The Forgotten

I’m going to depart from my usual Access oriented blogging to talk about a subject very close to me. As the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 has approached I am, again, annoyed and chagrined at how one group of those affected is paid short shrift in the media coverage of the event. I refer to the ordinary people lucky enough to have survived the horrors and devastation of that day. You see I am one of that group.

I don’t want to take anything away from those who lost their lives in the Towers and especially not to the First Responders who bravely rushed in to do what they could after the planes hit the Towers. Or even those who lost loved ones on that day. But there are many of us who were lucky to have gotten out of the Towers and away from the collapse. Yet you hear little about those. I was inspired to write this by a column that appears in today’s (9/10) LI Newsday by Mike Vogel. Mr Vogel wrote about a 12 year old girl, Helaina Hovitz, who was evacuated from Intermediate School 89, near the World Trade Center. The column wrote how she begged the parents of a classmate to take her with them. How she and her classmates became sensitive to overhead planes and car backfires. How she struggled with post traumatic stress disorder through adolescence and young adulthood.  To her credit she emerged from this to become a journalist and author (After 9/11: One Girl’s Journey Through Darkness to a New Beginning).

My story is nowhere near as dramatic. I was in my office on the 50th floor of the South Tower that morning. I heard the crash of the first plane and looked out my window to see smoke coming out of the North Tower and debris raining down. Our corporate security people came running through the office telling everyone to get out. I was in a stairwell on the 16th floor when the second plane hit. The building shook and the lights went out briefly. When we reached the ground level the plaza looked like a war zone, flaming debris everywhere. The police ushered us down to the Concourse level telling us to head north.

From here my luck was tremendous. I managed to catch one of the last subway trains heading north and got to Penn Station in time to catch one of the last LIRR trains leaving Penn Station. I was home before noon unscathed. I don’t seem to have suffered any adverse affects of that day either physically or mentally. Though I was a bit jumpy about planes flying overhead for a little while afterwards.

I write this in the hope that people will remember that not all the victims of 9/11 were those who died in the attacks and those who survived them or those affected by the rescue efforts. But there is a third group that needs to be remembered.

I belong to a group that represents this group. The World Trade Center Survivor’s Network can be found at http://www.survivorsnet.org/. Please help remember those who survived on that day.

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In Memoriam

Paul Louis Diamond

10-12-1943 to 8-21-2014

My brother died today after a long illness. He died the way he lived his life, on his own terms. He fought the deterioration of his body with every ounce of his waning strength.

I loved and respected my brother. Though we often butted heads and didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, he was my big brother. Growing up he was always protective of me (he was the only one allowed to rag me) but he was always there for me. Now he won’t be!

He was a very strong willed person with strong beliefs, sometimes to the point of pigheadedness. As such, he was sometimes hard to take. But his beliefs came from careful consideration of his interpretation of the facts. And he was an intelligent person, who could make most arguments sound logical.

We were brought up by our parents to be generous and giving. Paul very much adhered to those principles. This is evidenced even in death as he has had his body donated to a medical school to see if they can determine why he lived many years longer than his doctors thought he would. As a lifelong smoker, battling diabetes and obesity, it is somewhat surprising that he is cancer free and survived as long as he did.

My brother was something of a character. My mother taught us the value of a vocabulary and Paul took it to extremes. He would never use a match to light up, but rather an incendiary primer. One of our family stories is about embarrassing my girlfriend (who married me despite this). We were at a picnic and my mother had forgotten the catsup. Linda asked how we could eat hamburgers without catsup. Paul’s reply was you put it in your mouth and you masticate. Linda, being vocabularily challenged mistook the word. I have a lot of stories about his sense of humor and idiosyncrasies that represent fond memories.

Paul never had children of his own, but took a great deal of interest in my daughter and was her favorite uncle. He was great with children and beloved by many young nieces and nephews. He is survived by myself and my daughter and his wife, Colleen. Colleen deserves special mention here as she has been a rock in dealing with Paul’s health issues, moods and taking excellent care of him. I don’t think I can ever adequately express my appreciation for what this has meant to us.

I can’t imagine what Paul has had to go through with the deterioration of his body. I am amazed at how much he has maintained his good humor throughout, though I haven’t been in contact with him on a daily basis. Hopefully, he can now rest from the fight.

I know that there are several people who will miss him as I will. I will remember him for what he was during his life, not what he was during his final battle to hang on to life. For the joie de vivre that he had, for the generosity that he showed, for just being a unique personality. The picture below, of Paul and Colleen, is how I will remember him.

R.I.P my big brother

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Family and friends gathered 8/23 At Paul and Coleen’s home for a balloon send off: Facebook Status

Comments are welcome,