I shared the emotion of most Americans when the breaking news echoed into my Kings Park kitchen last night– jubilation. I was thrilled to hear that the architect of the murderous hate-filled rampage that forever changed this great nation was dead. The notorious Islamic terrorist Osama Bin Laden was dead at last.
This was a seminal moment in our country’s history, glued to my television, I watched Americans celebrating at Ground Zero, in Shanksville Pennsylvania, on college campuses, in our nation’s capital and the epicenter of the world - Times Square. Crowds were gathering around the country and they were chanting “U.S.A.”, some were singing our national anthem and others America the Beautiful. Americans were celebrating the death of a Hitler’esque demon who exposed the depth of hatred Muslim extremists have for America, our people and our way of life.
However, today elicits a different emotion, soft quiet tears have been my constant companion all day – you see today I am not thinking like a journalist or an American citizen – today I am just Aunt Moe and my heart is with my nephew and my niece, my precious Jake and Julia. Their dad Timmy was a New York City firefighter and like 342 of his brothers, Timmy did not return from work on 9/11. Jake was only 3 and Julia was only about 34 days old when their father gave his life that hellish day.
Jake and Julia didn’t come into our very large and loving Irish family until they were six and three, when my younger brother fell in love with their beautiful mother and with them. Since that time, the kids have made several pilgrimages a year to Kings Park for overnight visits and some type of great adventure. Mornings always consist of chocolate chip pancakes and long walks at the Bluff where they collect countless shells and rocks for me. I keep them all.
Jake is 13 now and all boy, a great athlete like his late father, he is introspective, does well at school and has a contagious smile. He loves music, has an artsy side to him and he is the easiest child to love, he is enormously loving and gives the best hugs. However, a bit of a daredevil, Jake makes his Aunt Moe very nervous when he swings wildly behind our boat as he tubes off Short Beach in the summer.
Julia is nine going on 19; she’s into fashion, hip-hop dancing and is one mean softball player. She’s never taken a bad picture, not one in her whole life. Extremely articulate and confident, we are all convinced she will run a giant corporation someday. Collectively and jokingly, we pity her future boyfriends and any and all who will work for her. She is presently tirelessly lobbying her parents for a cell phone! An old soul – our little Julia is simply precious.
My sister-in-law used to keep the kids out of school on 9/11 and take them to a hotel so they would not be exposed to the pervasive national sadness depicted in the media and they could mourn privately as a family. But Jake and Julia are older now and last year they visited their father’s Maspeth firehouse on 9/11 and played with other children just like them – the children of 9/11.
All day my heart ached as I thought of my Jake and Julia sitting in a classroom –eating lunch with their friends or walking in the hallway of their school – are the kids and teachers talking about it? How does Osama Bin Laden’s death make them feel? Are they sad – are they confused – are they thinking of Timmy?
I wish Mammaroneck was closer to Kings Park – I would pick them up – I would make them chocolate chip pancakes and we could go down to the Bluff and find cool rocks. I want to hold them and I want to kiss their beautiful faces and tell them everything is going to be OK but it’s not going to be OK – Osama Bin Laden’s death is not the end of this madness.