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  • Joe Colaizzo

It never fails that I wake up before my alarm goes off on important days. I’ve never missed a flight. I’ve never missed an appointment. And on this day twenty years ago, I was up early once again. Showered, dressed and on my way to catch the train to the city. An earlier train than I usually would.


We were ready. My team and I worked hard during the summer to prepare for this day. The Partners selected us for a project which was a really big deal. Our task, present our views on future trends in the securities industry with a focus on the retail investor. And, more importantly, how the firm could capitalize on those trends.


We had it all figured out. This “online trading” thing was sure to be a really big deal in the future and we had some great ideas that we were confident would impress the Partnership.

But I wanted to get in early and rehearse before our 9:00 am presentation. My client’s offices were conveniently located across the street from our World Financial Center offices and my 46th floor window, of Two World Trade Center, had a beautiful view of the sunrise over Brooklyn and Queens. I would start my day there, have my usual saran-wrapped sesame bagel, and practice my part a couple more times.


After a few practice runs, and since I was just across the street, I decided to make my way over at 8:30. It would take five to ten minutes just for the elevator ride with the necessary switch to a new elevator on the 44th floor. But I had plenty of time and walked outside to cross West Street. It was a noisy morning with all of those large metal plates covering the myriad of potholes and never-ending roadwork. The banging of cars and buses going over the plates was loud and one bang, in particular, startled me as I crossed. But I was not to be distracted, and I made my way into our offices, ready to enlighten the Partners who put their faith in our team.


The commotion as I stepped off the elevator drew me to the windows where many people, along with some members of my team, were looking upward. A lot of smoke was streaming out of the top of the North World Trade Center Tower and debris was falling on West Street, right where I crossed a few minutes earlier. Someone said a small plane must’ve lost its way. “Damn”, I thought as I headed towards the conference room to set up.


But the commotion picked up and some people were visibly scared. I stood outside the conference room as the clock struck 9:00. A delay was understandable with what was going on outside. I paced up and down the hall in front of our conference room when the shriek of “Oh My God!” froze me. That shriek announced something really bad was probably happening and a subsequent shriek of “We’re Being Attacked!” confirmed it as true.


Security guards took charge and started directing us to evacuate. I grabbed my portfolio, which held our presentations, and followed the line towards the staircase. One of my teammates was several yards ahead and yelled over his shoulder at me “Looks like we’ll have to reschedule.” He always had a way to make me laugh. “I guess so!” I yelled back, grasping my portfolio tightly. I was kind of annoyed at this turn of events, still not fully appreciating the magnitude of what was going on outside.


And then I got outside.


Mobs of people were all just standing there, looking skyward at smoke and flames billowing out of the two beautiful towers. It contrasted extremely well against the beautiful blue sky. Large pieces of the building were now falling too. The bangs they made as they hit the street were different from the sound of a bus going over a large metal plate. I didn’t like this banging.


But we just stood there, looking skyward. As if some magnet was holding us in place. A woman next to me was crying. Screaming something about someone who worked near the top of one of the towers.


And then she just screamed.


Without prompting I focused my gaze and realized that now it wasn’t just pieces of the building that were falling. It was people. My grip tightened on my portfolio. Not to protect whatever the hell was in there, but to just grip tightly on something. Like watching a scene from a movie, I watched more and more people make a horrible choice. And after way more than I needed to see, or should’ve seen, I finally turned away from the horror movie and started to lumber uptown. Fire engines, ambulances and police cars roared past me as I made my way, every so often stopping and looking up to re-confirm that this was really happening.


And then the rumble.


Like a hurricane sized thunder set against the peace of a cloud-free blue sky. I gasped as enormous pieces of the South Tower started to fall and I instinctively knew….... RUN!


I turned and ran uptown. Fortune on my side that the early fall breeze was blowing southward which spared me from smoke and dust. I must have run ten blocks until either I guess I felt safe, or I just couldn’t run anymore. I stopped, turned, and stared at something I always wondered if it could happen. A Twin Tower fell. I remember thinking two things at that moment; that I would never watch the sunrise again from my 46th floor office, and my favorite photo of my son and daughter was lost forever. After several minutes of empty staring, I re-directed myself back uptown. Still clutching my portfolio of undelivered presentations.


The rest of that day was, in every negative way, long. I reluctantly watched the other tower fall, walked with strangers all the way to the 59th Street Bridge, and then crossed that bridge in a somber, zombie-like procession. After a bus ride with a colleague that I happened to meet along the way, he drove me home to Long Island where my family was waiting, and wondering, and panicking, since all phone service from the city was unavailable. I put my portfolio down and tried to describe the day, as best as I could. I was numb, but I made it home.


As you might expect, we never rescheduled our presentation. Some things are more important and yes, they really are more important. I often think about how that presentation may have gone, what if I didn’t make it home, and all those who weren't as fortunate as me.


