11 September 2015

The Messenger Who Didn't Come Back

I'm sure I don't have to tell you what happened fourteen years ago today.

Here in New York, it seems that almost everyone knows someone who was touched by the events of that day.  If we don't know someone who's alive today because he didn't go to work-- or whose mother, father, brother, sister, lover or friend went to work and never came back-- we know someone who's somehow connected to such a person.

Before the Towers fell, they were magnets that pulled in and propelled hundreds of messengers every day.  For over a year, I was one of them.  I, and they, picked up letters, contracts, invoices, receipts, lease agreements, work orders, certifications, resumes and other testaments to the daily fugue of moments lived in anticipation of returning, again, to the sanctum of the familiar.

Most people go to work every day and expect to return home safely.  Among the exceptions are firefighters, police officers and other first responders:  All of them know, or know of, someone who went to work one day and never made it home.  Most lawyers or accountants cannot say that.  Nor, for that matter can most bike messengers:  Even with the crazy drivers hurtling through the maze of city streets, most who pedal through the urban jungle can expect to make it through the day intact.

One of the reasons, I believe, why the events of 11 September 2001 left so many people in various states of shock and grief is that it was one of those rare occassions on which so many people who expect--or are expected--to be home at the end of the day didn't make it.  In other words, it's one of the few times so many people could truly understand what it's like to live with, and love, a first responder who, on any given day or night, might not come home again.

The families and loved ones of those who didn't make it back have their own mementos and monuments: photos and the like.  And there are also those tactile but mute testimonies to those whose fates we may never know--like the messenger who was riding this bike when making a delivery to Cantor Fitzgerald or some other organization in the World Trade Center:

Photo by Anthony Catalano

This bike was still parked by St. Paul's Chapel a month after the Towers fell.  The rear of it faces Church Street, directly across from the east side of the World Trade Center site.   It seems that family and friends turned it into an impromptu memorial for the messenger, who was never seen or heard from after parking it. 

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