Shortly before our trip to New York, my brother Phil, homeward bound from the city, collapsed on the train. He never explained what made him ill, and I never found out. We went to visit him at home in suburban White Plains. We asked about the incident, but he brushed it off, insisting he was fine. Brian and I thought that the stress of the attacks a few weeks earlier might have caused it.
Phil talked about colleagues who’d escaped by fleeing lower Manhattan on foot, by walking north to the Bronx, or by walking east on the Brooklyn Bridge, then south across the Verrazano Bridge from Brooklyn to Staten Island. Then, as so many of us did in the wake of that tragedy, he talked about things he cherished, about the goodness of his marriage and his family, about the openhearted spirit of New Yorkers in a time of crisis. Likewise, my brother’s life, already a generous one, felt as if it had somehow grown in kindness.
Phil told me that after September 11th, his kids “felt lost.” They’d lived unruffled lives in suburban Westchester County, a prosperous area known for good schools, country clubs, and, in some of its more posh neighborhoods, an eerie sense of distance from the world’s troubles. Maybe he wondered how they’d survive the long shadow cast by these attacks, or if he, as a parent, had given them enough strength to help them face this challenge. I sensed that he felt lost and fearful. He was a fair and sensitive man, a careful listener and the attacks must have dealt a terrible blow to his sense of justice.
Over the years, the wall he’d built to protect himself had become a physical one. My brother was a large man and food was solace. We would have only one more visit left.
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