A man named Matt
September 21, 2001
His name was Matt, and he lived in Hoboken. He had come to Pier A to stare across at the blank
space in the cityscape to ponder the meaning of his life.
This was Thursday morning. I was supposed to be in work, getting ready to put out a paper. He
was supposed to make the Path ride to 33rd Street in Manhattan for his day at the office. Neither
of us wanted to get on with the everyday activities, because what we did no longer fit in with the
Matt looked little different than the parade of other young professionals that made their way
down Washington Street each morning, dressed in a button down shirt, tan slacks and black
shoes. He carried a thick black organizer, which detailed the day to day activities of his life.
He was a slim and no doubt worked out in one of the health clubs uptown, although did not have
the same muscular build many of the more energetic characters did.
He didn't approach me at first. He simply looked over the mass of melted wax and the hundreds
of candles people had put at the end of the pier to commemorate those lost in the World Trade
Center collapse. He seemed more thoughtful than depressed, pondering the aspects of the
disaster and the mood of those that came and went. He said, when he finally came up to me, that
he had known a few people from the disaster because of his earlier job in the Wall Street area.
He also said he had lost touch with many of this crowd when he changed jobs and moved to
"I would have been right there if I had stayed with my old job," he said, his voice filled with the
same awe I'd heard in people near an accident scene who had turned aside for some forgotten
errand thus avoiding a tragedy someone else had suffered in their place.
He kept saying how people shouldn't dwell on it and how they had to get on with their lives,
even as he lingered near the memorial and continued to stare at the space where the two towers
had stood, a space now filled with the smoke of the remaining underground fires.
He kept saying that the way we would recover is to go on as if nothing had happened, and that
we should grieve the lost, but not let their passing cripple us. He said nothing about the speech
the nation expected to receive that night from the president or the drums of war that promised to
kill many more than those who had died under the rubble.
Like many of the people who came to Pier A since the disaster, he seemed slightly off -- that
sense of shock that has overcome a culture, and stripped the upperly mobile of their purpose. He
seemed to feel guilty about moving on the make his money when the body parts of his former
fellow workers have yet to be found.
At another time, I would be the last person he or any of his friends would talk to, but in
desperately seeking answers, he may have thought me in possession of wisdom I didn't have,
some secret to life that his ambition had kept from him.
His disappointment with me was obvious, and though he bid me well as he went off to catch his
train, he looked a bit sadder for our exchange, and I, continued to stare at the space where the
Twin Towers had stood, and knew that no one had any answers -- making me marginally better
off than he.