I have two stories to tell. One of the stories took place on the anniversary of 9/11, one only tangentially involves 9/11. So bear with me.
The first story takes place on September 11, 2004. It’s the three-year anniversary of that somber date. At the time, I was freelancing for an antiques and auction publication called Antique Week, which meant I traveled on a regular basis from one auction to another, I wrote about big-time auctions – the Katharine Hepburn estate sale at Sotheby’s in New York City, for example – and small-time auctions – the ones where you walk into a big gallery barn, and every item is auctioned off one by one by a fast-talking auctioneer and displayed by big, muscle-bound farmworkers. It was a great experience and I learned many things.
So this auction took place three years to the day after the September 11th tragedy. I’m sitting in the back row at the downstate auction house, hoping to find some good human interest story attached to the purchase of a rare coin or a long-lost artifact. There were definitely some interesting storylines worth following; however, something impressive and unforgettable happened in the middle of the auction.
Many times, an auction will feature a big-ticket item in the middle of the sale; something to draw potential bidders to the day-long event. It could be a distinctive and rare antique; it could be a one-of-a-kind treasure. In this instance, the auction house accepted bids on several cars that had been seized by the local bank for defaulted payments. And while the cars sold well enough to find new homes, I noticed that one vehicle barely cleared its reserve price.
This car sold at a bargain, I wrote in my notes. Why this car and no other? Was it being sold for parts? Was there some defect that was previously undisclosed?
It wasn’t until later that day that I discovered why that car sold for a fraction of its value.
The bidder was a soldier that had just recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and he needed a car for his return to civilian life. The man was still wearing Army fatigues, as if he had just arrived from a nearby base or recruitment center. And the minute he placed a bid, I could tell that others in the room were not going to outbid someone who put his life on the line to fight those who would dare cause pain and tragedy upon our soil and against our citizens.
I don’t know if that soldier is still driving that car. But if he is, I’m glad he was able to return home from his time protecting our freedoms abroad. God bless.
The next story is more ironic than reverent. So please bear with me.
At one point in time, I used to write the liner notes for an Australian record company’s detailed reissue collections. In 2003, I was commissioned to write the liner notes for their reissue of guitarist Al Caiola’s greatest hits.
What do you mean you’ve never heard of Al Caiola?
Here, let me refresh your memory a smidge.
I was fortunate enough to interview Mr. Caiola for the liner notes (he’s still alive today, at age 96), and the CD had a successful release in 2003. Got a lot of nice responses from reviewers at Amazon.com about the reissue as well.
At the time, I made arrangements with the record company that I would be paid in American funds. Getting paid in foreign notes is a pain in the neck to get converted.
And sure enough, a check for $400 arrived in my mailbox, drawn on the record company’s American check stock.
The bank’s address on the check was Bank of America, One World Trade Center, New York City.
The date the check was signed? September 11, 2003.
Granted, I suspect that the record company didn’t use their American account that often, so certainly there’d be old check stock when they needed to pay their American vendors. But still… wow…
That’s a weird-as-anything coincidence.
It’s memories like these – the touching, the heartfelt, the ironic, the unexplained – that I wanted to share with you today. The memories of September 11, 2001 are still fresh in my mind, fifteen years to the day after that scary, unexplainable morning.
It’s just as scary as when our parents recall November 22, 1963.
It’s just as scary as when our grandparents remember December 7, 1941.
Today our memories of that tragic morning are now history lessons for our high schoolers. I’m still wrapping my head around that concept.
And as I remember and honor the memories of those who perished on that day… and of those who saved whomever they could… and of those who fought back against anybody who would dare take our liberties away…
I wanted to take a second today to recall some post-9/11 stories. Some personal history and observations of my own.
God bless us all.
And God bless those whom we lost fifteen years ago this morning.