I Remember Bruce Chappy Boehmn
For several years now, a group of bloggers have banded together to write remembrances of September 11th victims for the 2996 project. And as the years pass, I suppose it is easier to forget and maybe some people want to. I as well as others, however, have promised never to forget. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed that day through no fault of their own – simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
This year, I remember Bruce. Affectionately known as Chappy – although I couldn’t find out how or why he got his nickname – you’ve got to like a guy named Chappy, don’t you?
Bruce was one of many Cantor Fitzgerald employees who did not survive the attacks. He was strong, athletic and handsome. From all accounts a great father, husband and friend. Even though he was a financial broker for a prestigious firm, he was also a physical fitness advocate who regularly swam, biked and competed in marathons and triatholons.
He loved the ocean and often told his wife, Irene “The beach is my church.” He shared his love of the ocean with his daughters Brittany and Stacey. Like their father, they went on to be lifeguards, helping others, and looking out for people in trouble. And I’m sure, making him proud.
Chappy loved Hofstra University’s football, basketball and lacrosse teams, and attended most home games. In short, it seems that he was a great guy, with a lovely family and a love for life. Sadly, he was taken from his family on the day of his 19th wedding anniversary.
Rather than trying to speak for his family I will instead offer his wife’s words:
“The pain is there every single day. Time does not heal. You learn to kind of put your grief in your back pocket and carry it along with you. My husband is on my mind 24 hours a day. I don’t think that will ever go away and that’s good. I have memories of him. They’re not sad memories. We talk about him all the time. We laugh about the quirky things he would do. He would be happy that we’re happy I had 19 wonderful years. As sad as it is, at least I have that. Those memories will never go away.”
I cannot know what was in Chappy’s mind when he went into work that day or his last thoughts. Nor can I know what the loss of this man in his family’s and friend’s lives has meant. I can only say that the world is a little less happy because he is missing from it. And maybe someday when you’re at the beach you might catch a glint of something special, the spirit of a man who loved that vast expanse of water and whose sparkle reflects on aquamarine waves.
With honor and respect,
Carry the vigil
stand the watch
you wear the
wings of angels
Keep the torch burning
despite the time passing
preserve our memories
don’t let us forget
Keep the song going
remind us the words
Never give in
Never give up
dedicated to DC Roe, without whom so many might have been forgotten.
I Remember Paul Lisson
About three years ago I became involved in a project called 2996. Which is an aggregate of bloggers who volunteered to write a tribute to a single victim of September 11th 2001. The project had such impact that it carries on. I have promised myself that as long as I have a platform like this blog that I will continue to do these tributes. Each year. One person at time. I do this, not as a political statement but as an act of respect and love for those people who had the misfortune of going to work, getting on the wrong plane, acting like that day would be like any other day. Wrong place, wrong time. Life cut too short. I honor those people and through a tribute in some very small way I am able to give them just a little bit of the life back that was taken from them. This year, I honor Paul Lisson.
Paul was forty-five and worked for Pitney Bowes in the World Trade Center. By all accounts he was very a shy man and kept to himself much of the time. An only child, he grew up with a mentally ill mother, trying to take care of himself and her at the same time. It must have been very difficult and lonely for him to have such a burden as a child and even as an adult. His parents were divorced and so he was the main emotional support for his mother.
Despite his shy and retiring ways anyone who worked with Paul or knew him, spoke of his kindness and care toward other people. If it was your birthday or your anniversary, you could expect Paul to take you to lunch, surprise with a bouquet of balloons or something equally kind and thoughtful. He was just sweet that way – perhaps because he grew up with the special sensitivity of a child who had a vulnerable parent, perhaps just because it was native in him to be kind.
He never married and lived alone in his Brooklyn home – was a conscientious worker and often arrived early at work. Though in his very quiet way he had touched lives and had friends whom he cared about and who cared about him – which was apparent when nearly forty people arrived for his memorial dinner. His father, though they were estranged for many years, was also thankfully a part of Paul’s life and it was a terrible loss, when he realized that he had lost his son.
At the memorial, Bill Kirkhuff, an old family friend, described the Ed Sullivan routine that Paul had spontaneously performed as an 8-year- old. Mr. Vidal marveled over Paul’s utter reliability. Sidney Lisson, a retired graphics artist, discovered that his son had won attendance awards and had a personnel file brimming with commendations. “I’m so full of grief, still,” Sidney Lisson said. “My heart is absolutely shattered.”
