Off-TopicValuesWriting

The ants are gone – 9/11/2001

This is an excerpt from my personal diary on September 11, 2001, written about 8:30 AM just before we all learned of the news of the terrorist attack. Of course I had no idea that the world was about to change. I was absorbed by thoughts of missing Josh and Arielle and the other kids who had returned to school in PA after spending much of the summer with me at the shore. I have not published anything from my personal diary before. This excerpt seems significant because it shows how my thoughts changed so sharply from a self-absorbed emotional state in this idyllic and innocent world into dealing with what was to come. This moment marked the end of an era for our generation. The passage is a rare attempt at writing something different from the from the usual business and tax columns that supported me during those years. In those years I was mentored by two professional writers Gay Talese and Robert Lishansky when we occasionally met at 4th Street Cafe in Ocean City NJ for coffee most mornings. They were the original intended audience.


All summer I battled the ants. The soldiers showed up in June to collect fresh cookie crumbs and invade cotton candy bags and feast on sugary toothpaste spills smeared by tiny fingers.

I cursed the long lines of the little bugs that climbed the walls all July and pointed to spills of squeezed lemonade and fruit juices that squirt across the floor on hazy mornings. They carried tiny pieces of crab shell launched across the room when little hands beat the red claws with wooden hammers.

By August I gave up. I had battled and lost. The ripe tomatoes that overflowed skinny arms on the trip from our backyard garden to the window shelf now fed the ants when they sprayed the floor. A single dad was no match for this assault. We had far too much to do this month than to waste our summer cleaning the house.

Now the ants are gone. The floor is bare. The carpet cleaned. The hallway echoes empty in the crisp September air. School classrooms now hold the energy that blessed our house all summer. The bubblegum flavored toothpaste tube lies cold, hard, and sterile on the sink until the kids come again. Dried tomatoes in sealed glass jars impress me but not the ants. I miss them.

 
Our house in Ocean City New Jersey, 2001

 

Fishing for sea bass under the Somer’s Point bridge on Labor Day weekend 2001
making a mess in the OC kitchen, drawing the ants.

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