The Cruel Shoes


See those shoes? If you have young children, you’re probably quite familiar with them. If not: they’re called Crocs … and everyone loves Crocs. Crocs rock. Except, c’mere and I’ll tell you a little secret: I think they suck, and I rue the day my children fell in love with them.

I don’t call them Crocs; I call them Trips … because I have watched my children trip and fall in them so many times — particularly Zan, who isn’t the most graceful or coordinated dude in the vicinity to begin with — that one would think I walked around throwing banana peels in their path.

I remember taking both kids out in our jogging stroller one summer day a few years ago, when Zan was barely three. He decided he wanted to get out and run down the stretch of sidewalk we were on. I encouraged him to instead walk, and suggested that running in his Crocs probably wasn’t a good idea … and, as always, he thanked me profusely for such sage advice, said that he knew I offered it freely and with no motive other than to keep him safe, and proceeded to carefully walk down the sidewalk. [comedic pause for effect] BWAHAHAHAHA! Oh god, I slay me! No, what he actually did was, he sprinted off and fucking ate it. Tore up his knees and hands. Would’ve made for a terrific Crocs commercial.

In the years since, there have been numerous additional Croc-related tripping incidents. In fact, if you look closely at Zan’s latest pair of Crocs (shown above, and I’ll admit that the Red Sox theme makes them sorta cool, but it does nothing to improve their performance), you can see the scuff marks on the big-toe area, which is remarkably adept at grabbing tightly to the ground and sending the Crocs-wearer toppling ass over tea kettle.

You know who else apparently likes to wear Crocs? Grown-ups. This came as a shock to me, as I’ve only ever seen them on children, and I tend to think of them as toy shoes rather than actual adult footwear, but it’s true: there are grown-ups who wear Crocs … like these nurses, who have created a four-page messageboard thread about how some of them have suffered Croc-induced trip-and-fall smackdowns at work … and if ever I’m hospitalized, and the EKG to which I’m connected suddenly starts to flatline, and the nurse who comes running to resuscitate me trips and falls, and I die because my nurse was wearing Crocs, I’m going to be so fucking pissed.

Now, I will admit that, this year, Zan has rarely tripped in them, and Jayna has always been slightly more graceful than her brother, so tripping has been less of a problem with her all along … but rest assured that their propensity for causing trip-and-fall disasters isn’t the only thing I loathe about Crocs.

One of the things I really like about shoes in general is that they, you know, cover your feet … feet that otherwise would become filthy and disgusting if you left the house barefoot, and so, yay, shoes! Except, Crocs? Crocs are not shoes; Crocs are sifter-equipped dirt collectors. All those little holes are perfect for keeping out large debris whilst letting in plenty of filth, and I can’t imagine filth loving anything more than a pair of feet that have been incubating in a rubber shell, because when said filth meets said feet, the two totally get it on, like so:

These are your feet on crocs

This is your foot on Crocs

This is how my kids’ feet looked just about every time they entered the house this summer … and though I’ve mostly resigned myself to the fact that, until my children grow up and move out, my house will never again look like two reasonably neat and clean adults reside therein, I simply can’t turn a blind eye to those filth-ridden feet.

Whenever Wonder Woman has taken the kids out somewhere while I’m working, and the three of them return home, Zan always enters the house first, removes his shoes (because we always remove our shoes upon entering the house, because that way we don’t track filth all over the inside of our home … you know, unless we’ve been wearing Crocs) and dashes into my office to say “Hi.”

“GAH! Look at those feet!” I exclaim as Zan begins to laugh. “Deee-sgusting! Go show Mommy right now!” I throw that last part in because, somehow, Mommy always seems surprised to find that the children’s feet have become completely filthy while they were out wearing Crocs, and she is probably reading this part right now and saying to herself, “No, I’m never surprised, I just don’t give anywhere near as much of a shit about it as you do, you neurotic asshole,” and, OK, but I still want her to wash their disgusting feet when they enter the house.