Today my undelivered presentation is just taking up space on a shelf in my closet. A reminder not only of that day, but also to be thankful for the wonderful life we have, no matter how hard that life may be at times.


I wish you all the peace, love and happiness in the world!! And let us Never Forget!!


Joe






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  • Joe Colaizzo

And there they were.


Two teammates from my college days. Two friends I haven’t seen since. They both looked different and yet they both looked just as I remembered.


The Facebook caption said it all. “High School Competitors, College Teammates (Adelphi University) …. Friends. 30 years and it feels like it is 1990.”


They reunited at a baseball camp in New York. Little did they know that Facebook post would reunite even more.


Comments from some of my other teammates filled the post (yes, I commented too), and I am sure we were all smiling yesterday as we relived those amazing days. It was just like we were all together again. Laughing, teasing, reminiscing. Winning championships. Losing heartbreaks. I wished I could’ve been there too. But in some way, I was. We all were. The Adelphi Panthers Baseball team was virtually reunited from afar. It was long overdue, and it felt great!


“We’re going to have fun tonight!”


The words shouted down the hall as my friend came to meet me for a trip to the bar. It’s not like we’ve never done this before. Actually, we go every couple of weeks. And of course, its fun. I thought about her words for a bit but resolved that she was just being nice.


Three quarters into my first beer and she pointed over my shoulder, suggesting I turn around. Walking up was another old friend, a former neighbor, who we hadn’t seen in almost two years. She used to join us for drinks before she moved and as what often happens to most, if not all of us, we lost touch.


Now I knew what my friend meant. This was going to be fun.


We reunited over drinks and caught up on all of our events, good and bad, from the past couple of years. There was so much to share, so much we had missed out on, and we relived it all over a few more rounds. It was like old times.


My friend was right. We had a ton of fun. That reunion was long overdue, and it felt great!


So, how’ve you all been? I know, it’s been a while.


I hope you’ve been having your own reunions as we put the past year and a half behind us. The blur of that time has hit us all in varying ways. And you all know I am obsessed with the impact of time. How we use it. How we waste it. Hopefully we all learned to not take it for granted. (Yeah, I know, I’ve said that too.)


But while we’re all having our own reunions with family, friends, activities. There’s another reunion to make sure I had. My reunion with all of you.


I’m sure you’ve been wondering what’s been going on in the life of this average Joe. Ok, so maybe you haven’t been wondering much about that, but I thought I’d catch you up.


You might remember “The Moment”. One of my first posts about the single most impactful moment of your life. I’m convinced we all have one and I ended that post hinting about my Moment with the words “Chapter One.” Well, I’m fourteen chapters in and I think only a couple more to go. It’s definitely not easy writing a book. Countless times I’ve hit a wall and almost bagged it. But then I get on a little roll, and it comes back to life. I can’t promise I won’t hit another wall along the rest of the way, but the end is out there, and for the first time I think I see it.


I took a new opportunity and joined a technology firm to head up their risk management team. It’s been great working with amazing people and being part of building something bigger. I have been learning so much, every day, and it’s such a nice feeling to contribute to the firm’s growth and success.


And I’ve even done some travelling. Mostly for work to my firm’s North Carolina offices, but I also took a little jaunt down to Key West. Several days of Bars, Burgers, Beers, and Bands. Right up my alley! I met people from all over and also met people who were no more than two degrees of separation (it really is a small world). If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it.


It was great to catch up with all of you. I know, this reunion was long overdue. But it feels like we never parted, and we really did pick up right where we left off. I’ll do my best to not make it so long again.

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  • Joe Colaizzo

Hi all! Hope you are all doing well. Or as well as we can be doing in 2020.


I'd love to share a little venture into fiction writing. A very short piece that was dancing around in my head and I'd love your feedback on what you think about it. It's called Therapy and maybe it spurs some thoughts in you. Thanks.


Therapy


"Good to see you, Betsy. How are things?"


"They're ok."


Tuesday at three o’clock was the usual time for Betsy's appointment. Sometimes she needed to switch but, for the most part, her husband Frank would work late on Tuesdays, so she still had time to get dinner prepared. Tonight, she was making fried chicken cutlets and corn. That would be pretty easy. She hoped Frank would like it.


The office was small. A basic beige color on the walls but limited natural light. There were times when it felt a bit claustrophobic, but she was over that now. She took her seat, ready for this week's session. 


"Just ok? What's going on?"


"I don't know, I still feel like I'm missing something. Things used to be so good."


"With Frank? Or with yourself?"


She always had a way of asking the right question.


"I don't know. Both I guess." Betsy looked down as she felt the first tear start to form. She spoke towards her lap and focused on the small coffee stain on her sweatpants. "God, I hope she didn't see that," she thought to herself.


"Well, let's talk about you first." Doctor Karlan awoke Betsy from her coffee-stained focus.

