Big Boys Don't Cry (Repost)Like many males of my generation, I was indoctrinated with the code that “big boys don’t cry”. I have since learned that it is acceptable and even healthy for a man to cry. But as my dad once succinctly pointed out, “When things go wrong, we could all cry…but what good would that do? Someone has to be calm to pull everyone out”. Point well taken.I have cried. Not often. But I have cried. My children will tell you that they saw me cry for the first time 3 years ago. Jessica was 17. I had the unenviable task of having to tell them their grandfather had died. Despite rehearsing my lines…I broke down when I looked into my daughter’s eyes. What my children didn’t know was that I had cried previously. Oh…how I cried…
It was a beautiful Tuesday morning. The sky was crystal blue and the air had a cool crisp hint of an Ontario autumn. That morning I had done what I did every weekday…I drove our children to school. This September was special…David was now in JK. In fact…it was his 2nd day of JK…September 11, 2001.
One of my neighbours shattered my tranquility upon my return. An airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center. I rushed inside, turned on CNN…and to my horror learned that a second plane had just flown into the other tower. It had to be a bad dream…it was surreal. Surely I would wake up any second.Within minutes 3 neighbourhood families were in our living room watching the nightmare unfold. It got worse. The Pentagon was attacked and another airliner was missing. Only my neighbour Gerry spoke. He had worked in New York and had seen the Towers being built. Without warning our quiet disbelief was replaced by gasps of incredulity as both towers slowly disintegrated before our eyes. Someone began to weep. I offered comfort…but I did not cry. I couldn’t…because…big boys don’t cry.After a couple of hours I finally escaped what had now become a funeral parlour. I drove to pick up David…wondering what I should tell my 4 year old. How could he comprehend what had just happened when it was beyond my own grasp? Was it best to say nothing? That last question was answered the moment I saw his school. The flag was at half-mast. The faces of the teachers were ashen. Some had clearly been crying. I learned that the school and local priest had conducted a vigil. The children had been told what had happened and they prayed for the victims and their families.David ran up to me with a big smile on his face…clearly not cognizant of the scope of what had just transpired. He was wearing a paper crown emblazoned with “David M”. The innocence of the moment was overwhelming, especially in contrast to the evil that I had just witnessed. As we drove home I listened to David tell me about his day…the vigil…and his crown…the one he made in JK.I wish you could have seen the faces of my neighbours when they saw David and his JK crown. He was brimming with childhood glee and naivety. For a brief moment, mankind’s hatred was forgotten…replaced by youthful exuberance. But sadly, reality soon returned. The pitiful looks I received said it all - How could our children survive in a world full of such monstrosity? I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t. Big boys don’t cry.I didn’t want to go to work but I had no choice. I had to meet a client. My wife tried to talk me out of going. She feared Toronto might be under attack. I laughed at the notion and assured her I would be fine. But as I drove towards Toronto I could not help but notice the mass exodus of vehicles leaving the city. Many businesses fearing attack had sent their employees home. American flights were being rerouted to Canada. In the next few days, 33,000 Americans would be housed throughout our land.When I arrived at my office I learned that my client was not coming in because she too was scared. I comforted her on the phone, rescheduled the appointment…got back in my car and joined the pilgrimage to the suburbs.Jessica (11), Michael (7) and David greeted me when I got home. Only Jessica seemed to comprehend what had happened. “Daddy why?” was what she asked. It would have been easier to squeeze toothpaste back into a tube than to answer that question. I mumbled some words about hatred and how the world isn’t as beautiful as she…words I hoped I would never have to say to my daughter until she was at least 18. I really wanted to cry…but I couldn’t because big boys don’t cry. Instead, I hung my American flag in our front window. Other neighbours followed suit.My mother telephoned. She had spoken with my uncle who lived in the U.S. and learned that a family friend who was in New York was safe. My mother cried and I comforted her. My mind raced, remembering 2 university classmates from New York. I would later learn that 3 other friends were in New York that fateful day…and that one didn’t make it.The telephone rang again…it was one of my cousins from Italy asking if we were safe. She had visited New York…even went inside the WTC. She wept at the inhumanity. I comforted her. I wanted to join her in a pool of tears…the pain was growing…but big boys don’t cry.I made the mistake of returning to the television. The images I saw were from Dante’s Inferno. They seared me to my soul. Yet I could not turn away…as if in a horrible trance…I kept watching and watching and watching…until I heard Jessica scream. She had walked into the room and saw people leaping off of the towers. My little girl was in a state of terror. I held her and did what I vowed I would never do…I lied. I told her that they were debris from the roof and that she had not seen people plunging to their deaths. I know it was wrong but it comforted her. As you read this Jessica…I am so sorry for not telling you the truth…but please understand. It’s not always easy being a parent.The worst was yet to come. Michael was turning 8 in three days. As he was going to bed I suggested we pray for all the people who had suffered that morning. Maybe it was all the product of the video age or maybe it was his youth, but Michael stunned me by asking if what had happened that day was real. This time…I did not lie. I will never forget what happened next. Michael’s eyes widened in horror as he leaped from his bed shouting “No Daddy. Why would God do that? Am I going to die?” I held my little boy tightly in my arms until he stopped sobbing. I had no theological answers. So I assured him the best way a father could assure his child. I told him I would never let anyone hurt him. He was my little boy…I was his dad…and I would protect him from all evil. At that very moment I wondered what the parents who had lost loved ones or who lived in New York or Washington were saying to their children. The thought made me want to break down and cry…but I couldn’t…I had to protect Michael. Besides…big boys don’t cry.Jessica, Michael and David finally fell asleep. I wish I could say the same thing about myself. I tossed and turned for an eternity…unable to sleep…images of planes crashing into buildings…towers falling…and the screams of my children fresh in my head. I got out of bed…walked downstairs and turned on the television. In the dark hours of the early morning, I watched Satan’s folly continue to be projected into my living room…ghoulish images of the evil that mankind wrought. I sat alone in blackness… cursing the pictures of the suspected terrorists…listening to the frantic pleas of people seeking their loved ones…aching for vengeance. The pain and the rage within me grew into a tidal wave. I was unable to take it anymore…not one more damn second. I turned off the television and in naked solitude…looked up at my American flag…shouted obscenities upon the bastards who had caused this immeasurable pain…and…wept.I do not remember falling asleep but I awoke a few hours later with the sunrise. My instant reaction was one of joy…I thought everything had been a horrible nightmare. However, my momentary utopia disintegrated when I noticed the flag in our window. The torment returned. I felt what every parent hates to feel…I felt helpless.I wanted to cry some more…but even in isolation…I couldn’t…not just because big boys don’t cry… because I physically couldn’t. I washed up, made sure the kids could not detect the redness in my eyes and started breakfast. It was a new day. Michael’s birthday party was now in 2 days…it was time to plan…it was time to rise…it was time…to rebuild.~ Picture of David’s JK crown, made September 11, 2001…and the American flag that hung in our window.~ Dedicated to the families and friends of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks…and to all big boys…and big girls for that matter…who all too frequently don’t have the option to cry. Thank you for rising…and rebuilding.www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kvpomu2v8jA&feature=related
“Helpless” by Neil Youngwww.youtube.com/watch?v=zld2cSIVUO4
“My City of Ruins” by Bruce Springsteenwww.youtube.com/watch?v=3EIm1PS10CY&feature=related
“The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen
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Sunday, September 11, 2011
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