth as clearly as if he were saying them.  No, this is absurd!  I challenged him, as he stood looking over at me: without opening my lips I said,  “Come here and kiss me.”

I told him to kiss me in my thoughts, come here and kiss me… and he did.  Just like that.  He kissed me under the cobweb and for ten years I never kissed another man.  I never let another man make love to me.  I looked into his face every day and mapped it so that if I never saw it again I would remember what he looked like… indelibly… forever.

Who couldn’t love a man with raven black hair and navy blue eyes?

Over 20 thousand people work in both the twin towers.  If you could take off all the clothes of every man and every woman who worked in the twin towers and made piles of every item: pants, skirts, spectacles how large would those piles be?

This morning, after I left our apartment, I walked to the 7am AA Meeting on Christopher Street.  ‘A splendid September day’, that’s how they described it on the radio.  Barney had made it abundantly clear we had a great deal of work to do so I left before the serenity prayer, which I never usually.  You know, they always say, wagging their AA fingers “if you put anything before the rooms of AA you’ll lose it’.  (I am losing it).

At the South Tower the elevators were crammed and as usual I felt sick as we elevated.  I never stopped feeling a small amount of sickness as we catapulted onto the 101st floor listening to a synthesised version of ‘Here Comes The Sun’.  On my floor the receptionist ignored me and continued looking at a gossip magazine containing multiple images of the same celebrity doing the same thing.   I poured myself a decaf and added half and half.  I sat at my desk.  June handed me a stack of papers and sucked sugar off the back of her thumb from the doughnut she had just finished eating.

“Did you tell him?” she asked.  I shook my head.  She wants me to tell my lover I don’t love him any more.

“I am going to buy the new Bob Dylan record at lunch from J and R.”  I reply.

She looks at me steadfastly.  “Bob Dylan?  What’s he goner do?  He’s not going to help yaw.”

Tim, Lyle, Jason, Mackie, Mickey, Blue and Barney sat and checked over the London figures and then the Japanese.  Bob Dylan… he’s not going to help yaw.  At 8.46 all of us heard a huge explosion.  “Holy Cow! What was that?”   Jason called out.   We ran to the window.  The impact on the other side of the north tower at about the 90th floor, a few floors higher than us.  We heard it and felt it and we could see above us a great deal of smoke.  After a few minutes Barney told us to go back to work.  Nobody took any notice.  He was immediately hysterical.  He wasn’t used to being ignored.

There was a huge amount of chatter in the room as we very quickly divined what had happened.  It must have been an aeroplane.  Arielle had heard it.  An aeroplane?  How could that have happened?  Lyle and Mackie called their wives and told them what was going on.  There voices were matter of fact, I guess they were disguising their fear.  Mackie said there had been an explosion on world trade one… the other building.  Eventually the men returned to their workstations but the women, June, Laura, Ami and Arielle kept staring at the smoke.

Then June said,  “I’m getting out of here.  That building could fall on us.”

Barney screamed at them to sit down.  Arielle gave him the finger and grabbed her coat and keys and left the office.  Barney called out to her, “You’re fired! All of you!”

Ami said, “Fire us all… we could die in here.”

The dislocated voice said,  ‘Go back to your desks, there’s nothing to fear.’  Barney looked very pleased with himself and the men obediently sat down because the dislocated voice said so.

June hesitated then said,  “Fuck that.”  and left the office, the remaining women followed.

“Come on Ed, don’t let that asshole bully you.”  June pulled at my lapel.

I smiled and told June I would see her tomorrow.

Barney screamed, “You won’t see her tomorrow… she’s fired.”

June said, “See you tomorrow boys, unless that thing comes crashing down.”

I sigh and diligently set to work.  Mackie calls his wife as the dislocated voice repeats its reassurance everything in our building is just fine.  This time Mackie wasn’t so sure, I heard him tell her it felt bad… it looks horrible.  ‘It’s secure here.’  Lyle reassured his wife.  Barney told him angrily to get off the fucking phone and get back to work.  Mackie’s wife must have heard Barney screaming and I wonder what she’s thinking now?

