1. When I was a sophomore in high school I somehow fell in with this group of senior girls. Thinking back, I have no idea how this happened. They invited me to a Go-Go’s concert (with A Flock of Seagulls opening) in September of 1982 and we hung out for the rest of the year; until they all went off to college.
Although this didn’t make me cool in the eyes of certain senior boys that I followed around (with my eyes) like a puppy, it did give me standing with a fringe clique of the afore mentioned senior girls. Because of this, this odd girl Anne asked me to her Senior prom. I had no idea who she was, but said yes. I remember she liked to go and drink in cemeteries by herself. It was the first time I stayed out all night.
And then there was Nina (pronounced Nine-uh, NOT Neee-nuh). We were friends in school, but didn’t party together. She was tall-ish and pale, with long, straight black hair. She was a gifted artist, and was sophisticatedly troubled. She lived in New York City but for reasons that were never discussed, attended our suburban school.
That year the fall dance was held in the school cafeteria. The huge round tables that sat 10 or so were folded up and pushed to the side – except for a few near the entrance to stack our coats on.
The Go-Go’s crowd and I had gone into the woods behind the school with a 5th of peppermint schnapps before going in (this was standard practice). While I was flailing about on the dance floor to “Don’t you want me baby” I was making mock punching gestures at my friend Kristina. Keith (from my class) walked in between us, and right into one. I smacked him dead-on in the jaw. His head snapped back and he just kept on walking. My cold sweat was for naught – he wasn’t going to beat me to a pulp. He had been to the woods with his friends also, and didn’t even feel me punch him.
At the end of the evening I spotted Nina over by the tables with the coats stacked high. As I was talking to her the same Keith stumbled over and stood next to her, weaving slightly as he stared at her. She ignored him. He finally slurred out a very sorry, amateurish pick-up line.
When it was obvious that he wasn’t going to give up, Nina held out her hand and said, “Excuse me Brad”, turning fully to address Keith. She surveyed him from head to toe and announced, “Listen little boy, don’t start something you won’t be able to finish.” He sat there wide-eyed for a moment – that punch he felt. Then he turned around and vomited all over the coats.
Keith was cute, and I had a mild crush on him and his very full lips. He was a bit gangly, but not in a awkward sense – he just hadn’t fully grown into his body yet. He was athletic but not a jock. He was part of a cooler crowd, but I never heard him harass or make fun of anyone.
When I went to get my coat for my walk home I soon realized that it had taken the full force of Keith’s chunk-blowing. This was a problem because I had borrowed my older brother’s coveted brown Member’s Only jacket without telling him. I ended up stashing it in the garage in a plastic bag (where it stayed for years) – and played dumb as he tore the house apart looking for it.
Keith and his younger brother worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in Tower One of the World Trade Center, and were both lost on September 11th.
2.On September 6th, 2001, Clay and I had a boring six hour layover at the lovely Newark Liberty International Airport. We sat at the end of our concourse, looking across the Hudson River at lower Manhattan, and watching the planes take off and land.
“I’ve never been to the World Trade Center”, he said. “Promise me that you’ll take me to see it.”
“Yes, yes. I promise.”
It was the thing to do, after all. Years ago, any time my college friends would come to visit we would take the hour long train ride into Grand Central, then the subway downtown. We always ended up on the observation deck, on top of tower two. The views were, of course, spectacular.
Below the outdoor deck was an indoor observation floor with gift shops, food, educational displays, etc. Here, in just the right spot, you could climb up (you weren’t supposed to) and press yourself up against the giant window panes. When you looked down you couldn’t see any of tower two below you – you were just floating high above the city. Your stomach would lurch a little and vertigo would set in. It felt like you would start tumbling forward at any second.
Sometimes my friends would step down quickly, not liking the feeling at all. But I would stay with palms and face stuck to the glass, as long as I dared.
Troy and I continued on to Maine that day. We were there to cheer on our good friends who were riding their bicycles from Montreal to Portland, Maine to raise money for AIDS research. What a wonderful celebration it was when they road across that finish line; these non-professional athletes who pushed themselves beyond ordinary endurance to help their fellow man.
And so, when it came time for us to fly to New York on September 10th, we changed our minds and decided to hang out in Maine just a little longer. We’d check out the World Trade Center on another day… On the morning of September 11, instead of waiting in line for the opening of the observation deck of tower two, we were making breakfast at my Mom’s place.