Kiszla: On day when presidents and pilgrims gathered at Ground Zero, a child of 9/11 that never met his father found peace – The Denver Post

NEW YORK – The most unforgettable person in 19-year-old Manny DaMota’s life is a father he never met.

Shortly after dawn on the anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in American history, this child of 9/11 stood at Ground Zero, peering into the bright blue sky where the Twin Towers fell.

“I like being here. It’s nice,” DaMota told me. “When I stand next to my father’s name at the memorial, it gives me peace. How do I say this? It makes me feel close to him.”

What was lost in 9/11 was far greater than the 2,977 people who perished at the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania, as well as here in lower Manhattan. On Saturday morning, a sophomore studying psychology at Pace University awoke in his dorm room and pulled on a black T-shirt honoring his late father, a carpenter who loved the Beatles. Manny then slowly walked 10 minutes to a shrine visited on this summer day by presidents and pilgrims alike.

“I have memories of coming to Ground Zero when it was nothing but rubble,” Manny said. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve been here too many times to count. And now I go to college only a few blocks away. Come full circle, you might say.”

Eight weeks shy of his 44th birthday in 2001, Manuel DaMota, a master craftsman who built tables and chairs for his family in a basement workshop, reported to the 107th floor of the North Tower. He was there to take measurements for a new bar in the Windows of the World restaurant. Back at home on Long Island, his wife was three months pregnant, a baby boy in her womb.

After being struck by American Airlines Flight 11, the North Tower crumbled at 10:36 a.m. The husband of Barbara DaMota never came home.

“He was something I never had more than somebody I lost,” said Manny, born six months after he was robbed of the chance to have a father in his life.

Manny is a child of 9/11, but he’s no longer a boy. Although time flies, the pain lingers. A carpenter’s son walked into the memorial plaza, barricaded and heavily guarded by police to join his mother, as well as Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, to hear bells chime at the precise moments when planes struck the towers 20 years earlier.

The Broncos open the NFL season Sunday against the Giants; football brought me to New York. “It’ll be great to go out there and play right after the 20th anniversary for 9/11,” Denver linebacker Von Miller said. “That stadium will be rocking, and MetLife will be going crazy.”

But as I bowed my head for a moment of silence near the Cortlandt Street subway station, where rubble smoldered on 9/11, any football concerns seemed trivial. My heart ached, not only for the father Manny DaMota never knew but also for what we’ve lost as a nation.

Feeling the sting of defeat from a war started to hunt down Osama bin Laden, unsettled by a pandemic that lingers like a recurring nightmare and divided by spiteful conflict between the left and right, was 9/11 the beginning of the end for American greatness?

“So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear, and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together,” former President George W. Bush told mourners in Shanksville, Pa., where brave patriots aboard United Airlines Flight 93 thwarted hijackers’ attempt to do even more incomprehensible terror on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I come without explanations or solutions. I can only tell you what I’ve seen. On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.”

On this powerfully emotional day in 2021, the America I know and love could be found in the tears streaming down the face of a Green Beret who flew 1,600 miles from Colorado and then walked 50 miles more to be at Ground Zero.

His name is Chad Conley. Growing up, he dreamed of becoming a preacher but enlisted in the military 18 years ago. Conley is a Green Beret who served in Afghanistan and has been stationed in Colorado Springs since 2008. A football lover, he’s a Cleveland Browns fan by birth. But if you don’t hold that against him, Broncos Country, Conley will forgive you for the emotional distress caused by The Drive and The Fumble.

At 3:30 Friday afternoon, Conley and three dozen servicemen gathered at Yankee Stadium, then walked 50 miles through the boroughs of New York, hugging firemen and saluting police officers along the way, walking straight through the night until they arrived in lower Manhattan shortly after sunrise to show respect for all the heroes and victims of 9/11.

“I chose to walk 50 miles with guys that all lost friends in the line of duty during the last 20 years in the global war on terror. I chose 50 miles for the fallen, because Cool Hand Luke ate 50 eggs. Remember that line from the movie? ‘Nobody can eat 50 eggs.’ Well, we did it, ” Conley said. “We did it to raise some money and also to pay tribute.”

Twenty rough years after 9/11, it’s a long road for this country to again be truly the United States of America. But Conley found a reason to believe our hearts can still beat as one during a stop at a fire station near Central Park, where he wrapped his arms around a first-responder who lost 11 brave colleagues when the towers fell.

“He was crying. I was crying,” Conley said. “Hey, I’ve buried 15 friends in the last 20 years. So I know it doesn’t get any easier. But every life deserves celebrating. That’s why we’re here.”

Source: Read Full Article