I wondered if I hadn’t made the wrong choice to stay in this office, not now not forever. At nine o’clock my AA friend Michael L called to ask if I was ok.  I told him I was in the South Tower and I was fine.  He confirmed what the others were saying, a plane crashed into the east side of the North Tower.  He was watching TV.  I told him Barney wouldn’t let us watch TV.  Michael said, ‘Oh, that’s a little mean-spirited.’ Which, if you knew Michael L, was like him calling Barney an asshole.  We were fairly new AA friends, he seemed incredibly calm and spiritual.  He reminded me of Sonny.  Then he said, “Oh my God.”  And the line went dead.

I felt the impact very clearly, we began to shudder and sway.  The drywall fractured, sighing dust over us.  We looked at one another nervously, stood up simultaneously, running to the window.  A vast plume of black smoke obscured our view.

I started getting Blackberry messages confirming what we already knew, a plane hit the South Tower.  Below us.  I thought, this is the beginning of the end of my life.  A thought I had many years before.  Sitting in our empty San Francisco apartment where we spent so much of our ‘married’ life.  It seemed impossible we would never share a moment together ever again and every passing day would be a different sort of day because he was not there.  As I hauled myself off the floor I glimpsed thick folded paper poking between the skirting and the bare boards.  Investigating, I pulled out an envelope, an unopened letter addressed to me.   I did not open it immediately as it occurred to me perhaps Sonny, whose unmistakable writing it was, intended me never to have seen it… then again, why didn’t he simply destroy it?   So, I tore it open and read:

Darling Ed, I knew one day you would read this and I would be already gone.  How did I know? I was sitting here in our beautiful home, so full of love and friendship and consolation and decided to write a letter you would find once our home is truly dismantled.  I know when we leave this place it will be you who will be the last to leave.

So, my darling, I wanted you to know when I met you I had, by then, let so many mister rights pass me by.  Before we met, you have no idea how incomplete I had been, what terrors I had suffered before I met you.  I was so bored before I met you… yet I had no idea I was bored or incomplete before I met you.  I thought life was perfect and then I met you and every day was a delight. I stepped out of the shadows and into your light.  Inspired by your unconditional love.  What a journey we have had!

I lay the letter down for a moment and remembered it all for myself.  We traveled the world either because we had to for Sonny’s job or because we loved to explore.   Together, if either one of us missed a trick the other would reveal it.  I looked back at the neat blue ink and continued to read.  Together.

I know one day you will find another man.  You’re so young.  Let him treat you well.  Let your heart sing.  Remember, life seldom delivers as we expect it.  It is simultaneously full of joy and love and terrors and iniquity.  We enjoyed a rare paradise and I want you to hear me my darling when I tell you whatever you may endure, good and bad, I will be there for you.  I will be there to help you through your bravest and darkest moments.   If you need me all you have to do is call my name and I will be there for you.

I love you… I have always loved you.

Sonny

It was the strangest thing.  The letter was unusually melodramatic.  I tucked it back into the envelope and into my breast pocket.  When I settled into my apartment in New York I added it to all the other letters from Sonny I kept locked away in a green leather box.

Mackie called his wife immediately and let her know what had happened.  “We’ve been hit.”  he cried.  My cell rang, it was June… she was crying.  June had seen what happened.  All of the city, anyone with a television all over the world had just seen the place where I work get hit in the neck by a jet liner… a jet plane full of people.  God, grant me the serenity.  I couldn’t really hear what June was saying because there was a great deal of noise around her.  People wailing and screaming very loudly.

Oh my God!

I told her I thought we were probably trapped and we would search for a way out.  I told her there were four staircases and perhaps one of them would be available for us.  June listened to me and I realized she was softly crying.  She knew that there was no way out.

