Tag Archives: Oskar Schell

September 11, 2013 – The Souls of Heavy Boots: Remembering 9/11

This commentary has been modified and is a repost of September 11, 2012.

It’s funny how in this journey of life, even though we may begin at different times and places, our paths cross with others so that we may share our love, compassion, observations, and hope. This is a design of God that I appreciate and cherish. ~ Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

It was 8:59 am. I will never forget standing in the middle of the kitchen of my son’s daycare, starring at the television in utter disbelief at the atrocity of events that were taking place in New York City. That morning, I dropped off my son who was barely three years old and my daughter at school to her third grade class. Hard to ingest from the television screen to the audible range from the skies above the roof: fire trucks honking horns, newsmen with microphones, airplanes flying overhead, the chaos of the city streets, neighborhood residents peering out their windows and jumbles of commotion near and far. I stood there in astonishment.

I do not believe any of us will ever forget that day 12 years ago on September 11, 2001; where we were in the world, what we were doing, what we were thinking – and what we shall never forget. I thought about many of my friends in the upper, lower, and midtown of New York City. I thought about my eldest sister who was scheduled to fly to California on business that day but flight cancelled. I thought about a sister-friend who worked on the 11th floor of Twin Tower One but fortunately never made it to the office because she overslept. I thought about my colleagues and extended family members who were working at the Pentagon on that day. I thought about all of the travelers on those four collective airplanes, their families and loved ones. I thought about my own children, our future, and the highly [concealed but evident] state of our nation. I thought about many things that day, existent, unidentified and surreal.

We all have a story. We all take a journey somewhere. The horrific events of 9/11 were yet another day that connected the souls of folks: somewhere, anywhere, and everywhere. Human beings across the world connected in authentic ways they never imagined they could, from housing strangers to donating blood to giving any and all that they would and could. The power of the human spirit is one of great manifestation. It is through all that we experience and learn that we come to realize every day is a miracle in itself. The wonder of existence allows us to connect to one another in ways that are necessary, restorative, and divine.

An inspired illustration of this was shared through the making of the Academy Award Best Picture Nominated film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Opposite popular critics’ contemptuous opinion, I found it to be one of the most outspoken and compelling dramas I have ever viewed. In many cases, the director Stephen Daldry, was accused of having an “aestheticized agenda” for creating an appalling adaptation of both the novel and the event, being cynical, disturbed, and bearing a film that “buries its soul beneath its own pretentious rubble….like an offbeat vehicle for healing than it does a kaleidoscopic prison.” More unbiased critics thought it was “nicely captured with a child’s-eye view of the world, kind to its audience letting us leave with just a bit of hope,” “emotionally powerful, and a very simple, human story about a boy who loses his father…..touches the heart without revolting the mind.”

“People aren’t like numbers, they’re more like letters; and those letters want to become stories, and dad said that stories need to be shared,” narrated by the character of Oskar Schell, played by then 13 year-old Thomas Horn.

It is through sheer goodness that accentuates this very story: the beauty of human connection, courage, communication, loss, grief, forgiveness, resilience, and closure – issues we encounter but apprehensively face to resolve. The events of 9/11 both modified and intensified Oskar’s perception of everything he knew from what he saw to what he heard to how he heard it to what he felt on the inside, particularly loud and undeniably close.

The essence of Oskar Schell’s heavy boots signify much of the emotional turmoil he walks around with and has endured; not just the rainy boots he occasionally wears to collect the raindrops, but his tears, fears, and obligations with all of the people he encounters along his journey. Their collective stories of love and loss bestow him great insight and make him reluctantly humble.

In search of the lock and/or owner of the key he finds in his father’s broken blue vase, he meditates to himself, “I like keys. I thought for a minute, and then I got heavy, heavy boots.”

The delineation of heavy boots symbolizes the emotional soul in all of us. The “boots” we wear are significant to our journeys. While our individual journeys may be ahead of some – and behind others, we should in no way have illusions that we have at all arrived. We all wear heavy boots from time to time, through the emotional, psychological, and mental burdens we carry around with us. With each step we take through life, we not only create our own path, but also fill the shoes of those before us, and how we navigate ultimately teaches us how to continue communicating and evolving in the world.

Significantly, our boots connect us. The 343 firefighters and paramedics that rescued the many and died on September 11, 2001 wore heavy boots. From the time their feet hit the ground running to the time they entered the Twin Towers, their journeys were already taking flight, to places both familiar and unknown. The 3,051 children who lost parents on that day continue to wear heavy boots. The citizens of New York City that endured the 99 days of fires that continued to burn after that attack – wear heavy boots today. In New York City, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania and across the world, we’ve all loved and lost something here.

Considering that screenplays are generally slightly less stimulating than novels, we must also consider that everyone is entitled to an opinion. I suppose if these same critics assumed a condemnatory review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, then they have perhaps and somehow missed its’ most important message – from the “birds-eye” view of a child’s perspective on seeking clarity, inner peace, and moving beyond personal loss through an unfortunate storm of life to the significance of how our communicative worlds connect through time and silence.

We do not assume that we can, in due course, heal the wounds of the world since the attacks on 9/11.  What we do know is that through the course and connection of our journeys, like Oskar Schell, there is hope and we can move on. YES – we CAN.

My life story is the story of everyone I’ve ever met. ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Love and Light for your Tuesday.