In New York City, the reminders of 9/11 are never too far from your mind. The new Freedom Tower is hard to miss, and going into Lower Manhattan for any reason always makes me think of what happened there now almost 14 years ago.
Sunday, with my best friend in town from Georgia, we decided to visit the brand-new 9/11 Memorial Museum. I knew it would be painful, but I also knew it was another necessary step to remember that day.
The place is, in a word, powerful. And dazzling. And beautifully specific. And emotional (OK, it took me more than one word to describe it.) We spent about four hours there and saw almost everything, but easily could’ve spent more time.
There are artifacts of that awful day, of course; a piece of the wall of one of the towers that fell; a fire truck that was used by one of the ladder companies racing to rescue the thousands trapped inside the World Trade Center.
There was also an enormous room called a “historical exhibition” of 9/11/01, that takes you through the leadup/history of 9/11, a minute by minute account with witness audio and video, including some chilling voicemail recordings left by those who didn’t survive, and a thorough examination of the aftermath and the War on Terror that George W. Bush led us into.
What struck me the most, though, was the room full of faces. Nearly 3,000 people died that day, and the Museum was able to find pictures of just about all of them. You walk through the room and see the photos piled high, one on top of each other, and it just takes your breath away.
I could say lots more about the museum, about why it took so long to open, and about how all the memories of that day came flooding back just a few minutes into our visit.
But I’ll just say this: If you’re in New York, it’s an amazing place to see. And as an American, I think it’s a very, very important one.
**Next up, I haven’t blogged about John Oliver in a while, but his show continues to be the best thing on TV this summer. This clip, from Sunday’s show, is about the continued skullduggery of TV preachers, and how they basically steal money from people.
Watch Oliver’s “investigation” and marvel at how easy it is to set up your own church. The clip is long but hilarious all the way through (And just for fun, call the number at the end, we did and it was great.)
**Finally today, I’m a few days late with this but I still feel it’s important. Every year on or about August 16, the anniversary of his death, I salute in this space the work of the legendary Jim Murray, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived. I still read his old columns sometime, for inspiration, or for a laugh, and the all-time best email I got as a result of writing Wide World of Stuff was from his widow thanking me for remembering him.
And so once again, on the 17th anniversary of his passing (is it possible it’s been that long?), a little bit of Murray greatness.
Here are my two favorite columns of his: First, a touching tribute to his first wife Gerry who had just died. Here’s an excerpt:
She never grew old and now, she never will. She wouldn’t have anyway. She had four children, this rogue husband, a loving family and this great wisdom and great heart, but I always saw her as this little girl running across a field with a swimming suit on her arm, on a summer day on the way to the gravel pit for an afternoon of swimming and laughing. Life just bubbled out of Gerry. We cry for ourselves. Wherever she is today, they can’t believe their good luck.
And second, Murray’s elegy for his left eye, which finally gave out on him in 1979, rendering him mostly blind. The last four paragraphs are just perfect, but here’s another excerpt:
I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.
We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.
One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.
He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy … He recorded the happy moments, the miracle of children, the beauty of a Pacific sunset, snowcapped mountains, faces on Christmas morning. He allowed me to hit fly balls to young sons in uniforms two sizes too large, to see a pretty daughter march in halftime parades. He allowed me to see most of the major sports events of our time. I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t drift away when I was 12 or 15 or 29 but stuck around over 50 years until we had a vault of memories.
God, I miss that guy.