The day of September 11, 2001 was a nightmare; no, a madhouse in which all sanity had simply fled. For me, the madness began at about 12:30 AM that day when I awoke to a phone call from my sister-in-law. She told me that Ernie, my older brother, had just died from a sudden and massive heart attack, at home, in front of his 17-year-old son, Marc.
After the initial shock subdued somewhat, it was mutually decided that this was not the type of news to be delivered to a son's mother by an impersonal phone call. So my thankless job was to take a train that coming morning to the Boston suburb where my mother lives and deliver the horrific news to her in person.
Tell me exactly, how do you tell a mother her son is suddenly no more?
About eight hours later that fateful day, September 11, 2001, I was getting ready to make this vile family trip when I heard a news bulletin over a radio squawking in the background. The announcer said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center in New York City. Immediately, on went the TV and CNN. Like millions of other horrified onlookers, I witnessed the now burned into our tribal memory sight of the twin Trade Towers collapsing; forever tearing down with them all illusions of America the unassailed continental fortress. The once moist shaving cream had by now hardened on my face like the ancient plaster of an Etruscan tomb. Shortly after, it was announced that the Pentagon had just been hit. America was under attack! Who or what was next?
We then received word that the Prudential Center in Copley Square, Boston, where we are located, was to be immediately evacuated. We now joined a stream of sweat stained people filing out of the Prudential, our anxious eyes scanning the skies for any sign of a crazed craft threatening to plunge us headlong into a fiery hell.
If anyone had said, Franco, in the next 24 hours you will lose your brother, your country will come under attack, and where you live and work will also become a possible target, I would have thought him completely mad. But the madness did come, and like a diseased acrid fog, it settled over everyone in America, its noxious oily fumes drifting all the way across the globe.
As I rode on that train, packed to overflowing with agitated eyes seeking some sort of assurance in strangers faces, I thought about how many thousands of mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, friends and colleagues were soon to be delivered the same caught in the throat message.
In the end, there are no good words. There is only the terrible message, sent smashing into the chest of my unsuspecting mother like a twelve-gauge.
And yet, some good words did emerge at the end of that long, tearfully blurred in the mind week. My brothers 17-year old son, Marc, delivered them in a remarkable eulogy; a boy cruelly shoved into hard adulthood like so many other young people that fateful week. Marcs funeral service eulogy speaks to all of us here in the US and overseas who have had loved ones abruptly taken from them. It is printed below so all of us may share and heal in our collective grief. There is also much wisdom in this young boys last words to his father.
May we all take courage from them in the dark days ahead.
I wish this day never had to come . To watch my father die right before my eyes.
There was so much I wish I could have said. I never got to say my last good-bye.
I remember earlier that night he was fine and everything just came so sudden.
Its like the laughter turned into tears and all the smiles became faded.
Ill always remember his love and kindness he shared among everyone.
Ill remember the good times we had just enjoying each others company.
But now hes gone forever, and he wont see me grow up anymore, when I graduate, and when I have my first child. But I know he is smiling from up above and his spirit is with us forever.
He is safely in Gods arms running forever free in the light of Heaven.
We will miss you, and we all love you.
Rest in Peace, Dad
-- Marc Vitagliano
Dedicated to Ernest A. Vitagliano, Jr., 1939 - 2001
21st-September 2001, Franco Vitaliano, Copyright 2001, All Rights Reserved
21st, The VXM Network, http://www.vxm.com