Post-Croc washing

During the course of writing this, I’ve finally discovered one thing that I’m going to enjoy about fall and winter: no more Crocs. It does very little to comfort me over the loss of that wonderful, wonderful, truly delightful, do-lots-of-things-outdoors-and-go-to-the-beach season known as “summer” … but at least it’s something.

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Marathon Man

A mind’s-eye view of my morning run:

7:30 a.m. – I really should go for a run today. It’s been far too long.

8 a.m. – No, seriously: I should go for a run.

8:30 a.m. – Maybe if I put on my running apparel, it’ll help build some momentum.

8:35 a.m. – Look at that handsome man in the mirror … and look at those guns in that sleeveless shirt. You, my friend, are a powerhouse … and by “powerhouse” I mean “human pipe-cleaner.” Howzabout eating something and maybe lifting a weight?

9 a.m. – Perhaps if I Tweet about the difficulty I’m having finding the motivation to go running, the Internet will hold me accountable.

@daddyscratches: “Hi! This is me sitting here in my running apparel, telling myself I’m going to go running just as soon as I finish this 1 last thing. #lies”

9:05 a.m. – Overwhelming response from my rabid pack of followers is encouraging … and by “overwhelming response,” I mean that one message I received.

@LindaCormack: “Just go and do it, you will feel much better for it. I feel smug as I have already run for one hour this morning.”

9:06 a.m. – Trying to decide if @LindaCormack’s intent was to encourage me, or make me feel bad about myself for not being able to run for a full hour.

9:10 a.m. – She’s right; I should just go and do it. I will feel much better for it. Alright, let’s do this thing … as soon as I finish reading some more email and taking care of a couple more work-related tasks … not because I’m procrastinating, but because I’m a model employee (as evidenced by the fact that I sometimes just knock off and go running in the middle of my workday).

9:30 a.m. – Damn, I’m hungry. I should have eaten something two hours ago … and I would have, except that I deluded myself into thinking that I was going to go running two hours ago … and then 90 minutes ago … and then an hour ago … and then 30 minutes ago … and do you see where I’m going with this? By the time I finally leave, I’ll make it three steps before fainting from starvation. Something about this approach to eating seems counterintuitive to the whole “healthy lifestyle” thing … and helps to explain the human-pipe-cleaner physique mentioned earlier.

9:35 a.m. – OK, I ate four grapes and drank some orange juice. That oughta hold me over. Plus, also, if this run makes me puke, the mess will be more manageable than if I’d eaten an actual breakfast.

9:36 a.m. – Alright, let’s do this thing … as soon as I use the potty. Nothing worse than realizing five minutes after setting out on a run that your bladder is full. Then you end up having to deal with those people … you know, the ones who don’t want you to pee in their bushes? Pfft. Prudes.

9:37 a.m. – Better brush my teeth, too. As everyone knows, a healthy lifestyle begins with good oral hygiene.

9:40 a.m. – To bring my iPod or not to bring my iPod? That is the question. For some reason, I feel more inclined to listen to the voices in my head today. God knows they’re loud enough.

9:57 a.m. – OK, seriously: let’s do this. The grapes and juice are wearing off already. (No, I don’t know where the past 17 minutes went, but I assure you, whatever I did, it was definitely urgent and fully necessitated that I further delay my departure.) Out the door we go.

9:58 a.m. – I’m a machine. I can run forever. Those three weeks I unintentionally took off? They just gave my body some much needed time to recuperate. I’m stronger for it. I’m unstoppable. These legs can carry me effortlessly for miles upon miles. These lungs are unfazed.

9:59 a.m. – I should probably start running soon.

10:02 a.m. – Here we go.

10:04 a.m. – What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you start off with an enormous hill? Way to ease into it, genius.

10:06 a.m. – Can this watch be right? I’ve only been running for four minutes? Jesus Christ.

10:06 a.m. – OK, Jonny Boy, nice and slow down the other side of this hill. Let gravity do its thing. No, I don’t mean stumble down the hill like a drunken commando. Controlled descent, asswipe.

