A kindergarten boy who saw people falling in flames told his teacher that the birds were on fire. She ran with him on her shoulders out of the ashes…”
by brian doyle
A couple leaped from the south tower, hand in hand. They reached for each other and their hands met and they jumped.
Many people jumped. Perhaps hundreds. No one knows. They struck the pavement with such force that there was a pink mist in the air.
The mayor reported the mist.
A kindergarten boy who saw people falling in flames told his teacher that the birds were on fire. She ran with him on her shoulders out of the ashes.
Several pedestrians were killed by people falling from the sky.
A fireman was killed by a body falling from the sky.
But a man reached for a woman’s hand and she reached for his hand and they leaped out the window holding hands.
Jennifer Brickhouse of New Jersey and Stuart DeHann of New York City saw this from far below.
I try to whisper prayers for the sudden dead, and the harrowed families of the dead, and the screaming souls of the murderers, but I keep coming back to his hand and her hand nestled in each other with such extraordinary ordinary succinct ancient naked stunning perfect simple ferocious love.
It is the most powerful prayer I can imagine, the most eloquent, the most graceful. It is everything that we are capable of against horror and loss and death. It is what makes me believe that we are not craven fools and charlatans to believe in God, to believe that human beings have greatness and holiness within them like seeds that open only under great fires, to believe that some unimaginable essence of who we are persists past the dissolution of what we were, to believe against such evil evidence hourly that love is why we are here.
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, wrote John the Apostle.
I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face, John also wrote.
Jennifer Brickhouse saw them holding hands, and Stuart DeHann saw them holding hands, and I hold onto that.
Brian Doyle is the author of six books, most recently THE WET ENGINE, about hearts and all. It’s not bad. Among his awards and such are (a) a woman married him, (b) the Coherent Mercy granted them three children, and (c) he was named to the 1983 all-star team in the Newton Massachusetts Men’s League, which was a really tough league, you drove to the hole in that league you lost fingers, one time a guy drove the lane and got hit so hard his arm came off, but he was lefty anyway and hit both free throws. Supposedly he then left his arm in a toll booth basket on the Mass Pike but that might be apocryphal. More from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke. (bio/2002)
Brian Doyle was the author of many books, including the sea novel The Plover, which has, no kidding, music printed in it, not to mention Mink River, Martin Marten, The Wet Engine, and more than we can recall. He won the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing for Martin Marten, which was plenty cool and much deserved. Brian passed away peacefully at his Lake Oswego home on May 27, 2017.
More, much more, from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke.