Today started out as one of those clear-skied cool almost fall mornings. My list of errands was long and straightforward. Bank, cleaners, library, friend's house-- that sort of thing. An early stop was the Chatham library.
When we moved to New Jersey, I spent my first five years minding the reference desk of that wonderful spot right in the middle of town. As I walked the brick commemorative path near the playground, I considered my New Jersey hometown. On this beautiful day, moms with babies paraded up sidewalks. A grandfather in a bright red cardigan followed his toddler down the slide. It was a great day to be walking, surrounded by happy people enjoying their friends and families.
I turned the corner and headed toward the steps, and I noticed a new park filled with yellow Black-eyed Susans and purple cosmos had sprung up outside the library's big side window. The park was surrounded by small American flags.
I've been away from Chatham for a while and didn't realize that the September 11th Memorial Park had already been built, landscaped and dedicated. Two beams from the World Trade Center 9 feet 11 inches apart rise up in the center of the garden. Names of the thirteen local citizens who perished that day are engraved on markers. Here's an article and pictures from our local paper.
What I remember about Chatham and September 11 was the day I came back to town. I had been stranded since before the attacks, visiting my friend Kay in Paris. Sounds glamourous and exciting but it was mostly frightening and sad. I finally was able to fly home, into Newark. I returned to Chatham the day our town held a candlelight vigil for the victims. As I drove into town that day, the sidewalks were filled with kids, grownups, dogs, babies in strollers-- all walking to the athletic field where the service was held. All walking so quietly with such profound sadness. But all going the same place, to do something together.
Today one man was at the Memorial sitting on the new wooden bench, watching the sun reflecting off the little fountain in the middle. In the distance, happy playground noises and busy street sounds surrounded us. I walked slowly around the circle, noting the names. Roses tied in a yellow ribbon rested on one of the markers. I remembered our family stories from that day, not something we'll ever forget. Nobody in our town or in the surrounding towns that sent parents and children off on the train that day or who waited at home with their TVs will ever forget.
But today the voices of children playing and parents laughing in beautiful late summer sunshine was a happy backdrop for Chatham's September 11 Memorial.