Bennett’s First Birthday [Conclusion]

The raindrops pattered onto the clear plastic cupcake containers and sounded like tiny timpani.

Though partially protected at the bottom of the two bags, the rhythmic drumbeat augmented my steps, moving up Columbus Avenue and around 83rd Street, heading west. Fifty feet to my left, the red painted façade of Engine Company 74 glistened with silver from the moisture, and101009.jaumefernandez the flowers people had placed next to the large overhung door had oranges and yellows that popped brightly against the grey concrete sidewalk. It was Friday, September 11, eight years since the attacks in lower Manhattan, the Pentagon, and over a field in Pennsylvania.

I rang the buzzer on the entrance door to the right, which had a small square window at head level with chicken wire embedded in the glass for security. A man about 5’6”—three inches shorter than I—came to the door and opened it. His eyebrows were raised.

“I brought these for you guys,” I started, handing him the bag in my right hand. He took it and smiled. “I just wanted to say ‘thank-you.’”

“Hey—thanks a lot! What’s your name?”

I told him. Then I asked, “What yours?”


“Dave,” I repeated. To remember. “Thanks, Dave. I really appreciate all you guys do. My family and I live on West 84th Street. All my kids go to school there—” and I pointed behind me to P.S. 9 at the corner of 83rd and Columbus “—and my church is renovating the building there—” and pointed down the block past the firehouse, “—so this is where we live our lives.”

He thanked me again. We shook hands—his, like a vice—then he went back inside, the red door closing as I turned.

I continued along 83rd Street, shifting the other bag of cupcakes to my right hand.

My face was wet.

It was my son Bennett’s ninth birthday.

photo: Jaume Fernandez