10:08 a.m. – To cross this street is to cross the point of no return … or, at least, to cross the point of easy return. Should I instead turn right and do the shorter loop? (Yes!) No. (YES!) Shut up, douche. We’re crossing the street.

10:09 a.m. – Is it just me, or is this hill actually growing as we speak?

10:12 a.m. – Remember last night, when you were contemplating going running this morning, and you thought to yourself, “I better make sure I drink enough water this evening so I’m ready to go when I get up,” but then you didn’t drink any water, and you didn’t leave when you got up, and now it’s 13 hours later? Yeah, me too. And, hey, how do you like that stabbing cramp in your side, dumb dumb?

10:14 a.m. – This kinda sucks. Maybe I should walk for a bit. (Not gonna happen. Forget about it.) Grrrr.

10:16 a.m. – OK, once you get to the top of this hill, you’ll have a long stretch of flat land, and then a decline. Just need to get up this hill. Focus on your breathing.

10:17 a.m. – Focus on my breathing? What the hell else am I going to focus on? I’m hyperventilating, asshole!

10:18 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. – Between the cramp, the heat and the gasping for oxygen, I’m feeling very little incentive to keep running … but to allow myself to throw in the towel and walk is to undermine the whole mental aspect of this thing. Hmmm. What to do … what to do?

Wait, I know! I’ll put my OCD to good use by convincing myself that, if I don’t continue to run all the way to the finish line, something bad will happen. Yes, tragedy is what awaits if I wimp out here. And nothing says “healthy mental aspect” like motivating yourself by creating a completely illogical, unrealistic threat that exists only in your imagination, am I right?

10:45 a.m. – Almost there … almost there … juuuuust a little further … dear god, what is that I’m feeling? Is that my spleen?

10:47 a.m. – Yeah, baby! Mission accomplished! I would so totally throw my arms up in the air and jump around like Rocky Balboa right now … if it weren’t for the fact that attempting to do so would almost surely send me into full cardiac arrest.

10:50 a.m. – Is it normal to sweat this much?

10:52 a.m. – Hey, look! In the mirror! It’s that pipe-cleaner guy again! But why’s his head bright purple now? Should I be calling 911?

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Pay no attention to that safer vaccine behind the curtain

So I took the kids to get their flu shots yesterday, and it sucked.

The End.

Seriously, need I say more? I mean, if you’ve ever had to take your kids to get a flu shot — or any shot, for that matter — you know the deal: shot = sucks.

The End.

But, of course, that’s not The End, is it? No, certainly not … for I must entertain and astound you, and, with any luck, make you regurgitate your beverage through your nose.

So …

When Wonder Woman informed me that she had a work commitment Wednesday evening, and that I’d have to take the children to their flu-shot appointment (smack dab in the middle of rush hour, no less), I braced for the worst.

And, god, what a great story it would make if I could tell you that both kids screamed bloody murder and had to be physically restrained in order for the nurse to administer the shots … but, the fact of the matter is, that would be untrue.

In reality, only Jayna screamed bloody murder and had to be physically restrained in order for the nurse to administer the shot … and, in her defense, she didn’t scream for all that long, and she didn’t actually need to be “physically restrained” so much as she needed to be “held firmly” while I kept her left arm exposed and shielded her eyes from the sight of the sharp, painful, monstrously large metal spike as it was driven into her flesh.

No, seriously, the needle? WAY larger than what I was expecting. I was taken aback, because I had assumed that the needle was going to be one of those short, whisper-thin jobbers like I’ve seen used for other vaccines, but apparently the flu vaccine has to be delivered via a hollowed-out railroad spike.

Wanna hear what an awesome big brother Zan is? As soon as we broke the news to the kids that they had to go with me to get their flu shots, he tried to comfort and reassure his sister by telling her that he was excited about going to get his shot. He repeated this in the car, and upon arrival at the doctor’s office, and then got his shot first so that he could show her that it was no big deal … which impressed the hell out of me, because, I’m telling you: railroad spike … and he didn’t flinch or make a peep.

