My hometown of Middletown, NJ, is a huge Wall Street "bedroom" community. To give you an idea of how many Wall Streeters we have, Middletown lost more people on 9/11 than any other tri-state town. There's even a memorial at the local train station. In fact, one of my most vivid, post-9/11 memories was watching local Middletown policemen driving home victims' cars that first Monday after the cataclysm.
I'm sorry to report that, ever since the September 15th collapse of Lehman Brothers and the markets, Middletown has been experiencing a new type of 9/11.
This time, though, the cops aren't driving home anyone's car. And, no one's building any memorial park for the victims. But, like 9/11, the empty parking spaces and train seats are a mute testimony to everything that's gone wrong in the larger society.
I'm not talking about just a few missing cars and commuters either. The gaping holes I see remind me of author Jeff Shara's description of Pickett's Charge on the third
day of the battle of Gettysburg. Participants in the Civil War battle reported seeing entire Confederate regiments simply disappear in the hailstorm of bullets and cannonballs being rained down on them by defending Union soldiers.
The Middletown train station and 7:28am NJ Transit train to New York are bloodless, latter day versions of Pickett's misguided and ill-advised charge.
Sadder still is the reality that there will be most likely be more empty spaces and seats before we see any upturn. To borrow a phrase from another American war, these are indeed the times that try men's souls.