• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 11

The Red Blanket

I haven’t been to New York City since the terrorist attacks on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Now I’m returning with my husband for the first time, for a day of sightseeing and evening dinner. I don’t know what made me finally have the courage. Maybe it’s just time to stop being afraid.

It’s been so long since I’ve taken the railroad into the city and my stomach churns. The sun is beating on my face and I want to get off at the next stop and go home. I don’t tell my husband and bear with it.

Finally, we reach Penn Station. It’s how I remember it, except, more policemen are on patrol. I try not to look at them and hold my husband’s hand while waiting in line to purchase our Metro- Card for the subway.

“Look, Hon, there’s a homeless man in the corner.” Something about this man catches my attention. I notice something next to him and must see what it is, so I leave the line.

“Where are you going?”

“Just get the MetroCard,” I say while my husband leaves the line and follows me.

“I told you to get the MetroCard.”

“I’m not leaving you alone.”

I’m standing face-to-face with this man and my husband is so close to me; I feel his breath on my neck.

The man has a picture of a woman and two small boys next to him. The woman is beautiful. Her golden blond hair is hanging over her shoulders and her eyes are hazel. The boys are also blond and smiling, holding hands. Identical twins.


The Red Blanket

Brazenly, I ask who they are.

The man cuddles his worn-out blanket around his body and looks me straight in the eyes. I see now, that he is young, possibly late thirties, early forties. His eyes are deep blue and his beard unkempt; there’s sadness in his expression.

“That was my wife and two sons. They died on September 11, 2001. They were on the plane that struck the second tower.”

“We should go, Kit,” my husband insists, tugging my jacket.

“Wait a minute,” I pull away.

“I’m so sorry about your family.” I open my backpack, take out a red blanket and hand it to the man. “Here, take this.” We were going to Central Park first and my husband thought it would be nice to sit on the grass and take in the sun before sightseeing. There’s no way I’d sit on the grass without some protection. But this man needs it more than I do.

“Thank you, Miss. This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.” He takes the blanket and as we walk away, he calls to us to come back.

“I want you to have this in return.” He hands me a white pearl necklace. “It was my wife’s. Your kindness reminds me of her. Please, take it.” He cups it in my hand.

We don’t exchange words, only a smile.