So, the actual administering of the shots doesn’t make for much of a story. The kids really did great.

What does make for a good story, however, is this:

Upon checking in at the front desk, and confirming with the receptionist that, yes, we were there for the kids’ flu shots, I was given a two-sided handout titled “Inactivated Influenza Vaccine: What You Need to Know.” Well, shit, I better read that, right?

So I read it, and 90% of it was run-of-the-mill stuff I’ve heard and read before … but what I had neither heard nor read before was this paragraph:

Some inactivated influenza vaccine contains a preservative called thimerosal. Some people have suggested that thimerosal may be related to developmental problems in children. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine reviewed many studies looking into this theory and concluded that there is no evidence of such a relationship. Thimerosal-free influenza vaccine is available. [Editor’s note: emphasis mine.]

Um, OK. Let’s see if I understand: The thimerosal-infused vaccine is safe — so safe, in fact, that there’s really no need whatsoever for your children to receive the quite-possibly-even-safer thimerosal-free vaccine, and never mind the fact that our entire premise seems completely fucked, because, like, why bother making a thimerosal-free vaccine if thimerosal is perfectly safe, and why spend 47 words telling you just how perfectly safe it is, only to follow those 47 words with the offer of a thimerosal-free alternative?

“Should I be asking you to give them the thimerosal-free vaccine?” I asked the 50-something, short-haired nurse, who looked way too peppy and gleeful and insincere as she placed on the table next to Zan a tray holding two syringes chock full of thimerosal.

“Oh, no, it’s perfectly safe … and we only have a limited supply of the thimerosal-free kind; I’m not even sure if we have any left.”

“Oh, OK. It’s just that, in light of the apparent controversy —”

“A totally unfounded controversy.”

“Right, but —”

And that’s when Jayna started in with the screaming and crying, and I tried to calm her so that I could finish my thimerosal inquisition, but the nurse apparently realized that I wasn’t just going to let it go, so she said, “I’ll go check and see if we have any left,” and she seemed none too thrilled about the inconvenience I had caused her, and I so didn’t give a shit.

A moment later, she returned with two new syringes and said, “OK, you got the last two!,” and the way she said it seemed kinda snooty, as though she was in fact saying, “OK, you pain-in-the-ass, hypochondriacal parent, your kids will now get the only thimerosal-free influenza vaccines we have left, thereby denying other, more-worthy children of that privilege!,” and this is me still so not giving a shit that she apparently was annoyed that I chose to advocate for something as petty as my children’s health and welfare.

And so the shots were administered, and my thimerosal-free children and I drove home, and we didn’t even get stuck in traffic. How ’bout that.

The End.

PS: Is it just me, or does the fact that it’s mid-September and our pediatrician’s office already has used up all of its thimerosal-free vaccines, but still has thimerosal-infused vaccines aplenty, seem to indicate that I’m not the only one who thought it would be best to say “Hold the thimerosal”?

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The Towers

In August of 1995, Wonder Woman’s parents, who could not believe that the long-haired schmuck their daughter was dating was so much of a rube that he had never in all of his 25 years of living in the Northeast been to New York City, decided to take their daughter and said rube on a whirlwind tour of Manhattan Island.

We drove from Philly to Jersey, then took the ferry across the Hudson. The picture shown above, as awful and grainy as it is (I wasn’t into photography back then), is basically the first view I ever had of New York City.

Once we reached the other side, we drove off the ferry, and our first stop was the World Trade Center. My mother-in-law waited in the car while my father-in-law took us inside and up to the observatory. I could not believe how huge the city was (nor how huge the towers were).

We worked our way north, stopping at various noteworthy locations along the way, and at one point posed for this photo.

I immediately fell in love with New York City; in fact, WW and I drove back down in my P.O.S. Hyundai just a few days later in order to attend a taping of “The Late Show with David Letterman” during which Van Halen was the musical guest. (Another story for another time.)