It’s amazing isn’t it that we often learn about the people we know, so much more once they are gone than we knew about them in life. That seemed to be the case with Paul as well. Though, unfortunately there was not a lot of information I could find about Paul – it seemed to me that the people who were in his life cared deeply about him, that he was a constant cheerful presence in their lives and that they continue to miss his shy smile and kind nature. It’s always a tragedy when we lose a gentle soul – the one who always smiles when they see us, remembers our birthday, makes us feel a little bit special. That was Paul Lisson.
He liked foreign films, introduced to him by his friend Vera, mystery novels, discussing current events, ballgames and wristwatches. He was shy and kind – making his own quiet way in the world.
His friend Vera tells this story about Paul:
‘‘I’ll tell you a funny story about Paul,” she added. ”He was supposed to work 9 to 5 every day and he got there at 8 every day. He was always there early. One morning he got there and some people were robbing our computers. Paul offered them coffee and held the door for them. That’s how good and kind he was. He couldn’t conceive that someone would be robbing us.”
On Septemeber 11th :
Genya Sookoo, a Pitney Bowes worker who was with him on Sept. 11. After smelling smoke, she said, they and a third clerk began to descend the stairs. Then came the public address announcement that the problem was in Tower 1 and that it was safe to return to their desks. ”And at that point,” Ms. Sookoo recalled, ”he said he was busy and was going back.” She said she begged him to keep going, but he told her he was dizzy and just wanted to return to his desk.
”It’s funny,I had the pleasure of telling him how much I cherished his friendship that morning and he said the same thing.” She added, ”I used to tell him I wished I had a friend whom I could get him together with. Cause he was just so lonely and I’d feel so bad about it.”
Ms. Sookoo told these stories to Mr. Lisson’s father, Sidney, who called her in the days after the attack to try to determine his son’s fate. Father and son lived just blocks apart in Bay Ridge and, in his view, they had been working on a relationship tainted by hardship and regret. ”I think we were developing a very decent father-son relationship in the last few years,” he said. He was not surprised that Paul had turned back to his office. ”He would tend to be ruffled by that kind of thing, and he was kind of sensitive,” said Mr. Lisson, a retired calligrapher and graphic artist. ”I don’t know how to explain it. He had a very bad adolescence living with an emotionally unstable mother.”
I’m sure that there are many people out there who still miss the shy man with the kind heart and big smile – I hope that they have found peace with the loss of their friend and son and that Paul’s spirit lives on in each of them.
Your smile never fades
from the memory
who received its gift
with respect – wc
I REMEMBER DEBORAH
Her father still remembers his firstborn daughter as an infant, asleep on his chest, safely enclosed in his protective arms. He remembers her childhood games, of hoola hoops and bicycle rides – her first words, first steps.
Her friends remember her without time or goodbyes. The quick smiles and laughs they shared. The closeness despite the distance that separated them. The joy, the plans, the I-miss-you’s.
Debbie was a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. Like many women, she had a promising career, a happy family life and good friends. Everything to live for.
I’m sure that when she boarded Flight 175 on the morning of September 11th she had no idea that life would change forever for her and her family and friends. Though she and her husband, Michael, were both traveling to Los Angeles, they took separate flights. Debbie always said that if anything ever happened to her, she wanted to be sure someone would be there to take care of her daughter, Cassandra. And maybe despite those terrible last minutes, she took comfort in knowing that her husband would be there to take care of their little girl.
I cannot pretend to know who Debbie was or what she meant to those who did. She was a private citizen going about her life when the course of it was radically shifted to an unthinkable fate.
I can only tell you that she was loved by her friends and family. That she is missed by those who knew her. That she brought comfort and joy to those in her life – and that the world has a little less sparkle and shine without her.