Betsy met Doctor Elizabeth Karlan a couple of years ago when she found out Frank was having an affair. That was an awful time. She thought about leaving him, but he convinced her that it didn't mean anything, so she stayed. At fifty-five, where would she have gone anyway?


"Have you looked at getting back to work like you said last time?" Doctor Karlan asked but already knew the answer.


"No."


"And why not?"


"I started to but, come on Elizabeth, I'm almost sixty."


"You're still young."


"No, I'm not. You're young! I'm not! What the hell am I going to do at my age? Drive a school bus?"


"You can do anything."


"No, I can't." She grabbed a couple of tissues that were always readily available.


"When I was younger," Betsy continued, "I never felt like this. If something wasn't going well at work, I fixed it. When the kids needed help, I took care of it. I was thin. I was hot. I could've cheated on Frank so many times. I could've done anything I wanted to. Sometimes I feel like I was so stupid."


"Stupid for not cheating on Frank?" Elizabeth interrupted the rant. 


Betsy should have known better. "No. I guess I was stupid for not appreciating what I had and letting it all go."


"But you realize you didn't have to let anything go. You can still work. Your kids still need you. And I know Frank made a mistake, but you have to realize that was his shortcoming and not yours. You did the right thing and you have your honor. You are the strong one."


"Thank you."


Betsy got up and walked over to the small window. "Do you mind if I open this up?"


"Not at all."


It was a beautiful spring day and the perfect placement of the sun at this time of year warmed her face. There was a slight breeze and she could hear a couple of robins were chirping loudly. She wondered if they were building a nest in the tree nearby. It felt good and she almost forgot she was on the clock.


"What would you do if you were me?" she asked as she turned and faced Elizabeth again. "I mean, just pretend you are me. You know me well enough by now. You know where I was. You know where I am. What would you do?" She sat down in front of her therapist.


“That’s hard to say.”


“Come on Elizabeth.  I’ve been meeting with you for years.  I tell you what I’m doing.  I tell you my problems.  And you listen.  And you give me some things to think about.  But you never tell me what you would do.  I really want to know.”


Elizabeth stared back at her client.  She knew what she would do if she was her.  But she wasn’t sure how to say it.  And she wasn’t sure if her client was ready to hear it.

Betsy’s eyes squinted ever so slightly.  She was ready.


“Ok.  If I was you, I would pick my ass up and stop asking for answers.  Stop complaining about where your life is.  Stop demeaning yourself.  Jesus Christ, Betsy.  You always tell me how hot you were and now you walk in here with a big coffee stain on your baggy sweatpants.”


She saw it.  Betsy didn’t think it was that big of a stain.  She opened her mouth to respond but quickly closed it back up.  She sensed Elizabeth wasn’t finished.


“I’m not finished.”  Betsy’s muscles tightened.


“You’re only fifty-eight years old.  You have so much more life to live.  You can have a whole other career.  You can have a whole other life.  You say you always knew what to do.  You always took care of things.  You can still do that.  For some reason, now you want to be taken care of.”


“Why shouldn’t I want someone to take care of me?”


“Like the way Frank takes care of you?”  She always had a way of saying the right thing.


“Betsy, you’re not going to like this.  But you know what you need to do.  You gotta leave that asshole.”   Betsy couldn’t believe what she was hearing.


“I can’t leave Frank.”


“Why not?  Betsy, you’re miserable.  This downward spiral began when he cheated on you.  And you didn’t even kick him out for a night.  And things went right back like nothing ever happened.  But something did happen.  And you are the only one suffering.  He’s kept his career while you quit yours so you can wait on him hand and foot. As if you, being a strong, successful woman, were the reason he had an affair.  Look, you even schedule our sessions on days when he works late so you have time to make sure there is a nice little dinner waiting for him.  What the fuck happened to you, Betsy?”


Betsy was sobbing uncontrollably.  But it felt good.  Like the tears streaming down her face were washing away years of pain and self-loathing only to be replaced with the confidence and self-worth that she once had.  Finally.


Her thoughts jumped back to her childhood.  Of the times sitting with her mother.  Hearing stories of the hardships that her grandparents overcame.  Dreaming of being the first girl in the family to graduate college.   Grasping the diploma as she graduated medical school.  Embracing her father, staring into his eyes, and hearing the only words she ever wanted to hear from her daddy……. “I’m proud of you Elizabeth.”


Betsy looked back up.  Elizabeth was looking right back at her. 


“Thanks, Elizabeth.  I needed that.” She tossed the damp tissue towards the trash can.  She chuckled as it bounced off the rim and landed on the white tile floor next to the toilet.  She was also a damn good basketball player back in the day.  Maybe she’ll play one on one with her grandkids someday?


She got up, picked up the tissue, and dropped it in the trash can.   As she closed the master bathroom window, she took note that the robins were still chirping.  She decided to go look for the nest.  Chicken cutlets would have to wait.


Before she flicked off the light, she gave one last look in the mirror, and genuinely smiled for the first time in years.


“You’re good Elizabeth!”

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