In the six years that followed, I went to New York City every chance I got. When 9/11 happened, I felt my gut wrenched in a way that I don’t think it would have been had I never spent any time there. If you’ve never been there, you can’t fathom what the place is like, and I believe that anyone who had spent time there prior to 9/11 probably experienced the destruction of the Towers in a more visceral way than those who had never been.

In October of 2001, Wonder Woman and I had plans to celebrate our third wedding anniversary by spending the first weekend of that month in New York City with her parents, as well her brother and his wife, who were celebrating their seventh anniversary. My father-in-law, at the time, worked in the Bronx, and commuted there from Philadelphia by train every day. He was in the Bronx on 9/11, and I dare say that he experienced the destruction of the Towers in a more visceral way than most people. We had made our plans well in advance, and in the immediate wake of the attacks, we looked to him to decide whether or not we’d still go through with them. He said we should, so we did. I’m glad he chose that way.

Being in Manhattan three-and-a-half weeks after the Towers fell was beyond surreal. The walls outside the train stations were covered with pictures of people who were missing, and there was a general pall on the city. It felt like a different place.

We saw Bjork perform at Radio City Music Hall our first night in town. Before the show, we went to the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller center, and from there, we saw the beams of light that shone in place of the fallen towers. It was almost impossible to believe they were gone.

The next day, we went down to “Ground Zero.” The air was still filled with smoke and irritants, and it doesn’t surprise me that many workers developed respiratory problems, because three-and-a-half weeks after the attacks, the air quality was such that I was coughing and my eyes were watering.

As you would imagine, standing there and looking at the wreckage … the damage to all the surrounding buildings … it drove it home in a way the television can’t. The magnitude of it all was just mind-boggling. A massive piece of the world — one of its most recognizable, iconic pieces, at that — had been summarily deleted. It stretched the limits of human comprehension.

In recent days, while marking the eighth anniversary of the tragedy, I’ve often heard people say, or seen them write, “We must never forget.” I understand the sentiment behind those words, but I honestly don’t know if the words themselves are apropos; how could anyone ever forget? Is that even possible?

I know I could never forget, even if I wanted to. Fortunately, I’ll also never forget what it was like when the Towers were still there.

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No one I knew or was related to died on that awful day, and I was neither in New York nor Washington D.C. when it happened; like most, I listened to it on the radio and watched it on TV. The people who experienced it firsthand, and the people who lost loved ones, are the people who have truly meaningful stories to tell about Sept. 11, 2001.

Still, for eight years, I’ve always felt the need to write about it, both for myself, and for my children, so that, when they’re old enough, and if they care to, they can read about the worst the second-worst day of my entire life.

I can still recall most of that day with as much clarity and detail as if it just happened.

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. Bright sun, clear blue sky, T-shirt-and-shorts weather … which is what I was wearing as I drove from home to the train station. I was splitting my time between working from home and working from an office in Boston back then, and on any other day, I’d have probably stayed home, but I was scheduled to interview Seal that afternoon, and the device with which I planned to record our phone conversation was at the office.

It was just before 9 a.m. and I was listening to “The Howard Stern Show” as I headed to the station. I can see in my mind exactly where I was when Howard announced that a plane had apparently crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Like many people — myself included — Howard and his crew assumed it was a small, private plane of some sort.

A few minutes later, I was on the train, listening to the show on my Walkman (yes, children, there was a device back then called a “Walkman,” which was big and bulky and played these things called “cassette tapes,” and which also had an AM/FM radio tuner … much different than the microchip-implant that broadcasts music straight into your brainstem nowadays, I’m sure).

A second plane flew into the South Tower. Oh my god. This isn’t an accident; we’re under attack.