She leaves behind her parents, E.F. & Betty Lou Medwig, her brother Michael, sisters Deirdre and Michelle, husband Michael and daughter Cassandra. This is for them:
She flys with angels
glistening gossamer wings
whisper her spirit
I Remember Steve…a 2996 Tribute
I did not know Steve Mercado, but he was my kind of guy. He was funny, handsome, made a mean chili and damn it, he was a hero. On September 11th he and eleven other of his firefighter brothers were lost in the World Trade Center. I imagine him charging up those stairs, intent on answering the calls for help. Intent on fulfilling his mission to save and protect. He was that kind of guy. He lived to help people. To make them laugh, make them feel like things were really okay. And I think that when Steve was around, people did feel that way.
He was born and raised in the Bronx and dreamed of playing for the New York Yankees as a kid. He played stickball in the streets with his pals – a game his father had taught him and eventually a game he would teach his own son and countless other children. A tradition he carried into adulthood.
He married his childhood sweetheart Jovianna and eventually they had two sons, Skylar and Austin. He was a dedicated husband and father and took great joy in watching his children grow. I imagine that he had a picture of his wife and kids taped inside his helmet – I don’t know it – but he seemed the kind of man who would. Who loved his life so much that he would want to keep the things dear to him close. I imagine too, that his last thoughts were of his family, what kind of men his sons would grow up to be and how very much he loved Jovi.
He was a modern day warrior, facing life and death as a matter of course. Charging in to whatever task life had dealt him – unphased and unafraid. And, I believe the world was better for Steve having been in it. He made the world a better place, a safer place, and a kinder place. He had a passion for life and it showed.
He loved stickball and dreamed of it becoming an Olympic sport one day. He was a legendary player and the President of the NY Emperor’s Stickball League. According to Steve, “Stickball is all about community. For me, I learned the game from my father, and others of his generation. They were my heroes, the role models we looked up to. Stickball was an important part in our tradition of teamwork, determination and community. My goal now is to reach out to the kids growing up today to make sure we continue to pass down these values.”
Stickball was a true calling for Steve. His wife said that he believed that there wasn’t any problem that couldn’t be worked out by a game of stickball. I think he may have had a point. Nothing like whacking balls over the rooftops and running like the wind to give you perspective. He was responsible for creating many teams across the country, starting programs for kids who might otherwise have not had the opportunity to learn about the teamwork and tradition Steve so loved. What lucky kids to have had such a great role model as Steve. He made things better, not by words but by his actions.
Steve was a man who made a difference and I believe still does. In the words of Buddha, If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. I hope that I have in some small way shown you the miracle of Steve.
Steve’s poem to his dad:
Addendum: Sharon Cannone, Steve’s cousin was kind enough to share the eulogy she delivered at Steve’s memorial service in November 2001:
There’s only one way to deal with the pain of losing my cousin Steve and the thousands of other lives that were lost on September 11. There’s only one way to come to terms with the pain and fear we feel. The only way to get beyond this is to live our lives the way my cousin chose to live his. We must be brave.
I have a lot of memories of my cousin. We grew up in the same building together and always stayed very close. A lot of memories…. But one memory in particular has been playing over and over in my mind since I learned that he was among the missing. Among Steve’s many talents a long time ago he dabbled into the world of boxing. And with just about everything else he took on, he trained long and hard to hone his skills. Well, the hard work and training paid off, because Steve qualified for the Golden Gloves and had his big night at Madison Square Garden. Steve was well represented that night by family and friends. When he entered the ring for the main event, the Garden “rocked” with applause from his fans. After the usual introductions, the fight began. But a minute or so into the fight, Steve took a punch to the chin and hit the canvas with a thud.
The moment Steve fell, I jumped out of my seat and started screaming at the top of my lungs. STEVIE GET UP!! STEVIE GET UP! I don’t remember how many times I yelled to my cousin, but all of a sudden, Steve got to one knee, shook his head, got up and beat the living daylights out of his opponent. The Garden went wild.After the fight, we all went to a bar in the City to celebrate. Steve told me that as he was lying on the canvas he heard a voice through the haze screaming his name. And that’s when the haze cleared, he said “That’s Sharon – I gotta get up”. He told me that night at the bar that it was my voice yelling his name over and over that enabled him to win the fight. I never thought I could be prouder of my cousin as I was that night — the night he fought the fight of his life. But I was wrong.
From the moment I knew that Steve was missing, I thought about that night at the Garden. Over and over I prayed, Stevie please get up. But it wasn’t in the cards this time. Even though I was joined in prayer by friends, family, the City and the whole Country. We all screamed your name Stevie, but this time your opponent was a dirty fighter who hit way below the belt.