Several of us tried to find a way… in the shortest time we ran down stairs but the smoke got too thick and then we ran up to see if we could be evacuated from the roof.  The heavy metal door to the roof was locked.  Lyle banged on it several times in sheer frustration, Barney pushed passed him and said, “Let me try.’  His abrasive voice infuriating Lyle.  Lyle shouted, “Let me try?” he turned on Barney.

“This is your fuckin’ fault you bastard… this is your fault!  Sit down, work harder!”

The others looked menacingly at him and fearing for his life he stepped backwards.

Barney whispered, “I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.”

“Sorry?”  Mackie said.  “My wife and kids are gonna be sorry.”  And even though he was calm Mackie took a step toward Barney and punched him hard in the face.  Barney’s lip was badly cut and blood dripped onto his crisp white shirt.

“Stop it!   For fuck sake stop it.”   Blue and Tim separated the two men and we all just stopped and looked at each other in silence, knowing we were past recrimination.  “We’re in this together.” So, with immediate calm and resignation there in the stair well we were as one.  I took Mackie by the elbow and lead him away.  The others followed.

We made our way through the thickening, acrid smoke to another office on an unfamiliar floor.  I thought twice about walking into a strange office on an unfamiliar floor.   As if we were intruding, a sense of propriety overwhelmed me.  This was someone else’s reception, someone else’s stack of magazines to be read by someone else’s clients.  Were these people our competitors only an hour ago?  Like visitors uninvited into someone else’s office we did not meet with hostile cries but with other trapped, desperate, dusty people who were either silent or crying or having quiet, serious conversations on the telephone with loved ones.  I found a bottle of water and drank it.  My phone vibrating in my pocket.  There was no one on the ground who could save me, I silenced my cell.  42 missed calls. Listening to anyone right now, all those floors below, would simply add to my distress.

‘Who did this to us?’  One man cried out.  It wasn’t a question I wanted answered.

There was a woman screaming, “Palestinians!  I know it!  Suicide bombers!”

The others looked at her benignly, they knew theirs was not to reason why.  Bleak, this situation is bleak.

A young African-American man joined us, covered in dust.  Tears carved through the white dust into his black skin.  His lips, the colour of black cherries.  He told us there was no way out.  A few people had made it past the point of impact but the heat and smoke were intolerable.  He told us the floors below us were buckling, the floors below were collapsing.  He said.  I don’t want to be burned to death.  Accept the things I cannot change.  One of the terrified women agreed with him and they attempted to open one of the windows.  We watched as the young black man vainly kicked at the toughened glass.  His limbs like jelly, his suit ripped, his eyes wild.  The woman joined in and finally they used a computer console to break the glass, charging it like something medieval.  The glass smashed, the console disappeared into the air outside and a strong cool wind filled the unfamiliar office, important papers, precious less than an hour ago, blew from unoccupied desks, desks never ever to be occupied again.

The fresh air from the broken window transported me to a fantasy Sonny and I had shared of walking a dog we never owned on the long, empty, off-season beach at Fire Island.

The cold, fresh air was a wonderful relief.  I had momentarily closed my eyes, remembering the surf.  When I opened them the young black man stood on the edge of the broken window, facing us… looking at us.  He smiled and said very quietly the word, “Concentrate.”

He fell backwards from the 98th floor.  Tim, Lyle and Mackie stifled their tears.  Barney sat on the floor, I looked out after him.  Head first the boy sailed downward.  At first he looked serene but at about the 50th floor he began to struggle in the air… I pulled my head in.  I was sure the flesh they found was struggling still.  I knew instinctively his choice had been correct.  Burn to death?  It’s a terrible way to die.

The others looked back at me silently.  Like a painting by Gericault in the Louvre: The Raft of the Medusa, a gruesome shipwreck.  Sonny explained Gericault’s difficulty.  Could the artist choose from the drama of the narrative a single, significant, and pictorially effective moment.   The others were staring back at me.  This was the single, significant, pictorially effective moment.  Another two fell from the open window.  I tried seeking comfort from a prayer at Sonny’s funeral:

Be near me Lord, when dying
, Part not from me
, And to my succour come flying
 Lord, and set me free
, And when my heart must languish
 In death’s last awful throe
, Release me from my anguish
, By your own pain and woe.

