Thomas Wictor

The Bird Stole Fruit

The Bird Stole Fruit

Twelve years ago I lived in Tim’s house. At about 7:30 on the morning of September 11, 2001, I suddenly heard, “Tom! Tom!”

As a child I often heard my name called perfectly clearly, in a voice that was neither male nor female. I still remember the timbre. I’d go find Mom and ask her if she’d called me, and she’d say no.

“It was your guardian angel,” she’d tell me.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up to my name being called. I thought it was my guardian angel, but this time it was Mom. She was in the back garden, right outside my window. I opened the window and asked her what was happening.

“Terrorists have attacked the World Trade Center, and both towers have collapsed,” she said.

I couldn’t process it. In my mind, I thought the buildings had toppled intact, like trees. I got out of bed, knocked on Tim’s door, and when he groggily answered, I told him what Mom had said. Then I went to the TV room and let Mom in through one of the back doors. I turned on the TV, and Mom and I watched the replays of the airliners hitting the buildings, the orange fireballs, and then the collapses. Tim joined us and sat in silence.

The sensation I felt most intensely was rage, not fear. My brother Paul and I had turned left instead of right on a path in Regent’s Park on July 20, 1982, and a few minutes later, the IRA set off a nail bomb that killed seven and injured dozens of others. It took me almost twenty years to get over my hatred of the Irish, and now this.

Twelve years after that morning when I thought my guardian angel called my name, I don’t feel rage, but I’m still angry at the atrocity. A lot has changed since then. I don’t have to tell you how our country has changed. Personally, my own life has changed dramatically. My father has died, my mother is extremely ill, I’ve moved into my own home, and I’m housebound with an incurable illness.

I’ve entered another period of extremely vivid dreams, brought on by everything that’s happening, good and bad.

Early this morning, as I lay in my bed asleep, I heard the same voice that used to call my name when I was a child. It said, “The bird stole fruit from the garden to see if the gardener really cared.” Then I woke up.

I think I know what it means. Instead of me giving you my interpretation of this oddly poetic declaration, I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Personally, it’s very hard for me to remain optimistic for extended periods. I don’t take setbacks well. Though I’m optimistic about the world and the human race, I tend to see my individual life as hardship more than anything else.

So it’s nice to sometimes receive what I believe are indications that it won’t always be that way.

In this often-terrifying, grim, sad world, it’s sometimes hard to keep in mind that light is meaningless without dark, and that all of us are at the mercy of chance. There’s nothing personal in it. We’re not singled out for harm.

But I am grateful for all the good I see and experience. That’s the biggest change I’ve undergone since September 11, 2001. It may not seem like it at times, but I’m grateful.

Gratitude is what keeps me going. That, and my conviction that as long as it’s remembered, nothing is ever lost.


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