September 11th, 2003 By Lauren Metal

Summary: Two years later, Jimmy reflects..

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Jimmy walks to work in silence, his head down, his heavy boots grind the rough pavement with every step. Despite his good looks, he does not draw attention. His FDNY t-shirt does nothing to separate him from the others, from the civilians who have adopted the city's civil servants dress as their own.

Especially today.

Today the city is draped in black, still in mourning. Its people are bathed in red, in white, in blue. They are emblazoned with the letters of their heroes.

FDNY. NYPD. PAPD, too.

The sun is bright, the sky, a welcoming blue like that September morning two years before, only now the city has less windows for it to reflect off of.

Has it really been two years? Sometimes it feels like a lifetime or more. Sometimes, like it was only yesterday.

Today, he's not sure what it feels like, but he knows it would be easier if it rained.

Then, the darkness would hide his sorrow. The rain would mask his tears.

He doesn't feel like a hero. He never has, and the thought of his brothers' sacrifices only makes his hurt worse.

Why is he still here?

Why are the others gone?

The questions have haunted him since that day, and two years later, he is no closer to an answer he doesn't think exists.

He thinks about it often, but today he feels it even stronger.

What will it feel like next September? The September after that? And the next.

A flood of emotions washes over him as he reaches the doors of the 55. The bays are open and the waiting trucks gleam a brilliant red in the light of day.

An American flag waves in a gentle breeze, its colors bright.

An array of candles burn on the stoop, their dancing flames a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The collection of letters and photographs seem smaller than last year. Less people linger on the streets.

Have people forgotten?

Jimmy knows it's not true, but he worries anyway. He knows he'll never forget. He doesn't want to.

A tiny tug at the bottom of his shirt draws him out of his reflections.

He looks down, and squats at the sight of a small child lingering at his side.

He steadies himself, his strong hand on the warm pavement, as the little girl looks into his tired eyes with her beautiful blues.

"Hi," she says and shakes her head, pigtails waving. She smiles a smile of innocence that only a child can bring. He can't help but smile back.

"You work here?" she asks, and he nods without a word.

"Thank you," she whispers and leans in to give him a tiny kiss on the cheek.

The smile on his face grows.

"Everything is going to be okay," she says and runs off before he can respond.

Jimmy stands tall and begins to hum "God Bless America" as the sirens sound and he answers yet another call to duty.

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