I’ll never understand the twisted minds of terrorists who can cause pain like this. I don’t understand why some people choose to live their lives with pure hatred in their hearts instead of love. Their hatred defines who they are. Steve’s love for life, great sense of humor and truly giving heart defined who he was. He put his life on the line for his fellow man on a daily basis. And I’m very proud to have been a part of his life.
Note: For those of you in the NY area, PBS will be airing a documentary called “Bragging Rights” that covers the game and tradition of stickball. Steve is featured in this documentary and it will air Thursday, September 14th at 8PM.
To DC Roe & The 2996ers
Dale & fellow Bloggers,
I just wanted to say thanks for coming and reading, for commenting, for sharing your own tributes – for all the blood, sweat and tears that went into this project and still is. I have a completely different perspective on Sept 11th than I did before this – and that’s a good thing. To all the families, loved ones, friends of those we lost that day – deepest respect & love.
A Fireman’s Prayer
When I am called to duty God
wherever flames may rage
give me strength to save a life
whatever be its age
Help me to embrace a little child
before it is too late
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate
Enable me to be alert
to hear the weakest shout
and quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out
I want to fill my calling and
to give the best in me
to guard my neighbor and
protect his property
And if according to your will
I have to lose my life
bless with your protecting hand
my loving family from strife
343 Firemen lost their lives in the attacks of September 11, 2001. I post this prayer to honor them and the family and friends who were left behind. WC
Joseph Agnello, Brian Ahearn ,Richard Allen, Eric Allen, James Amato, Calixto Anaya Jr.,Joseph Angelini, Joseph Angelini Jr., Faustino Apostol Jr., David Arce, Louis Arena, Carl Asaro, Gregg Atlas, Gerald Atwood, Gerard Baptiste, Gerard Barbara, Matthew Barnes, Arthur Barry, Steven Bates, Carl Bedigian, Stephen Belson, John Bergin, Paul Beyer, Peter Bielfeld, Brian Bilcher, Carl Bini, Christopher Blackwell, Michael Bocchino, Frank Bonomo, Gary Box, Michael Boyle, Kevin Bracken, Michael Brennan, Peter Brennan, Daniel Brethel, Patrick Brown, Andrew Brunn, Vincent Brunton, Ronald Bucca, Greg Buck ,William Burke Jr., Donald Burns ,John Burnside, Thomas Butler, Patrick Byrne, George Cain, Salvatore Calabro, Frank Callahan, Michael Cammarata, Brian Cannizzaro, Dennis Carey, Michael Carlo, Michael Carroll, Peter Carroll, Thomas Casoria, Michael Cawley, Vernon Cherry, Nicholas Chiofalo, John Chipura, Michael Clarke, Steven Coakley, Tarel Coleman, John Collins, Robert Cordice, Ruben Correa, James Corrigan, James Coyle, Robert Crawford, John Crisci, Dennis Cross ,Thomas Cullen III , Robert Curatolo, Edward Datri, Michael Dauria, Scott Davidson, Edward Day, Thomas Deangelis, Manuel Delvalle, Martin Demeo, David Derubbio, Andrew Desperito, Dennis Devlin, Gerard Dewan, George Dipasquale, Kevin Donnelly, Kevin Dowdell, Raymond Downey, Gerard Duffy, Martin Egan, Michael Elferis, Francis Esposito, Michael Esposito, Robert Evans, John Fanning, Thomas Farino, Terrence Farrell, Joseph Farrelly, William Feehan, Lee Fehling, Alan Feinberg, Michael Fiore, John Fischer, Andre Fletcher, John Florio, Michael Fodor, Thomas Foley, David Fontana, Robert Foti, Andrew Fredericks, Peter Freund, Thomas Gambino Jr., Peter Ganci Jr., Charles Garbarini, Thomas Gardner, Matthew Garvey, Bruce Gary, Gary Geidel, Edward Geraghty, Denis Germain, Vincent