It's 4:45 AM and I'm sitting at my kitchen counter pouring through material on collective memory and spontaneous shrines in my attempt to get all the theory that I need for my thesis. In one particular book, I read this passage and my heart clenched:
"After September 11, by the neighborhood handball court on 207th and Seaman Ave, friend of Brian Monaghan waited for four days and nights for Brian to come home. Eventually, Ray Martinez and Mick Fitzgerald lit a candle on the street, neighbors began to contribute objects and poems, and the street corner became a place for people to gather. Eventually, a discarded bookcase was found to hold the objects. Overflowing with messages and memorial objects, a shrine evolved over four months, encompassing a good portion of a city block."
I went to elementary school with Brian. We used to ride the bus home from school together. I live seven blocks away from where the shrine was erected at the corner of Inwood Hill Park. I used to pass it every afternoon when my mom would pick me up from high school. And every afternoon, the candles were burning for him. I was 15 in 2001. Brian could not have been more than 20 when he died, if that.
When I read that passage, I remembered his mom Jeanie and how nice she was. Brian, admittedly, was a bit of an ass when we were kids, and I never saw him again after I graduated. But I knew him. And his mom, and his sister. I saw that shrine everyday when I came home from school. They even renamed the cross street for him in his honor. And here it was - Brian's shrine - in a book for my thesis project. I just started crying and I couldn't stop for five minutes.
Life is so precious. And no matter how much time passes, or how much material I read on 9-11, or what sorts of horrible things I hear from survivors who were there on that day, it never gets easier. I still get that sickening clench in my chest and the pricking of tears in my eyes. It never goes away.