9-11 Memorial: Saying Goodbye to Friends

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While in New York for BlogHer '12, I had the privilege of visiting the 9-11 Memorial. The last time Cheryl and I were in New York was in April of 2002, six months after the attack. The city was still somber and the remnants of that horrible day were still scattered for miles along the fence line of lower Manhattan.

We walked along the security fence and looked at all the posters of missing faces. Most had been written on with the date of birth and the date September 11, 2001 so there was no mistaking that fact they were lives lost and not coming home. The sidewalks and gutters were still filled with dust and grit and the neighboring windows we’re still broken and busted panes of glass providing an erie backdrop the 20-foot security fence built to hide the evil destruction of September 11th.

We walked that day, for what seemed like miles, visually trying to take it all in, silently trying to figure out why something like this could happen. If we did speak, it was in hushed whispers. No one talked down there; it was hallowed ground. The only noise was the clinks and clanks of the machines working 24/7 cleaning up the misery and trying to find something that would bring closure to a grieving family.

This visit was much different. Lola and I stood in packed lines of tourists, waiting patiently to get our tickets time stamped to when we could enter the memorial. We twisted and turned in deep stacked lines with the throngs of people wanting to see the exact spot where “it” happened. There were kids on field trips, looky-loo’s and families lining up to get the perfect photo opportunity…

And then there was me.

9-11 Memorial

Image: Kai Brinker via Flickr


I wasn’t looking at the waterfall or staring in awe at the Freedom Towers. I was looking for names - three names in particular, the names of our friends who died on United Flight 175.

Our family had the honor of knowing Ron Gamboa, his partner, Dan Brandhorst, and their son, David. We met them at our adoption agency and ran into them frequently over the three years it took to complete all the classes needed to become a certified adopted parent. They were both very active in the GLBT community and I was always so inspired by the advocacy work they did on behalf of same sex parents.

Dan was the first person who stood up and said the words we had all been thinking, that we were second choices for leftover children. The heterosexual parents came in, attended their mandatory class or two and left with their brand new newborn babies. Us gays had to attend triple the class load and our options for children available to us were older kids, packed by multiples, labeled with things like Reactive Attachment Disorder, ADHD and autism. While I wouldn’t change the outcome because I love my boys and believe our process worked out the way it should, the inequity of the system was evident. Dan and Ron made it their mission to change that.

But they ran out of time.

I would bet that their efforts would have made a difference. It’s sad we will never know.

When I found their names on the memorial, I was astounded at how emotional I was. I was expecting to see their names and pay my respects, but instead I was caught off guard by the rush of emotion. I wish I had more time to sit and process all I was feeling. I let my fingers trace the letters of their names while wondering if they knew their family legacy would be engraved on a national monument and be forever a part of our nations' sad history.


I try not to think too much about their last moments. I hope they had some peace as they met their destiny. It’s a thought that can crawl into the deep recesses of your mind and stay there. That’s not the thought I want in my head when I remember them.

At some point we will tell Andrew about his link to this tragedy. He was too young to remember the little boy he played with, and after the fact he had already had so much loss, it seemed to be too much of a burden to saddle him with something so heavy.

I’m glad I took the time to stop by. Next time, I know I’ll stay longer, think harder and remember better.

Rest in peace, my friends.



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