Angel, Guardian of First RespondersbySuperHeroRalph©
"I was worried sick about you. I knew I should have come with you," said Jennifer.
"I know and I'm sorry to have worried you," said Christine.
"Where were you? You've been gone for hours," Jennifer looked at her friend with the concern of a mother.
"Even though I had no intention of going there so soon and going there alone, as if drawn to it, I went to see the 9/11 Memorial," she said looking at Jennifer and looking as if she was about to cry.
"I figured you would, but I would have thought you'd ask me to come along with you for moral support," said Jennifer stroking Christine's soft, blonde hair.
"Thank you but, except for Kisses, I needed to be alone," said Christine pausing with sadness and allowing the images of the 9/11 memorial to fill her mind with as much sorrow as it did comfort. "When I saw the memorial it was so powerful, overwhelming actually, seeing something so big and beautiful emerge from all that ugly rubble and twisted metal. Somehow I felt better knowing a piece of Rob was there, if only in spirit. Just as I closed my eyes to feel him and to talk to him, I lost Kisses," said Christine beginning to tear up and squatting down to give her chocolate, miniature Toy Poodle a big hug.
"You lost Kisses? Kisses got loose?"
"Yes," said Christine, still hugging her dog.
"Oh, my God," said Jennifer looking at her friend with worry, before scolding her. "You have a cell phone, why didn't you call me? I would have helped you look for her."
"Suddenly in panic mode, as if I were cursed and going through that horrible day all over again, I tried calling you but, I couldn't get reception where I was at the Memorial pools. It was weird because I've always had good reception at the Twin Towers before, when I lived here. Even though all my bars were lit, my phone kept coming up that the call failed. As if something was interfering or someone was blocking them, my calls just wouldn't go through."
"What do you mean something or someone wouldn't allow your call to go through?" Jennifer gave her friend a look of fright.
"Rob always said that I was on the cell phone too much. He said if he died before me, the only call he'd allow me to make is to Heaven to talk to him or to God," she said with a laugh. "When I couldn't make the call," said Christine beginning to cry, "I figured it was Rob blocking my call, so I asked God for his help. I asked God to send Rob to Heaven."
"Oh, my God, Christine," said Jennifer hugging her friend again with both women crying.
"I asked God to help me find Kisses," said Christine breaking the hug to wipe the tears from her eyes. "I asked God to send me an Angel to help me through this horrible day. As if there was a curse over my head, after visiting that terrible location, too much to bear, I couldn't survive losing my dog at the same place where I lost my husband," said Christine beginning to cry again.
"Come inside," said Jennifer closing and locking the door behind her friend.
"I'll never get used to that again," said Christine wiping away her tears with a tissue, while watching her friend bolt all three locks on her apartment door."
"Get used to what?"
"Locking your doors and windows and setting an alarm every time you leave or go to bed in your apartment," said Christine with a secure smile. "I feel so safe and relaxed where I am that I don't even lock my door, when I go out to walk Kisses."
"They don't have crime in Pennsylvania?" Jennifer looked at her friend and laughed.
"Of course they do, but not so much in Hershey and the surrounding communities that are far enough from the Susquehanna river. People don't even litter in Hershey. It's one of the cleanest cities in the nation. Maybe because of all the tourists that go to Hershey Park, our police department makes sure we're all safe," said Christine suddenly looking sad. "Only--"
"Only, what Christine?"
"After returning here and reliving the sights, the sounds, the smells, and suddenly wanting to attend a Yankee's game, I miss New York. I love New York. I miss the different cultures and races mixed together in one giant city that everyone calls New York and so many call home. Where I live now is so damn quiet and I'm still finding it difficult to adjust to the relaxed lifestyle. More rural than urban, it's so different in Hershey," she said with a laugh.
"In Hershey, there are so many police around and on duty that they respond very quickly. In Hershey, the only black people I've seen are tourists, the kids that live in the orphanages, and workers at The Hotel Hershey that drive up from Harrisburg. The only Hispanic people I've seen are the pickers that the farmers hire to pick their crops. Hershey, a city of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, a city where giant Candy Kiss replicas hang from every light pole along Chocolate Avenue is a little too white for me," she said with a laugh.
