Don’t think your vote doesn’t count

Don’t think it doesn’t count.

Early one Monday morning at the end of August I went to the modest Sunny Isles Beach Synagogue, just a few blocks from where I lived. My mother had passed away in April and while going through some of her belongings I found a box containing my grandfather’s tefillin, sometimes called phylacteries that orthodox Jewish men wear on their arm and head during their morning prayers, a small prayer book and a text written in Hebrew.A kindly gentleman received me. I showed him what I had and asked if he, or someone could translate what was written.  The paper was crumbly and the writing very faded.  He said it appeared it might have even been written in Aramaic.  He took time to try and translate the meaning of the writing but to no avail.  I asked if I could pay him for his time but he refused any payment.                         “What can I do to repay you?” I asked.                                                  Smiling he said, “Vote for me.”

“Oh, what are you running for?”   “Commissioner of Sunny Isles Beach,” He replied.

“You have my vote,” I assured him.

We shook hands and I left the synagogue with a light heart. I never voted for him.

On Sept. 11, 2001, primary election day, I woke up at my usual time, 7 AM, and turned on the TV to watch the local weather to see if I would need either an umbrella or a sweater for the day. The Today show came on. I showered and got myself ready for the day, going to vote being my number one priority.  I didn’t pay much mind to the TV.  Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were bantering about nothing that attracted my attention, that is, until about 8:45.

Matt, looking very terse and in a stunned voice, reported an airplane had just flown into the World Trade Center. By the time I wrapped my head around this, he announced another plane crashed into the second tower.  Then came the news that two other planes crashed, one in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the other in Washington, D.C.

My heart stopped, my stomach churned. I was stunned as I watched and listened to the news. In 2001 neither one of my sons had cell phones. I called Kevin at home in Brooklyn. He and my daughter-in-law had become parents of my beautiful granddaughter on June 22nd. I got their answering machine. I remember screaming into the phone, “Put the television on, do not go to New York!” Kevin worked for NBC and usually left for work after rush hour.  No answer.

I called my other son Jeffrey who lived in Washington, D.C.  leaving another frantic message on his answer machine.

I stayed glue to the TV.  By this time, all three sets were on, on three different channels. I kept trying to reach my children.  The phone lines were jammed. I was desperate.

I was in shock and numb watching the horrendous events playing out.  This had to be a nightmare.  Please, god, let me wake up. I know the Trade Center, I have been there, done business there, had dinners at Windows on the World.

WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN??? All the wishing in the world was not making them call me.  My anguish was almost unbearable. Barely breathing I watched in earnest the horrific reports.  The unknown news was just as sickening as what we were seeing.

Finally, I heard from Jeffrey, at about 2 PM.  He had been riding his bike at that time, not too far from the Pentagon but far enough away not to be aware of the tragedy playing out there.  He had tried calling me when he returned home after hearing my message but all the circuits were busy.

As he left for work, riding the subway, Kevin heard the news while traveling under the Trade Center. Rather than retuning home he stayed on the train thinking that he might be needed at work at NBC. Not able to get there, he realized he needed to go home but by now nothing was moving in the city.  He started walking downtown toward Brooklyn. Once over the Brooklyn Bridge, a policeman offered him a ride for, at least, part way home.  My daughter-in-law, busy with her baby, hadn’t turned on the TV and wasn’t aware of any phone messages.  The phone service was erratic, but I finally reached her.  Kevin showed up soon after.  My children were all safe.

By this time, I was thoroughly spent. My thoughts were to go and vote but, in the afternoon, still glued to the TV and usurped of all energy, I buried my palpable guilt and didn’t go.

After a sleepless night, early the next morning I watched the crawl at the bottom of the TV screen showing the results of all the local elections. The results of the commissioners’ race showed that the nice gentleman in Sunny Isles Beach who I had assured had my vote lost the election…by one vote. I froze.   No! Please tell me I read the crawl wrong.  I waited for what seemed like an indefatigable time as the results from all the other cities crawled by.  Here it comes. Shit! He DID lose; by one vote. My heart sank, I had an opportunity to make a difference and I did, but not the way I wanted to.

Besides watching and hearing the horrific stories from the day before I was numb in not fulfilling my simple obligation and promise and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I felt like someone died.

That afternoon it was reported there was to be a recount in some of the districts, Sunny Isles Beach being one of them. I didn’t want to hear any more.  Later that evening I received a phone call from the vice mayor who was a friend of mine.  Before I could throw myself at his mercy and tell him my story and how awful I felt, he talked about the voting and the need for a recount.  He told me the recount was complete.  My man, (who he did not know was my man) lost…by two votes.

Notwithstanding the tragedies of Tuesday’s events, that news helped get me through one of the saddest days in U.S. history. The election news was the only news that propelled me through the long days and nights that will forever be emblazoned in my mind. The day our country came to a stop and the day I learned how important it is to count on yourself to do the right thing and to be counted.

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