An extraordinary thing has happened. Today September 21st, Jim Nelson
spoke to me. He reached out with words of comfort and love, family
and friendship. You see, Jim Nelson is a Port Authority police officer
from Clark, N.J. and my friend. He has been missing since the attack
on the World Trade Center. Jim spoke to me through the words of “Prayer
for Home and Family” by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Let me start by saying that I am not a particularly religious person.
I can’t remember when last I prayed silently, alone, while not in
church. At the same time Jim gave my family the prayer, he also presented
it to other friends and family members. I felt slightly discomfited
by its emphasis on God and Christ seeing as how I am a dyed in the
wool agnostic Unitarian Universalist. However, the words clearly resonated
with Jim and for that reason I was touched by his thoughtfulness.
I felt like his gift was a gift from his soul.
The prayer was first presented in the form of an heirloom quality
wrapped Christmas gift, printed on vellum, glued and matted. I in
turn unceremoniously tossed it into a pile of family mementos once
the holiday season had passed and all the decorations and cards had
come down. There it stayed for several years throughout the ebb and
flow of family detritus, sometimes glanced at, at one time slightly
bent and oftentimes guiltily returned to the pile with the vague internal
admonishment to do “something” about it.
Jim and I had often talked about writing; a hobby we both enjoyed
and I inferred from his gift that these words had significant meaning
for him that he felt I would appreciate. For a guy who was becoming
increasingly cop like in appearance, walk, talk and gesture and with
whom I disagreed wholeheartedly about politics, it was odd but fun
that we were friends.
Somehow and I have absolutely no recollection when, I moved the prayer
to the “to be framed” pile of photos, drawings, posters and daughter
Kate’s artwork. This particular pile lives in the broad basin formed
by the top of the antique armoire in my bedroom. There all the “to
be framed” items lie peacefully horizontal, undisturbed, high up and
out of sight. For many months I have been meaning to get some framing
and hanging done. Particularly since July when I bought an original,
very large marquee poster for my husband’s birthday from the movie
“The Gods Must Be Crazy”.
Like everyone else I was terror-stricken the day of the attack, in
shock the second, in despair and grieving for Jim and mildly depressed
ever since. What roused me to pull a chair up to the armoire and retrieve
all those remembered and forgotten totems? I know that “The Gods Must
Be Crazy” poster kept tipping over every time I leaned it against
the wall. (It was too large to store atop the armoire). I know also
that when I feel low, decorating my home with fun and whimsical items
cheers me up. But most importantly Jim’s spirit compelled me. How
else to explain it when I most unexpectedly stumbled upon his gift
buried under an Epcot Center charcoal sketch of my daughter, a Quebec
countryside etching, a Van Gogh poster, a group photo from my daughter’s
Girl Scout camp, and precious elementary school artwork?
Today Jim Nelson spoke to me and the words he spoke resonate and reverberate
throughout my soul and I hope as you read them they will do the same
“Prayer for Home and Family”
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank Thee for this
place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace
accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies, that make
our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth.
Let peace abound in our small company. Purge out of every heart the
lurking grudge. Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.
Offenders, give us the grace to accept and forgive offenders. Forgetful
ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others.
Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends,
soften us to our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent
endeavors. If it may not, give us strength to encounter that which
is to come, that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation,
temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune, and to the gates
of death, loyal and loving to one to another.
As the clay to the potter, as the windmill to the wind, as the children
of their sire, we beseech Thee this help and mercy of Christ’s sake.
- Gail Sweeny
Submitted September 22, 2001
I met Holly Devine about a year and half ago where I work as a personal
shopper at Banana Republic in Grand Central. We soon became friends,
ducking into Grand Central for coffee on her way home to Westchester
on one of my fifteen minute breaks. At her request, I assisted her
in the planning of her wedding. I was very flattered—she had great
style and didn't really need me. I knew everything I needed to know
about Sean O'Niell before I met him....Holly was crazy in love with
him. We finally are introduced at the country club where Holly and
I were ironing out the final details before the day. He jumped out
of the car and shook my hand, thanking me for everything I'd done
and for helping Holly, etc. etc. Over the next couple of hours, I
watched in amazement the ease in which Sean navigated unknown territory...snapdragons
or sweet peas, ganache or daquoise, a suddenly teary bride and the
father-of-the-bride's musical inclinations. My last memory of Sean
O'Niell was pinning the rose buttoniere on the lapel of his grey tuxedo.
He was very excited, moving around the room quickly, attending to
the needs of his bestman & groomsmen. As I stopped him to pin the
flower on his chest before he took his place at the altar, he leaned
over and whispered to me "How Are You?" As Holly's mother says "He's
Got Class." Sean O'Neill leaves behind a wife and soon to be mother
of his first child.
- Love Jordana & Terry Protheroe
Submitted September 13, 2001
Jeff was the youngest in a family with nine cousins. He had the
sweetest disposition and a ready smile for everyone. The husband
of Nancy and father of twin girls, he had just recently joined a
company in the World Trade Center Building Two. When his mother,
Ellie, and father ,Stan, witnessed on TV the first crash into building
One, they called Jeff at work to make sure he was OK. Jeff said
he was OK and everything was fine. Needless to say, what happened
not long after that call, left Jeff and thousands of others not
so fine. How much we have taken for granted. How innocent we were.
You get up, get dressed, kiss your wife and kids goodbye, and never
think twice whether or not you will be home for dinner. I don't
think we will ever take ANYTHING for granted again. To some, it
would seem that our innocence lost was inevitable... just a matter
of time. Like a virgin, once its lost, its lost for good, never
to be found again. We are a close family. Jeff will be missed, and
if there is a heaven, then Jeff will be looking down at us with
a ready smile, saying I'm OK. We love you Jeff.
- Sue & Den (Jeff's cousins)
Submitted September 18, 2001
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