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Three flights. (final cut).

September 10, American Airlines Flight 223, Boston to Los Angeles--Returning home from the opening weekend of my play, Letters From 'Nam. Delayed an hour on the tarmac. My partner, Christopher, and I sit and read impatiently. Two friends happen to be on board, and we laugh and complain: "Are we ever gonna get home?" Finally the plane takes off, and soon we're in L.A., safe and sound.

The next morning the phone rings twice at 6 A.M. Who has the nerve to call me this early? Assuming it must be someone from Boston, forgetting the time difference, I ignore it.

My pager rattles on the nightstand. It's a 512 number--my brother in Austin. I get up and call back. He's relieved to hear my voice, having been with us in Boston just a few days ago. He tells me to turn on the television.

I do and watch the horror show. I wake Christopher. We stare in complete shock, along with the rest of the world, as Peter Jennings narrates the most chilling destruction we have ever witnessed.

A call comes from the company manager of the theater: "You know, you were on that flight at one time." I don't recall this, changing flights as often as I do, but I assume it's possible. But we are home and, for the moment, safe and sound.

September 20, American Airlines Flight 12, Los Angeles to Boston--Returning for the show's closing weekend, against the better judgment of some. Christopher is flying Delta, and so we split up at the airport, with declarations of love trying to mask our fears.

At the ticket counter Sheila is poised and gentle. The security questions that once were rote are now pointed. As I start to leave, she notes I am wearing a T-shirt and jacket from the New York fire department. "Are you a fireman?" she asks. No, I tell her--but I have some friends who are, or were, from my days of working on NYPD Blue. "I'm wearing these clothes to honor them."

Her eyes well with tears. Mine too.

The flight is somber, but the crew could not have been more gracious. I can't look at them without thinking they must have lost friends, coworkers, pilots they trusted and loved. I am on Flight 12, after all--the return trip of Flight 11.

But they are determined to take care of us, and as we land in Boston and I pass them by, I say, "Thanks for taking care of us." I mean it, because we are shattered--but safe once again.

September 24, American Airlines Flight 117, New York to Los Angeles--After driving from Boston to New York for a presentation of `Nam for potential future producers, I am again at the airport. The shock is less, but the deaths have touched us. David Angell, a gentleman and producer of Frasier, is gone. An acquaintance has lost his sister. The former fiancee of a college roommate has lost her husband. A former assistant's mother escaped the building just in time.

I sit and read The New York Times and People magazine, which is filled with pages on the tragedy. I fixate on Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player who may have battled the terrorists on Flight 93. I wonder if I would do the same if the situation arose.

I am continually moved by the flight crew's calm. At the end of the flight the pilot comes on the intercom and says, "I understand this has been a tough two weeks for everybody ..."

He pauses, a little crack in his voice.

"... but we appreciate your flying with us."

In that moment I heard his humanity--and my own.

I will never be able to write, or direct, as I have before. I will never be able to look at a firefighter without thinking of FDNY captain Pat Brown losing his life in that building or seeing the two firemen who cradled the woman in the rubble--she was pulled out alive; both of them died.

But I also knew that the stories of heroism I had heard in the weeks following the tragedy must be my focus, or hate and vengeance will win.

"Thank you for taking care of us," I said again on my way out of the plane.

My faith in the world may be shaken, but it isn't shattered. I know, God willing, we will be all right. Whatever may come.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon
Author:Barclay, Paris
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 20, 2001
Words:740
Previous Article:Gifts that give: the money you spend for gifts can help others a world away, such as people with HIV in South Africa. (Good Works).
Next Article:Dance of Death. (Theater review: death, where is thy sting?).
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