The young black boys flying suicide prompted another flurry of wild and desperate suggestions, alternative ways we could save ourselves.  Is there something we can use as a parachute?  Can we climb down the face of the building?  There must be another way.  We were dreaming we were spider-man, super-man or just anyone who wouldn’t be us trapped in a burning building with no hope of escape.  The smoke grew thicker.  The building groaned, steel tendons snapping, glass breaking, an unidentified metallic stench filled the office.  More windows smashed, more people arrived, faceless desperate men and women.  No names.  Connected in death.  One woman severely burned, the smell of her burned skin made Mackie heave.

Crowding around the broken glass.  Our views obscured by black smoke.  Tantalised by the sound of helicopters.  Three women, one by one threw themselves out of separate windows.  They were quick and efficient.

“I have sleeping pills,” the blonde woman said, “How long will they take to work?”

She pulls out her bag and opens the tub of sleeping pills.   We watch her empty the black and red capsules into the palm of her hand and like squirming bugs she swallows them.

In death’s last awful throe. Release me from my anguish. By your own pain and woe.

The men I worked with, unable to call their wives, their fathers and Mothers, best friends and buddies.  Their cell phones dead, their blackberry’s powerless.  We stood together, defeated.  Blue said he wanted to jump.  His blonde hair matted on his forehead.  “I don’t want to burn alive in this inferno.”  Blue laid his head on my chest like a small child, like the child he was leaving behind.  I held him close to me in my arms reminding me of another dying man in another place in another time.  The men from our office gathered together.  We stood in a strange intimate shambles on the carpet, Lyle held out his hand and I took it.  “It’s time isn’t it?” he said.  “This is our time.”  We nodded our sad, resigned heads.  After a moments further agreement we decided to jump together, all 6 of us who had worked happily and unhappily for five years in that building.

Those who wanted found quiet corners and prayed.  Occasionally a yelp of pain would puncture the human silence.  The roar below becoming more evident and with no one to call I collected them one by one until we were together for the last time.

I said to Barney, “I want you to know… I forgive you.  We all know you behaved very badly but I can’t not forgive you.”  Barney nodded silently.  The others hugged and said their farewells.  We held hands in a circle and even though it was the most serious and morbid moment in any of our lives when we jumped we were smiling.  This was our choice not to die in hellish flames.

Tim, fat tears on his face, fell away first with Mackie holding his right hand, Blue on his left.  I held onto Barney and Lyle.  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The circle complete.  The courage to change the things I can.  Barney kept quiet, he looked like a guilty child.  The wisdom to know the difference. We fell in an organized formation.  We started falling, falling so fast my jacket filled full of air and for a moment I thought my fall was slowing.  My heart began to race.  I was only now beginning to panic; all of my worst child hood nightmares came upon me.  Then my fingers were snatched by the violent updraught out of Barney’s hand.  I looked, momentarily, into his face.  He flailed toward me trying to catch hold of me.  My jacket caught in the violent wind and I began tumbling, separated from them all, helpless… alone.  God, grant me the serenity!

One hundred and fifty miles an hour, only 4 seconds had passed and I was yanked away from my friends… and then it happened.  A miracle began to happen around me.  No more believable nor spectacular than a plaster Mother of Christ crying real tears, or the wounds of Christ bleeding real blood.  My back arched.  My lungs filled with cold, gasping air.

My lips trembling I gathered all of my strength and screamed, “Help me Sonny!  Help me.  I am not at peace!”

