Mary’s Gone Out

by

10/12/2001

7th Ave & 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Park Slope

She tells me that Mary has burned out.

I look at the girl, at her tatooed cheek, and I’m a little confused. She nods at the “Immaculate Heart of Mary” prayer candle I’m holding.

“Oh,” I say. “Thanks.”

She leans forward and relights my wick with the flame from her own perfect, white taper. I’m suddenly embarrassed. “This was all they had left,” I say.

“Oh, no, I love it,” she says.

This girl is a stranger, though she doesn’t feel like one. None of the people now gathered in a large mass on Seventh Avenue feel like strangers.

Has it only been a few days since I watched the trade center towers crumble on live television, a cup of coffee going cold in my hands? Only a few days since I sat there — phone lines down, voice mail filling up with calls from panicked family members — frozen in disbelief.

And what about yesterday? The day the man beside me at the muffin shop told me his story. With tears in his eyes, he told me about running, about debris, about the screams. He talked until his wife came over, a to-go sack in her hand, and gently told him it was time to get back to the house.

Now I am here, in this crowd of strangers that has become my surrogate family. We comfort one another and wait for dusk to fall on this cool evening in Park Slope. When night arrives, we’ll hold up our lights, our candles, and pray that they are enough to somehow break up the shadows.

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