For the entire 30-minute train ride, I listened to Howard and the gang — who were broadcasting from a skyscraper just a few miles away from what would come to be called “Ground Zero” — talk about what they were seeing on the news, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I arrived at my office and spotted the television. Holy shit. The Towers … so much smoke … and fire …

And then the unthinkable happened: the South Tower collapsed into a cloud of debris. In a day filled with more surrealism than the human mind could ever be expected to process, the collapse of that first tower stands out to me as the most surreal and incomprehensible moment of all. The planes and the explosions and the fire and the damage and the people, dear god, the people, all of that was terrifying and horrifying and unimaginable, but when the fucking Twin Towers actually came down … that was when I felt like reality had been completely torn to shreds, and that the world might truly be ending.

It was time to get back home. I emailed my co-workers, all of whom were on the West Coast.

Date: September 11, 2001 10:02:59 AM EDT
Subject: FYI

I’m in the city, but I’m taking my ball and going home. There are three federal buildings surrounding the one I’m in (and I’m on the top floor), so, while in all likelihood nothing’s going to happen here, I’m leaving in a few and taking a train back to the ’burbs. I’ll be back online from home ASAP.

The train I rode out of the city was full, and quiet.

A third plane had crashed into the Pentagon. My sister was, at the time, living in Arlington, VA. Her apartment building sat atop a hill, and the view out her window encompassed, among other things, the Pentagon, less than a mile away. I tried reaching her on my cell, but all of the phone lines in the Northeast were melting down. I reached my mom, who said my sister was OK, but very shaken.

Here is part of the email my sister sent to us a couple of days later.

A deafening, high-pitched shriek tore through the sky above my roof. My nail clippers fell to the sink, and I cowered down next to my toilet, a complete instinctive reaction to hide myself from harm. “Oh, boy, that noise is unusually loud, I hope to God that a plane hasn’t lost its engine…maybe a plane did lose its engine, and can’t make it to Reagan National to land. Maybe it is an Air Force jet formation — you know, 3 or 5 of them together, flying low, showing off their expertise, and they are going over the Pentagon for some sort of ceremony”… All of those thoughts within a few seconds.

The building shakes from the velocity of whatever had made the deafening sound, but no plane came crashing down. I am safe. I run to my window to look up to the sky, to see what sounded so dangerous a moment ago, the noise that made me think for a split second, “Holy shit, we’re going to get hit.” I look up to the left, following the noise of the engine that was ripping through the sky — nothing. I look straight ahead, nothing but a clear blue September sky, you can see for miles … Wait, what the hell is that? That doesn’t look right … The flying object, the object that was sailing through the sky at unimaginable speed, impacts the side of the Pentagon, and bursts into 200 foot flames upon impact. Orange and black fire soaring hundreds of feet into the air — the sonic waves of that mind-boggling impact ricochet off my building, and a breeze of hot air enters my apartment through my open window. I am trying to understand, what did I just see? What could have gone so wrong that something, a plane, perhaps a missile because of the speed, just slammed into the Pentagon?

So, yeah, I’d be rattled, too. (My father manned up in a big way and flew down to see her as soon as air travel resumed. I don’t think you could have paid me to fly at that point.)

Off the train, into the car, dazed. Home. Hours and hours and hours of watching the television … the second plane slamming into the South Tower, over and over again, in slow motion, from different angles. The towers coming down repeatedly, the huge cloud of pulverized skyscraper chasing New Yorkers down the street, engulfing some who later emerged covered in gray powder from head to foot. The Pentagon — the fucking Pentagon — burning.

Chaos reigned. Unconfirmed — and, thankfully, erroneous — reports claimed there were other planes in the sky that had been hijacked (aside from Flight 93, which crashed into the ground in rural Pennsylvania, apparently brought down by passengers who decided to die in order to prevent the hijackers from hitting their intended target, believed to be the White House), that Chicago was going to be hit, and possibly Los Angeles, and that a bomb had exploded in D.C. at the Capitol Building, and on and on it went, for hours.

Thousands dead, among them hundreds of firefighters, policemen and other first-responders who ran toward the danger to help. Fire trucks and police cars and ambulances sitting half destroyed amidst the rubble. All too horrible to comprehend.