Giammona, James Giberson, Ronnie Gies, Paul Gill, John Ginley, John Giordano, Jeffrey Giordano, Keith Glascoe, James Gray, Joseph Grzelak, Jose Guadalupe, Geoffrey Guja, Joseph Gullickson, David Halderman, Vincent Halloran, Robert Hamilton, Sean Hanley, Thomas Hannafin, Dana Hannon, Daniel Harlin, Stephen Harrell, Harvey Harrell, Timothy Haskell, Thomas Haskell Jr., Terence Hatton, Michael Haub, Philip Hayes, Michael Healey, John Heffernan, Ronnie Henderson, William Henry, Joseph Henry, Thomas Hetzel, Brian Hickey, Timothy Higgins, Jonathan Hohmann, Thomas Holohan, Joseph Hunter, Walter Hynes, Jonathan Ielpi, Frederick Ill Jr., William Johnston, Andrew Jordan, Karl Joseph, Anthony Jovic, Angel Juarbe Jr., Chaplain Mychal Judge, Vincent Kane, Charles Kasper, Paul Keating, Thomas Kelly, Thomas Kelly, Richard Kelly Jr., Thomas Kennedy, Ronald Kerwin, Michael Kiefer, Robert King Jr., Scott Kopytko, William Krukowski, Kenneth Kumpel, Thomas Kuveikis, David Laforge, William Lake, Robert Lane ,Peter Langone, Scott Larsen, Joseph Leavey, Neil Leavy, Daniel Libretti, Robert Linnane ,Joseph Lovero, Michael Lynch, Michael Lynch, Michael Lyons, Patrick Lyons, Joseph Maffeo, William Mahoney, Joseph Maloney, Joseph Marchbanks Jr., Charles Margiotta, Kenneth Marino, John Marshall, Peter Martin, Paul Martini, Joseph Mascali, Keithroy Maynard, Brian McAleese, John McAvoy, Thomas McCann, William McGinn, William McGovern, Dennis McHugh, Robert McMahon, Robert Madden, Terence McShane, Timothy McSweeney, Martin McWilliams, Raymond Meisenheimer, Charles Mendez , Steve Mercado, Douglas Miller, Henry Miller Jr., Robert Minara, Thomas Mingione, Paul Mitchell, Louis Modafferi, Dennis Mojica, Manuel Mojica, Carl Molinaro, Michael Montesi, Thomas Moody, John Moran, Vincent Morello, Christopher Mozzillo, Richard Muldowney Jr,. Michael Mullan, Dennis Mulligan, Raymond Murphy, Robert Nagel, John Napolitano, Peter Nelson, Gerard Nevins, Daniel O’Callaghan, Thomas O’Hagan, William O’Keefe, Patrick O’Keefe, Kevin O’Rourke, Dennis Oberg, Douglas Oelschlager, Joseph Ogren, Thomas Ohagan, Samuel Oitice, Eric Olsen, Jeffrey Olsen, Steven Olson, Michael Otten, Jeffrey Palazzo, Orio Palmer, Frank Palombo, Paul Pansini, John Paolillo, James Pappageorge, Robert Parro, Durrell Pearsall, Glenn Perry, Philip Petti, Kevin Pfeifer, Kenneth Phelan, Christopher Pickford, Shawn Powell, Vincent Princiotta, Kevin Prior, Richard Prunty, Lincoln Quappe, Michael Quilty, Leonard Ragaglia, Michael Ragusa, Edward Rall, Adam Rand, Donald Regan, Robert Regan, Christian Regenhard, Kevin Reilly, Vernon Richard, James Riches, Joseph Rivelli Jr., Michael Roberts, Michael Roberts, Anthony Rodriguez, Matthew Rogan, Keith Roma, Nicholas Rossomando, Paul Ruback, Stephen Russell, Michael Russo, Matthew Ryan ,Thomas Sabella, Christopher Santora, John Santore, Gregory Saucedo, Dennis Scauso, John Schardt, Fred Scheffold, Thomas Schoales, Gerard Schrang, Gregory Sikorsky, Stephan Siller, Stanley Smagala Jr., Kevin Smith, Leon Smith Jr., Robert Spear Jr., Joseph Spor, Lawrence Stack, Timothy Stackpole, Gregroy Stajk, Jeffrey Stark, Benjamin Suarez, Daniel Suhr, Christopher Sullivan, Brian Sweeney, Sean Tallon, Allan Tarasiewicz, Paul Tegtmeier, John Tierney, John Tipping II, Hector Tirado Jr., Richard Vanhine, Peter Vega, Lawrence Veling, John Vigiano II, Sergio Villanueva, Lawrence Virgilio, Robert Wallace, Jeffrey Walz, Michael Warchola, Patrick Waters, Kenneth Watson, Michael Weinberg, David Weiss, Timothy Welty, Eugene Whelan, Edward White, Mark Whitford, Glenn Wilkinson, John Williamson, David Wooley, William Wren, and Raymond York
God bless them all.
