Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ten days before

The train came rumbling into the station, full of passengers making their way into the city for the holiday weekend.

It was as laid-back as New York City can ever possibly be, beautiful, not a cloud to be found. We alighted and walked in the general direction of the Empire State Building. I stopped at a newsstand long enough to get a morning edition of the Times.

We took our time at the Manhattan landmark, joking about finding Meg Ryan up on the roof. For a long while, we gazed southward into Lower Manhattan at those expansive World Trade Center towers. What a sight.

After awhile, we left, and made our way up to Times Square, where we found lunch and then headed for the small Broadway theater that was our ultimate destination. They weren't letting anyone inside yet, so we milled around on the sidewalk.

A few minutes later, up pulled an SUV with tinted windows. A man alighted from the car, familiar, friendly. He didn't have his famous mustache, but it was indeed Magnum, p.i. himself, Tom Selleck.

He shook hands, or signed autographs for, or took pictures with everyone who wanted something. I shook his hand, but couldn't think of one darn word to say.

We enjoyed his play, a revival of Herb Gardner's "A Thousand Clowns," very much. Phil Donahue was even in the audience.

After it ended, we made our way to Grand Central, hunting for the train that would take us back to Connecticut.

It was a day to remember, something you tell your kids about years later, a first visit to New York City.

The date was Sept. 1, 2001.

The February following the 9/11 attacks, I returned to New York. We walked down to Ground Zero. All of the normal cacophony of the city was hushed at that hallowed ground. Nobody said a word; it was very much like being at a funeral.

I read the graffiti ("Osama: Kiss My Ass") and was moved by the posters that hung here and there, people still searching for missing loved ones.

Bookends of two different trips, the events between which changed the world. Here's hoping we never forget what happened that hauntingly beautiful Tuesday morning -- especially the innocents who gave the last full measure of devotion in a war they didn't yet know they were fighting.

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