Terrorist “sleeper cells” … anthrax in the mail … bomb threats … military troops patrolling New York City and Washington, D.C. … duct tape … fucking duct tape. The world is ending, and the government recommends duct tape.

Fuck duct tape. I want weapons. The ex-soldier in me wants guns, big guns, and ammo, lots of ammo, because surely there are going to be more terrorist attacks, and the country will soon slip into anarchy and martial law and, yes, honey, I know you said you would never allow guns in our house, but, you see, that was before the United States of America was getting blown the fuck up by suicidal terrorists, so try and be a little flexible here, would you? Work with me, baby.

No, seriously, that’s how I felt. I was sure that America would soon descend into the kind of daily chaos and carnage that we Americans had, up until then, equated with places like Israel and Palestine and Lebanon and Somalia.

I seethed with anger, and fumed that the assholes who hijacked the planes already were dead, because we’d never get to exact upon them the kind of mind-numbing, frightful revenge they so richly deserved. It tortured me that they died knowing they had succeeded. The thought of the terrorists who hijacked flight 175 seeing the North Tower engulfed in flames and smoke just before they smashed their own plane into the South Tower … the satisfaction I imagine them feeling at the sight of it … it made, and still makes, my blood fucking boil.

I put my dog tags back on and wore them for days. I don’t know why; it just felt right.

I contemplated re-enlisting in the military. I wanted to kill the motherfuckers responsible for what had happened to my country, and I believed that the inevitable war against whomever had done it would be the first conflict of my lifetime based on a cause worth fighting and, if necessary, dying for.

I pondered whether or not I wanted to bring children into such a fucked up world, and felt inclined not to.

I was in shock.

In the days and weeks that followed, I was overwhelmed by the patriotism that I and so many others felt, and by the way it unified us as Americans. The American flag became a more meaningful symbol to me than it had ever been before.

I was sure that our society’s priorities were going to change, and that frivolities such as Britney Spears’ new video or the latest episode of “Survivor” would soon go the way of the dinosaur (or at least, I hoped so). How could things ever go back to normal?

Would anything ever be funny again? (Thankfully, yes … and it didn’t take too long; The Onion helped break the ice for me with their positively brilliant take on the attacks.)

In the immediate wake of 9/11, not only were we unified as a country, but the entire global community was united. We had the unconditional support of the entire free world. It was something that, in my lifetime, was completely unprecedented. In wiser, more capable hands, it was a moment that could have been leveraged to make the world a better place, and to make some greater good come out of such unspeakable evil.

I couldn’t imagine then that my life would ever get back to anything even vaguely resembling “normal” … or that, eight years later, my wife and I would have two beautiful children … two beautiful children who I hope will never, ever know what it’s like to experience the horror we experienced that day.

When I picked Zan up from school today, he said to me, “Daddy, today is a special day.”

“Why’s that?” I asked, not thinking that my 6-year-old son’s first-grade teacher would have introduced such young children to the story of 9/11. (Of course, I also didn’t think his kindergarten teacher would introduce 5-year-olds to the concept of racism … and I continue to see the allure of homeschooling.)

“Because there were these two big buildings—,” he began.

“Yes, you’re right, Zan,” I said, not wanting him to tell the tale in front of his 4-year-old sister. “It was a horrible, horrible day. Why don’t you and I talk about it later, OK, pal?”

“OK, Daddy.”

At bedtime tonight, he said, “Daddy, can you tell me about the buildings and the airplanes?”

“Well, there were two very big buildings in New York, and some really bad people flew planes into them and ruined the buildings, and a lot of people got hurt,” I told him. “It was awful … but you don’t have to worry, pal, because Mommy and Daddy will always keep you nice and safe, and nothing like that is ever going to happen to us,” I said to him … because he’s a worrier, and I really can’t stomach the thought of those fucking assholes who brought down the towers instilling fear in my young son eight years later.

But the truth of the matter is that a lot of mommies and daddies and kids died that day, despite similar assurances that those same mommies and daddies probably made to their kids at one time or another … so I could be wrong.

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