Life Since September 11

News & Politics

Almost everyday since the terrorists attacks, I have cried. Only my father's death affected me more profoundly. The last time I shed tears was Monday night. I listened to yet another story of rare heroism. This one by a crew of construction workers -- brawny, tough men -- who described how they wept openly even as they clawed the rubble of the World Trade Center in hopes of finding someone, anyone, alive.

They did not.

A Father's Duty

My son, Jude, asked me the other day if I thought he might soon be drafted. Just 21 years old, he was nervous and fidgety. I told him it was unlikely, though I couldn't say for sure.

"I doubt they'll going to reinstitute the draft," I replied. "But I don't think anyone knows exactly what what's going to happen."

He was silent for a moment. So I asked if he was afraid to die.

"No," he said, shaking his head vigorously. "I've just been thinking about going back to school."

As I wondered how I might feel if I were in his shoes, he asked, "What do you think I should do?"

An unanswerable question.

Incidental Bravery

I flew in an airplane last week.

Three weeks ago, saying that would have sounded as mundane as telling someone I had brushed my teeth. Now some people think it's an act of bravery or foolishness.

I wasn't afraid. I wasn't brave. I just needed to get to Atlanta.

Once there, I made the mistake, however, of calling my stepmother. Somehow, I was just thinking of her. She broke out in tears when she learned I'd made the trip by air.

"Why did I mention it? The woman is battling cancer and is losing her eyesight," I thought to myself. I had made her worry needlessly. I felt sick.

Mistaken Identity

In Atlanta, I stopped to buy a newspaper at a hotel gift shop before flying back home on Sunday. A young black woman was working the cash register. I figured she was a local.

"Are you Saudi Arabian?" she asked politely, her speech revealing a tinge of a foreign accent. It turned out she was Ethiopian.

A little startled, I replied, "No, I'm from Arizona."

"Oh, you look like you're from Saudi Arabia," she said sounding apologetic.

I had grown a full beard a few weeks earlier. My beard together with my Latino heritage had also confused people during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980.

Invisible victims

Of the more than 6,000 people identified as missing in New York since the attacks, it's becoming painfully clear that many will never be found. Instead of a funeral, their families will have to make due with only a memorial service.

Yet there were other victims. People who died in the Trade Towers whose families will be denied even that trace of closure. Social workers say an unknown number of undocumented immigrants were almost certainly working in the buildings when they collapsed.

They may not be missed for weeks or months -- as friends and families in places like Africa, Asia and Latin America begin to realize the worst.

I think about these invisible victims. And it makes me cry again.

James Garcia is editor and publisher of E-mail the writer at

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