I must have passed out for half a second because when I regained my conscience I felt safe.  As I relaxed and began to call his name I fell away from myself or rather my body fell away from me.  Accepting the things I cannot change.  Help me Sonny.  Out of the thickening smoke I could see his beautiful face.  The face I had mapped was all about me.  He warmed the cold air and instead of falling I was suspended then diving though water, in warm clear water.  Treading the warm, clear water expectantly.  I began to soar upwards, slowly at first then faster, as fast as I fell I now forced my way skyward, like Superman.  I thought, this is how Superman would do it.  His hands outstretched, away from disaster.

At that moment I knew two things:  this was indeed, unquestionably my time to die but not falling to my death, flesh on the sidewalk, my body dashed against the marble plaza.  You see, he would never let that happen to me, would you Sonny?

“Be quiet… be still,”  he whispered.  “Be quiet and still and say your prayers.”

I heard him as if he were still wrapped around me whispering into my ear.  I could feel him by me.  He was working very hard to save me pulling me upwards.  Where were we going?  Where was he taking me?  Now I was higher than both the burning towers. He was holding me so tight but I sensed he could only do so much… his limit had been reached.  I heard these words:  Prepare yourself for the truth. It was another harsh voice.  Clearly and definitely in my ear.  I could not look behind me to see who said this.  All I was certain, it was not Sonny.  Then I began to sink, sinking through treacle, back toward the towers… the North tower.  I sank onto the roof of the North Tower.  Sonny had carried me upward through the grinning jumpers because he loved me so and this was the promise he made that nothing bad would ever happen to me but this was God’s time and he had other plans.  Now look, instead of falling or flying I was headed down toward the roof of the other tower, the tower that had been hit first.

And as fast as my hope for a continuing life had been so I knew my death was imminent, as imminent as it had been yesterday and the day before that… and that was that.

Before the miracle I was only a few seconds from death, a heap of steaming flesh on the sidewalk, a charred and boiling bag of meat and juice.  Maybe I had already fallen to my death?  Perhaps I was already dead and this was merely the out-of-body experience I had always imagined at the moment I would die?  The dream some of us had falling to our deaths and waking in a cold sweat, once again interrupted… but this time by another more terrible truth.  I was alive!  Kept alive by extraordinary forces… by Sonny.

I had a dream years before,  including images of my falling violently from a motorcycle on a deserted country road in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Watching from a place above the accident police officers scoop my decapitated head into a black plastic bag.  I know my injuries are so catastrophic no amount of self will would let me live ever again.   I know the end is soon upon me.  And so it is I no longer scream at the helicopters to save me because I am not entirely sure I exist.

I watch the other building fall and know my destiny.

Sonny taught me how to forgive my mother and tell her so.  I forgive you, who ever did this to me and thousands like me.  I forgive you.  I have no option or go to my grave with resentment in my heart and hatred in my soul and that’s no good way to die.  That’s how my grand mother died, how my mother will die.  Not me.  Sonny taught me to forgive the world.

I feel the whole building begin to shudder.  I lay on the roof and pressed my ear against the black, soft tar surface and I could hear, deep inside the building the groaning, creaking, breaking structure and knew instinctively this was the end.  God, grant me the serenity.  I lay on my back facing the blue September sky and the floor began to fall.  Like an aeroplane sinking briefly in turbulent air.  Accept the things I cannot change. I held onto my phone.  I am sinking away from the blue and into the black.  Perhaps I can survive this?  Perhaps there will be another miracle.  I can feel the fingers of my left hand tangle in something and I knew that they had been torn away.  I can survive without my fingers, right?  Without my arm?  Many people live their whole lives without limbs.  Perhaps I can survive this?  I felt a sharp and uncomfortable pain in my shin and knew that it had been snapped.  I am fragmenting.   My hip grazing against something and then slammed into another.  I feel the heat.  I want to open my eyes but I daren’t.  If I survive this I don’t want to be blind.  I want to call Sonny.  I lift the phone to my ear and I can hear the phone ringing.  Come on Sonny, let me hear your voice.  After a few seconds someone answers.

“Ed?  Is that you?”

“Sonny!  You’re there!”

“I’m waiting for you Ed.  Just a few more moments and I’ll be waiting for you.”