Soldier of One
9/11 has become an entry in all of our personal lexicons and we remember, where we were, what we were doing and how we responded to the attacks upon this country that day. Regardless of who we are, where we are from, what we do for a living, our hobbies, our religions, or our political philosophies, we have that event in common. My response to that day was this story. WC
The enemy had come. Again. “Freedom itself was attacked today…” the words ricocheted in his mind. Dillon Conlon knew what he had to do.
He laid out his camouflage greens with care and precision. Pulled boots over feet that felt nothing, lacing them high and tight.
The whir of the chair’s motor was a soldier’s cadence, as he moved down the street, summoning a call to arms. Silence enshrouded the town as if the natives had crawled into a coffin and slammed the lid shut.
Only the cobalt haze of television screens marked the way to his objective as he traveled the darkened streets. Tonight, no one would venture out and stop his mission. A small reprieve, for tomorrow, they’d challenge him, his conviction and resolve. He wouldn’t waiver.
He saw her then, rippling sleepily in the evening breeze, proud and vigilant. The crisp, night air echoed his steady breathing and kept the voices away. The scent of night-blooming jasmine belied the evil that had touched them. He chewed on salty jerky as his nimble hands worked to fasten himself to the pole. With clear commitment he assumed his post. Surrender was not an option.
“Where’s Dillon?” Emma peered through the room bathed in the flickering light of the television.
Agitated, she swiped at her tear-stained face. “Where is he?” She got up and moved toward the kitchen.
“I don’t know,” Matthew sulked. “Don’t care, either.”
Emma was so intent on finding Dillon, she ignored Matthew’s sarcasm. Going from room to empty room, she called out his name; as if he’d emerge from the shadows like an ancient wizard.
Matthew watched from the kitchen doorway as Emma dialed the phone. “What’s the big deal?” he asked.
Emma’s eyes scolded him. They’d watched the attacks on television, hour after hour. Everything was a big deal. Now. “Sheriff? It’s Emma Wardley. . . Dil’s missing . . .a couple of hours? . . . what if something’s happened?…He’s not crazy!…Mike!”
She slammed down the receiver. “What’s wrong with people?” Tears spilled out again but she ignored them.
Morning reached out her arms to all the gray corners of the town, as its citizens moved warily toward their business. Imprisoned by their own shock and sorrow, no one noticed Dillon chained to the flag pole that was the focal point of the Square. Exhibiting a soldier’s posture, even in a wheelchair, he displayed a sign, “We will not surrender!” Across his lap lay a rifle he’d used in his war, Viet Nam; the one that had robbed him of his legs. At his feet, lay a kit that held water, jerky, aspirin and chewing gum. Life had steeled him against needing any more to survive.
Emma’s Bronco groaned in low gear as it inched down the nearly empty street. Gripping the steering wheel, she peered through red and swollen eyes. “Keep looking,” she pressed Matthew. “Where is he?”
“Oh man!” Matthew groaned.
Emma cringed as she followed Matthew’s gaze. “Oh Dillon!”
Matthew watched as Emma rushed to rescue the nut-job veteran, chained to the flag pole.”I’m never going to live this down,” he muttered and pulled his Yankees’ cap over his eyes.
Emma got within twenty feet when Dillon’s eyes met hers. “Halt!”
The conviction in his voice daunted Emma.”Dil, what are you doing?”
“I, Dillon Conlan, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution . . . “
Emma took another tentative step but he reached for the rifle. “Dil?” She stopped.
“. . .of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
Emma’s mind clicked. Yesterday had changed everything. Everybody. How could she know what it had done to him? His mind had steeled itself against intruders so long ago, would he let her in?
“I know you’re outraged. We all are! We’re all scared.” What comfort could she offer him? Or anyone? There were no words for this. There never would be. She searched his turquoise eyes for his spark. “Dil, they’re not coming here! We’re safe!” But her face said they weren’t safe. Nobody was.
