I remember . . .

Today is the day that for the last 18 years I slow down and remember my best friend Joe. I remember our childhood. I remember how he never gave up on me through all my twists and turns, even when I didn’t show up for our friendship like he always did. 

And then I remember Ground Zero. That night, a week after the planes, when I was allowed to go on the site because I was family.

The eerie desolation, the smoke, the building exo-skeletons leaning and just hanging on to themselves, the gas masks, the bright lights, the haze, the workers scurrying around, the giant equipment–cranes and bulldozers. Every time they chipped away at debris, balls of fire erupted. 

I remember his cop buddy pointing to where Joe was last seen. I climbed up the seven stories of smoky debris, stopped, looked around, panting through my gas mask. I felt like I was on a different planet. 

And then I prayed.