"Yeah, well, you're lucky that your police force responds so quickly. Unless I was being raped and murdered, it routinely takes the police, usually one old, fat, gray haired and red faced cop, half an hour or more to respond to a 911 call," said Jennifer with a sad laugh. "Even then, if I'm not dead or nearly dead, he has an attitude because my elevator was out and he had to climb up so many stairs," said Jennifer with a laugh.
"It's different in Hershey. The police respond in force with a full complement of police officers for the smallest infraction. Maybe because there's something in the air from those Three Mile Island smoke stacks, but most of the crime is closer to Harrisburg. Because of drugs, they have a shooting or stabbing there every other day."
"Yeah, well, I'm glad you live in La La Land, but some of us must live in the real world," said Jennifer to her friend with a laugh, "and not in Disneyland, Disney World, or on Chocolate Avenue and in Hershey Park."
"Oh, my God, Jen, I was so frightened," said Christine sitting down and sinking in the soft comfort of the sofa. "I haven't had that feeling of loss, not that I'm comparing the loss of my dog to the loss of my husband, since Rob died," she said pushing her long, blonde hair back from her face.
"I know," said Jennifer leaning down to give her friend another hug. "It was so brave of you to go there alone. Let me get you something to drink." Jennifer handed her friend a glass of cold water and watched Christine slowly drink. "You must have died in this heat and humidity. August is always so bad here," said Jennifer grabbing up her mahogany hair and tying it in a long ponytail.
"Hershey is hotter in July than in August, but you have more humidity in New York and your concrete buildings and sidewalks act as an oven to bake everything hotter longer. Where I live off the golf course is mostly surrounded by farms, open fields, and cornfields, along with a backdrop of Milton Hershey's orphanages and the endless array of Hershey Medical Center buildings that dot the distant landscape," she said with some new found pride.
"It sounds beautiful," said Jennifer.
"It is. Between the farms, the big lawns, and the manicured townhouse communities, it's all so very landscaped. Except for Central Park, what you don't have in New York are all the mature trees that we have to shade us from the sun. You need to come for a visit," said Christine pulling on her friend's hand. "With the acres of landscaped grounds, sometimes feeling as if I'm walking the grounds of a sanatorium, it's all so very serenely beautiful and peacefully relaxing. If I was to imagine Heaven, Hershey would be it."
"I know I should take a vacation and relax, but with the economy the way that it is, I'm afraid to take a week off for fear they'll let me go. Walking around, as if on eggshells, I've just been taking personal days as vacation days. I'm just glad you two are okay," said Jennifer hugging her friend and rubbing Kisses' head. "Tell me what happened. Start from the beginning," said Jennifer.
"I was out of my mind, Jen. I thought she was hit by a car, a truck, or a bus. I thought she was lost in this huge city or stolen. I thought I lost her for good."
"Oh, my God, I would have been out of my mind, too," said Jennifer.
"I was," said Christine picking up her dog, sitting her on her lap, and hugging her. "After Rob died and being so alone and lonely, I couldn't bear to lose her too, not now with the tenth anniversary looming and all the news coverage they'll, no doubt, endlessly show on television. Being alone without Rob is the reason why I got this dog, in the first place, nearly ten years ago, and it figures that a fellow police officer, one of New York's finest, would find my dog, where Rob died at the World Trade South Tower," she said with a soft smile.
"Wait. A police officer found Kisses? A New York cop?" Jennifer looked at her friend with an expression of foreboding.
"Yeah, can you believe that? Of all people," she said with a laugh.
"Where exactly did he find her?"
"Right there at the South Memorial pool, where she ran away. She must have returned there looking for me, when I was off frantically looking for her. She's such a smart, little dog," said Christine rubbing Kisses' head and giving her some love.
Jennifer looked at her friend, as if she had seen a ghost.
"What exactly did that police officer look like?" Biting her lip again, Jennifer looked at her friend with obvious trepidation and covered the reason for her question with a smile and another question, while waiting for Christine to speak. "Was he cute?"
"Very cute, handsome actually," said Christine wide-eyed and smiling. "Tall and broad shouldered, he had yellowish-white hair and eyes that appeared to change color with his emotions. Actually, at first, a bit pale, nearly translucent actually, and lacking so much pigmentation in his resemblance of an alabaster statue, I thought he was Albino but, upon closer inspection, he had more color than that."
"Interesting, yet strangely familiar," mumbled Jennifer under her breath.
