September 11, 2012

September 11

For the past several years, I have posted memorials to two men who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.  One was a stranger to me: Stanley L. Temple. The other was the brother of my husband's college roommate and best man at our wedding: Brian Magee.  The original posts are herehere and here; the 2996 Project, which encouraged bloggers to memorialize the victims of the attacks, will send you to stories about many of them. My thoughts and prayers are with these victims, their families and friends today, as they are with all the victims of that horrible, horrible day.

In Memory of Stanley L. Temple
Here is what I know of you:
Stanley L. Temple
77
New York, NY
United States
World Trade Center
In all the memorial sites and the newspaper articles, there are no memorials to you. No family members and friends write of your life, no obituaries mark your birth and
passing, your work, or those you left behind. Where the click of other names leads to smiling photographs and poignant tributes, broken links follow your name, or the simple words of school children and respectful condolences of strangers.
Like this, from Sindy:

I seen that no one has wrote u and it made me feel so bad. I hope that u are in a better place now. And I hope that ur family are recovering as best as they can. May God bless u and ur family.
Or this, from Kasy Jo:

iam so sorry you were a victim hope your family doing well. iam sure you werea great person. and iam sorrythat happend to you and your family.

god be with you always
Or this, from Kaitlyn:

Dear family of Stanley L. Temple, At my church today we prayed for your family and read your husband/dad's name to each other and thought about every person that lost their life's on this very terrifing day. With much love, kaitlyn:)
Nothing more. You are a mystery.

But there are some things I think I can know just from your name and age. You were born in the twenties, a child of the Great Depression, one of the Greatest Generation. It is likely you served your country in World War II or Korea, as you would have been a teenager at the start of the first war, a young man at the finish of the second. Perhaps you loved a wife and raised a family in New York when the wars were over, and watched your children grow to adulthood through the turbulence of the 60s and 70s. Having lived to 77, you certainly worked, perhaps at your heart's vocation, perhaps just to pay the bills. And you had dreams. I know you had dreams.

As I write this I like to think that your last day was spent in the tower viewing the city from the observation deck, enjoying the peace of retirement in a favorite place. I like to think that somewhere in New York your family and friends think of you now, sad that you are gone, but filled with memories of a long life well lived.

I remember you. Our country remembers you. And although the details of your life are a mystery, we mourn your loss as deeply as if you were our father, or brother, or son.
On September 13, 2006, an anonymous comment appeared on the original post:
I did not know Stanley personally, but worked as an employee of the City of New York to assist his family in obtaining a death certificate in the wake of the Trade Center disaster. Stanley worked shining shoes for the employees of Cantor Fitzgerald. He was not on their payroll, but his presence and employment was verified by enough surviving employees of Cantor Fitzgerald that his family was, after some wait, able to obtain a death certificate without the three-year wait usually required in case of a missing person. I don't know if his sister will see this tribute, but it's lovely to know it's out there. Thank you.

Brian Magee: Gadget Man, Good Man

He smiles into the camera from the photo on the guestbook page, wearing a leather jacket, what looks to be a Harley shining at his side. This man loves life, anyone can tell that.

I click, and the next picture pulls me up short. There he is again, Brian Magee, whom I've never met, but next to him a familiar face. My mind shoots back through forty years to a university campus in Washington, DC, then to an apartment in Arlington. The memories have grown hazy, but I see the same face from those memories smiling out with Brian from the photo.

I never met Brian Magee, but his brother Kevin was one of my husband's closest college friends. They, and their third partner in crime, Stephen, were inseparable, joined by love of history and political affairs, Irish music and beer. When Ralf and I got married, there were only two groomsmen at our wedding: Kevin and Stephen. But as it often does after graduation, job opportunities and family ties sent us all our separate ways - my husband and I over to our new home in Virginia, Stephen to California, and Kevin back to New York.

"No, you're kidding," my husband said when I told him the news. "I can't believe it. Brian was such a nice guy." He remembered Brian from visits to New York with Kevin all those years ago. My husband is an only child, and the dynamics of large, close families fascinate him - frighten him a little, too. But his memory of Brian matched the face I saw in the guestbook - gregarious and welcoming.

Brian's tribute and the messages left for him come from and speak to his family: the wife and sons he left behind, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews, and his mother. They talk of a man with integrity; a mentor, a listener and a friend; a man with spirit and humor, affectionately called "Gadget Man" for his love of tools. His wife's good man.

I don't know how you say good-bye to such a person, or how you reconcile his death with the irrational horror of September 11th, 2001. Is such a thing even possible?

Maybe not. Maybe the best you can do is hang onto him in your heart with all your strength, and never let go.