I remember exactly where I was and how I heard the nightmarish news. Just like countless Americans and world citizens who believe brotherhood and generosity are more powerful than fear and aggression. And like the fashionable hashtag indicates, I will never forget.
I also will never forget September 11, 2012, eleven years after THE Nine Eleven. I was on my lunch break at work in Santa Monica, California. I was overlooking the bluffs in Palisades Park while writing my best man’s speech for my best friend and groom-to-be. I had had a dull headache for five days. Not bad enough to send me to the doctor, but painful enough to warrant gulping down ibuprofen a few times a day to help ease the pain.
As my lunch break drew to a close and I walked back to the office, I stopped to watch a grounds crew work as they cut down a dying palm tree. Now they don’t just chop this tree down from the base and yell, “TIMBERRRR!” like they do in children’s books. They actually cut off the top of tree off first; the head. So I stood and watched while they basically be*eaded the tree. I found it slightly amusing so I took my iPhone out of my pocket and snapped a photo of this reenactment of medieval homicide.
The moment I tapped the screen to snap the photo, my dull headache became a searing pain that rushed from the back of my neck through my temples into my eyes and overwhelmed my consciousness. My vision burst into a blurry, bokeh-filled, brume of water colors and optical confusion. I could only see a pinhole of clear visual data. I bent over at the waist, put my hands on my knees, and groaned out loud due to the fire moshing in my head and neck. I was able to shuffle to a nearby park bench; one that I have sat on multiple times previously to admire the beauty of the West Coast Ocean. The view was not so pacific this time.
My thoughts raced. What is this? What is happening to me? I tried to unlock my iPhone to call for help, but my vision was so slippery, I couldn’t navigate the screen to find the phone app. I attempted to use Siri, but she couldn’t decipher my instructions over the buzzing saw cutting down the palm tree behind me. The fire in my head was scorching. Passersby continued on their way as I sat contemplating asking for help. But I didn’t want to interfere – I didn’t want to interrupt anyone’s day. Though quickly, I recognized it was my only option.
How do you ask someone for help when you can barely make out what they look like or see their demeanor, if they have kindness in their faces? If the eyes are the gateway to the soul, mine were sabotaging any potential for help. But I needed help. So I chose a person with the one feature recognizable through my blurry visual haze: A Philadelphia Phillies hat. It wasn’t my beloved Red Sox, but at least it wasn’t the Yankees. I struggled to my feet to find out if the City of Brotherly Love deserved its nickname.