"Oh, nothing. He sounds interestingly different, I said," said Jennifer covering her misspeak.
Maybe it was the reflection of the sun but, as if I was viewing the aurora borealis, a kaleidoscope of color, his eyes changed colors from piercing blue to brown to green to gray. With his uniform crisply ironed, his shoes shined, his brass badges and buttons brightly polished, and his fingernails neatly manicured, he looked like a model on a police recruiting poster. Actually, Angel was very nice."
"Angel?" Jennifer turned pale with the mere mention of his name. "His name is Angel? You're kidding?"
"Yeah, I mean, no. Why? His name is Angel. I like the name, Angel. He's my dream Angel," said Christine clutching her hands to her chest, batting her eyes, and smiling, as if she was a school girl in puppy love. "He's so dreamy."
"Tell me, where exactly did you first see this Angel...person again?" Jennifer looked at her friend with concerned shock.
"At the South Memorial pool. Standing there with his hands on his hips and looking so much like a blonde haired Superman, he looked as if he was guarding the place. The only thing missing from his stature to punctuate his name were wings," she said with a laugh. "Yeah, if I were to imagine a Guardian Angel watching over that God forsaken place, perfectly cast for the role, for sure, especially by his name, he'd fit the stereotypical part of an Angel and guardian of the first responders."
"Oh," said Jennifer with her eyes bulging. She turned away from her friend to support her weight on the sink and allowed her head to fall. "We'll never know God's grand plan," she said as if suddenly possessed by religion. "It just helps to believe that there's a reason for everything and a reason for God to take Rob, when he did. The good die young," she said bowing her head in prayer and signing herself. "The good die young."
"Well, whoever he is, he was very nice and we even made a date," said Christine with a big smile and with stars in her eyes.
"What?" Paled by her look of horror, Jennifer turned to confront her friend. "A date? You made a date with an, I mean, with...Angel? No way!"
"Why?" Christine looked at her friend. "Why not? Don't you think I've been in mourning long enough? Don't you think I've been alone long enough? Do you dare deny me some happiness?"
"Yes, of course, ten years is a long time to be alone and lonely, and I wish you eternal happiness, but you don't know anything about this guy, Christine. Your Mister Right could be all wrong," she said with obvious trepidation.
"How bad could he be? He's a police officer. Besides, I have a good sense about him," said Christine with softness. "Somehow so special, he's different from all the other men I've met. As if I made him up myself, as if I envisioned my perfect man, he is that and so much more. And he's so wicked good looking."
"Wow, he's sounds too good to be true," said Jennifer under her breath.
"Knowing exactly what to say to make me feel better, he's kind and he listens to all that I have to say. Even Rob didn't always take the time to talk to me and show interest in who I am inside and how I'm feeling. Rob was always so stressed by his job and too busy working, sometimes to take the time for me," said Christine with sadness. "In the short time I've known Angel, just a few hours really, he's made me feel better. Suddenly, I have a renewed reason to live life anew. Somehow strangely feeling as if I met him in another life, I trust him."
"I just can't believe your first day back in New York and you pick up a cop?" Jennifer looked at her friend with her jaw fixed and her eyes narrowed.
"I didn't pick him up, Jennifer. Kisses did," she said with a laugh. "Actually, neither one of us picked up the other. It just happened, besides I can't help myself. With Rob being a New York cop, I've always had a thing for cops," said Christine with a dirty laugh.
"I still can't believe you made a date with a cop, all of people, after all you've been through," said Jennifer with a laugh, while shaking her head and making a sour face. "Why you'd want to hook up with another man, who has such a dangerous and stressful job is beyond me," she said, as if trying to dissuade her friend from starting a relationship with Angel, no doubt.
"Well, truthfully, it's not actually a date. I'm just prematurely hoping for a date. I'm hoping he'll ask me to dinner and then, who knows what after that. He volunteered to show me the 9/11 Memorial is all. I think he's on duty there. I think he guards the place," said Christine with a bashful smile. "I think he likes me."
"Cool," said Jennifer biting her lip again with a look of concern on her face. "That place is so big, you'll need someone to give you a guided tour. Maybe he can help you."
"Help me? What do you mean, help me?"
"Help you to find whatever it is you're looking to find at the memorial is all that I meant by that," she Jen suddenly looking nervous and out of sorts.
