September 11’s kids
The bus began to slow down as it edged closer to its stop in suburban New Jersey.
Our conversation for most of the ride had revolved around what I was doing next. A trip to Niagara Falls, rafting in the Deep South and a week in New York City.
‘Don’t forget to go to Ground Zero,’ he said.
I didn’t know who he had lost in the World Trade Centre attacks. It had to have been a parent or sibling – that’s what all of the kids on the bus had in common.
We were on our way home from America’s Camp – a week-long summer holiday for children who were grieving for a loved one killed two years earlier.
I was a volunteer, running the camp radio station and teaching would-be DJs how it all worked.
I deliberately hadn’t questioned the kids about their loss. Sure, I was willing to chat if they wanted, but there were plenty of psychologists there for that.
My job was to take their minds off of their mourning… at least for a while.
The boy stood up as the bus pulled over.
‘It was my brother,’ he said, unprompted.
‘He was a bond trader in the Twin Towers.
‘It was his last day at work.
‘He had quit.
‘Went in to clean out his desk when the first plane hit.’
The boy grabbed his backpack.
‘I’m sorry,’ I said.
‘Might see you next year.’
I didn’t go back to America’s Camp. Work, family and life back in Australia made it too hard.
I think it ran for 10 years before the directors decided to call it a day.
It was definitely one of the most profound experiences of my life.
And it’s that teenage boy from the bus who I always think of first thing in the morning on September 11.
He’d be well and truly grown up by now.
I hope he’s happy.