Normally, Gilda drives down Fifth Avenue after exiting the Harlem River Drive on her way to Mt. Sinai Hospital. Her office is at 102nd Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. Traffic has been slow recently on Fifth, so Wednesday morning she took Park Avenue south alongside the Metro North tracks, down past 116th Street.
It was a few minutes after 7:30 am when she rolled by the Spanish Christian Church, the epicenter of tragic destruction barely two hours later. At least eight people died in an apparent natural gas line explosion that leveled two five-story buildings including the one housing the church with apartments above the ground floor. Three more souls are unaccounted for.
Last night, when she told me of her route to work, both of our skins went cold with the thought of what might have been. A momentary chill, and then on to another subject.
But the thought lingered with me as I listened and read Thursday more reports on the devastation. How fragile our lives are, how dependent on the vagaries of fortune and misfortune. A plane from Malaysia disappears “Lost”-like, but several would-be passengers who missed the flight remain with us. A Metro North train passed by 116th Street just seconds before the explosion. Children trudge off to school every day with no expectation an Adam Lanza will show up at their classroom door.
There are those who say live your life as if every day will be your last or that of your loved ones. Hug them and kiss them goodbye each time you part. How depressing! How utterly fatalistic to think that way.
Yes, by all means caress and kiss, but do so because you truly love them, not because you think it might be your last joint contact.