Dillon stumbled over the remaining words.”. . .and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States. . .So help me God.”
A siren squawked behind her. Jangling keys and cuffs, and squeaky leather boots, announced Mike Guthrie’s arrival.”What’ve we got here?”
“It’s okay, Sheriff. We’re just. . . talking.” She kept her eyes on Dillon.
Guthrie scowled. “You and God, only ones think you can reach him.” Guthrie chewed on his lower lip. “Okay son, unfix yourself from that pole.” He didn’t bother to hide the bite in his voice.
Dillon raised his right hand in a salute.
Guthrie smirked. “No need for that.”
But the tribute was intended for the flag that waved like an old friend to the displaced combatant.
Guthrie scowled and shook his head. “I’ve had enough of your…”
“His what?” Emma asked. “He isn’t doing anything. Not hurting anybody.” She winked at Dillon and his eyes came to life. “Honoring the flag isn’t against the law, is it?”
“Emma,” Dillon whispered as if her name held magic. He took her hand and squeezed it.
Guthrie sighed like an old nag. “We can’t have him chained up to a dang flag pole. . . “
“Why not?” Emma asked. She raised Dillon’s hand in solidarity. “Why not?”
Guthrie rolled his eyes. “What the hell is this, Emma? Some old hippy rebellion? Power to the people and all that?” He screwed up his face and wagged a finger at her. “Well, I got news for you, this ain’t 1968 no more. This is 2001…”
Voices murmured behind him and he turned to see several people had gathered.
Sam Johnson put his hand on Guthrie’s shoulder. “We know it’s not 1968 anymore. Leave the guy alone, eh Mike?”
“There’s nothing wrong with non-violent protest,” Marianne Copple said.
Guthrie grumbled and the crowd multiplied like dandelions on a newly seeded lawn. They were drawn to Dillon and his cause.
“Let him be. Don’t hassle him.”
He looked around, shrugged and stomped back toward his patrol car. “Fine, just make sure this don’t get outta hand. Pick up your trash and let me know when you come back to your senses.” He got in his car and drove off as if he had some place else to go and something else to do.
Sam started to sing God Bless America and the others joined in. Matthew dragged himself out of the car and pushed through the crowd to find Emma. He stopped when he saw her standing next to Dillon, holding his hand and singing along. He shook his head in disgust. “I’m leaving,” he said.
“No, stay here, with us.”
“Look Mom, I’m tired and I don’t want to stay here and sing stupid songs. You want to stay, go ahead. I’m going home and eating some cereal and going to bed.”
Emma frowned. “I don’t want you to be alone.” She reached out to him but he pulled away.
“I’m not a baby. I can take care of myself.” He gave her a grin. “Look, I know you want to stay. I’ll come back later.”
“I promise!” Matthew gave a boy scout salute and crossed his heart.
“All right,” Emma nodded. “But don’t be gone long. Don’t stay in that house all day and night. And don’t watch any more television.”
Matthew nodded and walked away.
By nightfall, the town had gathered around the man they’d called a lunatic, a loser, a lost cause. Flags of all sizes and dimensions waved in the amber light of flickering candles. Their voices united in songs of bravery and patriotism, and they felt better. They had done something to fight back. All because of Dillon Conlan.
Matthew didn’t keep his word. He stayed in the house and had watched every minute of the coverage alone and in the dark. He wept as he’d never before. For the murdered innocents, for himself, but mostly, for his own dead father. Who Matthew only knew from faded photographs and the Yankees’ baseball cap that once belonged to him. He put it to his face, as if a trace of his father’s smell remained. As if his brain would trigger some real memory, but it didn’t.
Emma rushed in rosy-cheeked and excited. Her color drained and her mood sunk when she saw Matthew curled up in a ball on the sofa.”Oh Matthew! Honey, I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have let you come back alone. I’m here.”
He pushed away from her. “Yeah, until he does some stupid-ass thing again! What are they doing? Having a barbeque? You come back for the marshmallows? It’s after midnight!”
“Matty. . .”
“No, Mom! Not this time! No more crap about Dillon defending our country and what a fucking hero he is!” Matthew made fists so tight that his wrists ached. “He’s a jerk! My father was a hero! Not him!”
