My father-in-law was murdered, on this very day, 13 years ago. James D. Cleere was in New York on business the day of the terrorist attacks. He was staying at the Marriott Hotel, located between the Twin Towers, when two airplanes struck the nation’s landmark. The Towers ultimately collapsed before Jim was able to get out of the hotel. His remains have yet to be recovered which for some of us I imagine does not allow for complete closure. Our family was able to get through the tragic event by our faith in the one and only God. Jim will be remembered as many different things to many different people. That’s all we really have: our own perception of an individual until we truly get to know them.
To me, my father-in-law was a big, friendly guy who fancied the performing arts. He was in charge of the lighting at the local community theater, and at one time he was a member of a Praise and Worship vocal group. He frequently sang at weddings although not at ours because he thought he might become too emotional (I can’t say as I blame him considering who his daughter was marrying). Jim enjoyed reading, and I believe he may of had a sweet tooth. He traditionally received a Barnes & Noble gift certificate from us at Christmas, and my wife always made rice krispie treats for him on his birthday. During the weekdays Jim wore a seemingly endless supply of dress shirts and neckties, since he was a thriving businessman, but on the weekends he typically wore a pair of overalls, resembling a Midwest farmer, when doing yard work or just putzing around the house.
My father-in-law had a fondness for music even though he didn’t play an instrument, and he placed a great emphasis on education even though he never earned a college degree. Jim adored his grandson (my son) and was so delighted he could play the piano and that he excelled academically in school. I remember once, several years ago, when I was home alone, and out of the blue I had a tearful moment regarding Jim. I had been thinking about my son’s upcoming high school graduation and basking in knowing he was a class valedictorian and that he’d be graduating with several honors. As proud as I was of my son it dawned on me that Jim would have been ecstatic and in awe of his grandson’s many accomplishments, but he was no longer here to share in the excitement.
It’s kind of strange, but nice, when the past meets the present to form a new memory of a loved one. I was well aware my father-in-law was fascinated with technology, but I recently learned, or else I had forgotten, he enjoyed writing as well. Jim has been gone for 13 years, but I can’t help but think he’d be pleased to know his son-in-law is now a blogger. I still feel somewhat cheated, after all these years, because even though I had known Jim, for 18 years, I didn’t know him well. I think we were just beginning to feel comfortable with one another on a different level. We were starting to relate more as two adults instead of one adult and one punk kid. I think we know who the punk kid was.
The following is one of only a handful of poems I have ever written. I wrote it in 2009, as an assignment for a college class. The piece conveys my deepest thoughts about that horrific day and imparts the isolation I was feeling, as Jim’s only son-in-law, shortly after Sept. 11th, 2001. I have not forgotten you, James D. Cleere.
An Insignificant View
Some memories now faded, while others so vividly clear
That devastating day in September, my own personal hell
The silence, panic, and concern, then relief from the call
Silenced again, this time extinguishing all remaining hope
Entrapped in a supporting role, staying strong for wife and child
What about me?
Surrounded by the media, but off to one side I stand
Observing the crowds of well-wishers, gathered to support
There are neighbors, co-workers, clergy, some family, and friends
Receiving numerous letters, cards, e-mails, and calls
but What about me?
We mourn in different ways, I’m isolated once again
I attend the funeral, they’ve deemed “A Celebration of Life”
I’m in my grieving process, they’re professing their faith
There are many tributes, memorials, and speaking engagements
They’re wanting to remember, I’m doing my best to forget
What about me?
I’m part of the picture, but on the outside looking in
A marriage almost ruined, by the consumption of the events
No peace of mind in sight, until the killer is caught
Loss of a husband, father, grandpa, son, brother, and friend
but What about me?
I lost my father-in-law when the towers came down