Absent Friends

BOYS' OWN BOOK

Chapter 1

Secrets No One Knew

July 4, 1976

Four boys, three girls, high and soaring, skin sizzling, tingling under the dizzying stars. Everything open and opening: the ragtop to the sky, the sky endlessly to the huge summer night. This night to their limitless lives.

Everything opening: In the black sky tight bright bursts eclipse the luminous moon, explode as fiery streaks, fountains of scarlet, rockets of silver, purple blooms and sprays of green. On the radio rising swells of tinny music; from the car shouts and applause.

Everything opening: the girls to the boys, not for the first time, but with a new, laughing heat. The boys to each other, grunts and shrugs and grins their fiercely sworn oaths, beer cans their glittering tokens of fealty.

Everything, everything opening: surprisingly, newly, the boys to the girls.

The boys? One is quiet, and one sure; one eager; and one flying, as always, too near the sun. The girls are royalty to these boys, have been since their memories began; and now, as the boys turn into men, the girls are knowing, wise, and real to them in ways they are not yet to themselves.

All would tell you.

And on this patriotic night, this celebration of association, when people all around them are reveling in the sheer staggering luck of being born into the community they would most want to be part of—what are they feeling, these boys and girls? Not fear, not on a night like this, when together they could conquer invading intergalactic armies, with grace and ease they could defeat rock-blind, howling swamp men burning with destruction. Not fear, but the hope of an anchor. The need for each other's weight in the whirlwind. “You Are Here” marked on a mental map. One of the boys leaving in the morning, everyone else to stay. All have been told by men and women, older and more tired, that the marked spot shrinks to nothing, that no ballast can hold, that the buoy above the anchor disappears in the bobbling waves.

Not one of the seven believes it.

It can be said that here the story begins, though it has been going on for some time. No story has a true beginning, and none has an ending, either.

From the New York Tribune, October 16, 2001

A HERO REMEMBERED:

CAPT. JAMES MCCAFFERY

by Harry Randall

Third in a Series of Profiles of the Lost Heroes of September 11

Note to readers: September 11 produced countless heroes. Many are still with us; others perished. Some final acts of bravery and sacrifice will never be known. The New York Tribune joins a grateful city in saluting all our unsung heroes.

There are others among the lost whose final deeds stand out in memory. In this series the Tribune profiles some of these heroes, as a testimony to their courage and to the character and pride of all New Yorkers.

“First in, last out.”

With these words, spoken by a surviving member of Ladder Co. 62, Capt. James McCaffery was eulogized before a crowd of 2,500 at a memorial service at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Monday, October 15. McCaffery, 46, one of the most decorated firefighters in the history of the New York City Fire Department and the focus of a memorial fund, was remembered by speakers including the Mayor, the Fire Commissioner, the Governor's Chief of Staff, and firefighters who had served with McCaffery or under his command. Firefighters from nearly every state in the union stood shoulder to shoulder in the cathedral aisles, ceding the pews to members of the FDNY and to McCaffery's family and friends.

Because of his long and distinguished career—and, paradoxically, his lifelong distaste for