"I dunno, I have a funny feeling about this guy, Jen. There's just something about him. Eerily familiar, I think it may be more like kismet that we met. As if we were meant to be together, soul mates, love at first sight, I think he may be the one," said Christine with a hand to her heart.
"Eerily familiar? Kismet? Meant to be together? Soul mates? Love at first sight? You think he may be the one? One What? Wait, hold on here, Christine."
"What? I'm not allowed to fall in love again? I'm tired of playing the grieving widow, Jennifer. I need to move on without Rob. I've been so sad and so lonely. I need someone--"
"Of course you, do, Christine, but don't go falling for the first guy who does something nice for you. Truth be told, I have a funny feeling, too, about you meeting Angel."
"You do? What? Why?"
"I can't say. I mean, I don't want to say."
"What do you mean?"
"No, I can't tell you. You'll think me crazy. You'll think that I'm just jealous that you finally found a guy that you like enough to make a date."
"Tell me, Jen. What is it? Why would I think you crazy?"
"I'll tell you after your semi date with Angel. Okay? Maybe then, I won't have to tell you. Maybe then you'll know. Maybe he'll tell you himself and I won't have to tell you."
"Tell me what? You're freaking me out, Jen. You act as if you know this guy. Do you know Angel? Tell me what you know about him? Have you dated him? Is that why you're being so--"
"No, I don't know Angel. I've never dated him. I've never even had the pleasure of meeting him, but I've heard some strangely unnerving things about him that I'd rather you found out for yourself. I'd rather you make your own judgments about him. Okay? So tell me," said Jennifer changing the subject. "How did Kisses get away?"
"Well," said Christine giving her friend a questioning look, before continuing, "like everyone else who visits New York, I wanted to see the Twin Tower Memorial, but unlike the regular tourists, I had more of a personal reason to go." Christine's look of happiness, when thinking about Angel, turned to sadness, when thinking about her deceased husband, Rob.
"I know," said Jen. "Other than to visit me, the 9/11 monument is the reason why you returned to New York."
"It took me ten years to get up the courage to see where my husband died. I wanted to take a photo of his name etched in the memorial wall. Inscribed on bronze parapets that surround the South Memorial Pool, they have a whole section of first responder names of all those who were award the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor. Only, when I saw all those names, so very many names, hundreds of names, Jennifer, I started to cry. I couldn't stop crying and I couldn't stop shaking. Then, I remembered a bumper sticker of a car parked in front of me that read, 9/11, We Will Never Forget. Such an understatement, how I can ever besmirch Rob's name by even thinking about being with another man is--"
"Don't be silly, Christine. It's been ten years. You need to get on with your life. If not with Angel, then with someone else. So, tell me, did you find his name?"
"Yeah, I did. At first, when I started reading the names that are arranged by agency, I recognized some of them, friends, co-workers, and people that Rob mentioned. Then, it all got to me. I couldn't stop crying enough to even see the names through my tears."
"Oh, you poor, poor thing," said Jennifer squatting down to give her friend a hug.
"Then, as if taking me under his wing, so to speak, that was when Angel put his arm around my shoulder and gave me a comforting squeeze. As if whispering his words in my mind, without uttering them, his words were seemingly without sound, but I knew them, as if he had said them and as if they were my own thoughts. Mostly firefighters, Angel said that there are 418 names of police, fire, EMT's, and Port Authority police officers, and he knew exactly where to find Rob's name. So very weird, it was as if he had memorized them all and personally knew each and every one of those who died."
"Apparently, Angel knows a lot about that monument and about those who died there that day," said Jen with awestruck emotion.
"He does, Jen, he really does. Probably, from guarding the place for hours every day, he knows everything about the memorial"
"So, tell me, how did Kisses get loose?"
"Well, my car was right there, but it was too hot to leave her in the car, so I leashed her up and made sure she peed on a pole and a hydrant, before walking her over to the monument. Even though we stayed outside and never made it in to the museum, I didn't want her desecrating sacred ground by peeing on it."
"There are a lot of dogs in New York and, other than Central Park, there's really no place to walk them," said Jennifer, "which is why, even though I'd love to have one, I refuse to have a dog," she said rubbing Kisses' head. "I can't imagine the horror you felt when kisses got away."