9/11 from A to Z

I wish I had more self discipline as a writer. I wish I was that person who set boundaries and gave herself permission to write even when the other parts of her life needed attention. That person who could step over laundry to be washed, bypass dishes in the sink, ignore the weeds in the flowerbed, emails to be initiate or returned and sit and write. If I could I have a list of books, blogs and articles to my name. But I can’t.

Except when it draws closer to September 11.


I am compelled to write. I feel an obligation to write. In fact I feel more of a moral obligation to do so than at any other time of year, including Christmas. And for someone who believes deeply in prayer, specifically praying for others – so much so that I wrote a book on it. Well, that says something. But where does this sense of moral obligation come from? I’m not sure. My little blog is inconsequential compared to the enormous catalog of remembrances: special tv coverage, documentaries, personal stories, the historical accounting, video footage of the events but it means something to me.

There is a spirituality to this day and reverence must be paid. Perhaps this is how my parents felt about Pearl Harbor. Neither of my parents spoke often of that day but I knew they knew men who were lost when Pearl Harbor transformed from naval station to graveyard on a Sunday in December. Lincoln referred to Gettysburg as “hallowed ground” and while other Civil War battle sites have been turned into shopping malls or parking lots, Gettysburg is preserved.

I think it comes down to respect for the dead. In battle, both sides take losses and soldiers die. That is the way of war. But when 2,977 innocent people die on a crisp September morning, – people who did nothing but show up for work or get on a plane – there is a collective grief at the enormity of the senseless loss. I have to mark the day with prayer and words from my heart to honor the lives lost.

In a previous blog, I referred to the reading of the names of those who died as a sort of litany of the saints. I still feel that way. This year, instead of watching the ceremony at Ground Zero at which the names are read, I will listen to it on the radio as I drive to a baby shower in New Jersey.

When I hear certain names, I will connect an image to that name. First, I listen for Joe who graduated a year ahead of me in high school. He was president of the student council and I was the junior representative on the executive committee. I saw him almost every day. I remember a popular guy with an easy smile and sincere heart. I remember his love of baseball.

I wait for Richard Guadagno’s name – my husbands’s cousin. He was an incredibly gifted musician, a gentle soul, a naturalist at heart who worked to protect the environment as an officer with the Fish and Wildlife Service. He gave his life fighting the highjackers on Flight 93. His wallet and badge were eventually located by an FBI agent in an area where the cockpit slammed into the ground. His badge survived his fight. His valor is part of history.

Also on my list is Michael, a young man with a young family, his third child born just weeks before the attack. I can see him bounding into the pool area of our golf club, checking on his kids, kissing his darling wife and heading off to have a beer with his mates. Frank was a husband and dad who I knew in town and from church. A great guy who loved his wife and family. The type of guy who always helped out with Little League and football practices. A salt-of-the-earth solid guy.

And then there are all the names in between. Allens, Marinos, Murphys, Rodreguezs and Rosenbaums, Wong and Woods. I listen all the way if I can or for as long as time permits. I try to listen to the last Z . I don’t know who were dishwashers or servers at the breakfast meeting at Windows on the World, who were insurance executives and secretaries, the financial brokers and traders, the police, firemen, EMS and Port Authority workers. I don’t know who were the pilots, crew and passengers on the planes or the men and women in the Pentagon. I doubt one person imagined their fate and the world altering consequences of that day.

I had a dear friend who in his career worked at three firms located in the World Trade Center. He made great friends wherever he went. In the weeks after 9/11 he went to 48 funerals. He never sat one out no matter the toll it was taking on him. He honored his friends by his presence. I will continue to listen to the names as my way of honoring all the friends, the fathers, the mothers, the sisters and brothers, sons and daughters who were victims that day. I will pray for the families they left behind. And I will write about it all next year. I must.

12 Responses to 9/11 from A to Z

  1. Phyllis Ricciardelli says:

    Thank you Clare for this. My Daughter Dominique dear friend died that day. Kris Hugh’s. A special young man

  2. Tom Imburgio says:

    Claire you’re a gifted writer and this is much more personal and touching than any documentary. I lost a good friend at the Pentagon that day and like you said it’s kind of our generations Pearl Harbor. Thank you for writing this.

    • Claire Coleman says:

      Thank you, Tom. It was a horrific day – as was Pearl Harbor. My husband worked in the North Tower but had jury duty in NJ that day. My brother worked in the Pentagon in Naval Command Center (which took a direct hit) but he worked there on weekends as he was in the Naval Reserves at the time. He was called up for active duty by 11 that morning. There is much about that day I will remember forever. Take care.

  3. Tom Imburgio says:

    Claire I was at the National Security Agency (NSA) that day. The week before I had put in my Air Force retirement papers needless to say I retired a year later. My friend Cmdr. Dan Shanower died at the Naval Command Center. Later that day I was trying to find out about my cousins who were NYPD and FYFD luckily they survived. Later the eeriness of not seeing or hearing any airplanes in the sky. A day or so later I was taking my daughter to Walter Reed Hospital for an appointment I told her to look at the sky and remember this…… the only airplanes flying were the fighter jets flying combat air patrol over Washington D.C. Like Pearl Harbor you can ask anyone of our generation where were you on 9/11 and they know exactly where they were and unlike Pearl Harbor we say it in real time. Again thanks for writing and expressing it so well. Thank care, Tom

    • Claire Coleman says:

      I asked my brother if he knew Cmdr Shanower. He said he knew of him. Navy Intel- he thought.
      Stay well. Stay safe and thank you for your service to our country.
      Claire

  4. Adele says:

    Glad you stepped over the laundry and walked past the dishes in the sink to write this, dear friend.
    Your words are a treasure.
    Love you

  5. Graz says:

    Thank you Claire, loved your words, emotions and love. Peace

  6. Joan Burkholtz says:

    This was beautiful Claire. I hope some day you and Michael can make it out to Shanksville to the Flight 93 Memorial. There is also a walking trail across the road at Game Lands 093 dedicated to Richard. Always a sad day for all of us. Uncle Jerry and Lori actually came up this year to be with us. Again, thank you for this beautiful post.

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