MEMENTO

MEMENTO

From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Memento

“I want to buy something in New York,” my friend David says, as we drive through the Lincoln Tunnel to our favorite place on earth. “You know, take something away, a memento.” This is our first trip to Manhattan since September 11.

We park where I used to live, on Thomson Street and shop at the first place we see.

“How about this?” I say, holding up a trinket.

“No, it just doesn’t feel right,” he answers.

He buys some T-shirts for his kids, I give in to my favorite jewelry vendor, but his special memento is not found.

We walk toward Ground Zero, soon realizing that the hundred copies of “Dust,” a piece he wrote to share with rescue workers, is still in the car, which is now in the bowels of a parking garage.

As we near the site, there is uncharacteristic silence and no traffic, except for the occasional shriek of an emergency vehicle. Police stand at barricades looking exhausted and sad. Residents of the attacked area straggle out from the empty blocks dragging suitcases, carrying stuffed animals, wearing devastated expressions.

We stroll in silence, then stop for a drink in a corner pub and sit like we are part of a window display, watching people, talking, the lights of Ground Zero glowing in the distance.

“I didn’t get my memento,” he says with sadness.

On our final journey of the day, we pass the parking garage and see our car, front row center. The folder holding his piece, Dust, beckons us from the back window. We collect his thoughts, his feelings, his words, and take them with us to hand out as we pay tribute at Washington Square Park.

We stick some under candles; wax sealing them to the ground, blurring the ink. We hand them to strangers who share stories of loved ones lost in terrorist attacks years before. We give one to a solemn state trooper from Syracuse, New York, and stand silent, listening to him tell stories of what the loss of the last two weeks means to him. We give one to a teacher from the Bronx and help him hang a long banner done by eighth graders who watched the towers burning from their school windows across the river. His friend helps us seal one to hang on the chain-link gravestone. We slip one into the crippled hands of a woman, sitting in her wheelchair in the dark, listening to the music of mourners. We give them to the police, and to gay men walking arm in arm, and to newlyweds, and to huge neckless bouncers at clubs. As we leave the city we pass them through the windows to homeless and confused and forlorn faces curbside. We hand out his words-on-paper and hugs and support until we are too exhausted to go on.

Riding home we tell shared stories and recall the faces, the touches. He expresses despair, then resignation over not getting a memento to mark the day. He didn’t buy a shirt, or a picture for the wall, or a ring to wear, but he has his memento.

You will hear it in the stories he writes. You will see it when he looks at a child. You will feel it in his touch. His memento won’t wear out, or fade, or tarnish. He will wear it, hanging heavy in his heart, polished and ready to share.

Mary Sue Mooney

Dust

A few Fridays back I was in the car listening to the radio. A member of the scientific community, when asked what constitutes the dust we find on our tabletops and under our beds, responded with an answer that has been swirling in my mind. “Bits of everything.” he said, “fragments of tree trunks and manmade objects, even dinosaur bones. Anything might be in that dust, from the beginning of time.”

I’ve been thinking about this when I dust or see the tiny particles float through a ray of light coming in my kitchen window. The entire history of the universe is under my bed. The thought made me smile, until last week. To my horror, I watched the Twin Towers turn to dust across my television screen. Floor by floor they collapsed onto each other after two jets and their thousands of gallons of fuel ignited the catastrophe. There were flames and screams and falling debris and sirens and clouds and clouds of dust. People ran up the avenues and down the streets being chased by mountains of billowing dark dust. It rushed into open windows and around corners, down stairwells and into subways. It snuck into pockets and clung to shoulders and the linings of nasal passages. It balanced on electric wires and spiraled up into the wind, which carried it away.

Under my bed, and yours, within the collage of time is a new ingredient. I don’t mind the dinosaur bones. They were over and done long ago. I have no fear of Tyrannosaurus Rex jumping out from a dark corner when my back is turned. But this new dust is different. It holds the paperwork and electronics of a financial capital, tons of steel and glass, copper wire and concrete, infinitesimal shreds of thousands of lives and the potent, microscopic seed of hate.

The dust lays heavy these days. It covers up patterns and bright colors. It clouds the vision. So much is in the air. I blink it away with tears that keep coming and coming again. If ever there was a time to see clearly, it is now. Next to my bed, on my knees, in absolute stillness, it came to me. Dust needs to settle before it can be swept.

David C. Page

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