He bolted upstairs to his room and slammed the door. Emma went after him. “Matthew Wardley, you open this door! I mean it!”
His silence ate at her.
“Matthew, please…open the door.” Would her tears never stop? She longed for life as it was. “I need you, Matty. Now, more than ever. We’re going to get through this, honey. Together. We have to. What choice do we have?”
She leaned against the door and listened, hoping to connect. Wishing he were younger and she could make him feel safe just by putting her arms around him. “Those days are over,” she told herself. Her boy was a young man and not so easily swayed anymore.
She tore herself away from the door and her need for his approval and went downstairs. He would come out when he was ready.
She stood at the stove stirring cocoa into a saucepan of milk heating over the burner. She added sugar and stirred some more. The simple act reminded her of Matthew in his father’s arms – barely a toddler – both boys eager for their hot chocolate.
“You don’t need me. You have him.”
He sounded so tired. Her poor brave boy. She turned to look at him, so handsome like his father. “Of course I need you. Of course I do. And I always will.” She turned off the cocoa and poured them each a mug. She offered him one and sat down with hers at the table. “Do you want to talk about it?”
He blew on his cocoa and took a sip. “What’s the use? You’re his number one fan. You adopted him a long time ago, Mom. But I didn’t.” He slumped into a chair at the table.
She took his hand. “No Matty, that’s not it. He was my friend a long time ago and he’s my friend now. Don’t you think he needs a friend?”
“Yeah, but why does it have to be you?”
Tears welled in her eyes. “Because I remember him. I remember him before, when he was strong and alive. Because I remember the day he went to war. Because I remember what he gave – to me – to our country. Just like your dad.”
Matthew could hardly contain himself. “He is not like my father.”
“Yes he is, honey. He is just like your father. He cared more about his country and his friends and family than himself and he walked into danger with his eyes and heart open to stand up for us. Your dad didn’t come back. But Dillon did. You can’t blame him for that.”
Matthew wanted to cry but fought it. “I don’t blame him for that. I blame him for being nuts. Everybody knows he’s crazy. Everybody but you!”
“I don’t care if everyone else in the world thinks that. I don’t and I never will. I don’t turn my back on my friends and neither did your father.”
Tears streamed down Matthew’s face. He shook his head.
Emma took his hands and held them tight. “Honey, you’re not a baby anymore. You can’t just pout and be mad because things aren’t the way you want them to be. No matter how much you wish your dad was here, he isn’t going to be. Can’t you see that by honoring Dillon, you honor your dad? Can’t you see that Daddy would have wanted you to be Dillon’s friend?” She cried. “Matthew, they were brothers – bound by their common oath. By the sacrifice they both made. We’re so sad that Daddy didn’t come home – but we should celebrate that Dillon did.”
Matthew shook his head and couldn’t look at her. “I don’t think I can, Mom.”
“But you have to try, honey.”
“For Dad. And for all the other dads who didn’t come home.”
Matthew put his head down on the table and let himself cry.
Emma stroked his hair. “He needs us, we’re all he’s got!”
Matthew raised his head and wiped at his tears. “He embarrasses me. All the guys make fun of him and us.
She smiled. “People can be mean, but maybe…” She lit up. “Oh Matt, if you could see him now, in the Square. He’s just come alive. Everybody has just, I don’t know, rallied around him. You’d be so proud of him! Your dad would be too. Really!”
Matthew felt changed. Willing to take what she said on faith. Maybe she was right. Maybe his dad would have wanted him to believe too.
“Please, honey. Just come with me. “Let me show you.”
“Do I have to?”
“No, you don’t have to,” Emma said.
He shrugged and got to his feet. “Better get your coat.” He put on his Yankees’ cap. “It’s getting cold.”
Emma was stunned by how much the crowd had grown. It was as if this horrible day had brought them all together like a family.
As they moved slowly through the gathering, Matthew took Emma’s hand and squeezed it. Whatever it was that she had felt, embraced him now and he felt safe.
When finally they reached the tarnished hero, Matthew saw his own tears mirrored in Dillon’s bright eyes. “Go Yankees!” Dillon smiled. Matthew fell into Dillon’s arms and wept for himself, for his father and for Dillon.