HEROES OF 9-11
Updated: Aug 4
We have had so much challenging news in the last 18 months, we could be forgiven for believing it’s not real. There are mornings when I wake from a dream, and I honestly am not sure what part was true and what wasn’t. So I collect my thoughts and then give myself a pep talk…and keep moving forward.
Honestly, I feel bad for fortune tellers! Talk about a poor business model. How could they ever predict the future, as crazy as this last year and a half has been?!
Keeping It In Perspective
I think about this blind spot and 9-11. Twenty years ago on September 10th, we had no idea how our world would be altered beyond recognition the very next day. Our emotions, our thoughts, our worries, and our future actions were forever altered. Although we couldn’t imagine the full impact, we instinctively knew nothing would ever be the same again. And it certainly hasn’t been.
I recently visited the 9-11 museum and memorial honoring the lives lost in the destruction of the Twin Towers. It’s a somber, overwhelming, mind-blowing experience to be completely immersed by the sights and the sounds of that day.
If you have never been, you should go.
If you have been, go back again.
You will be profoundly moved.
Making It Personal
The power of our connections to carry and sustain us was brought home again to me on this anniversary of 9-11. Being in New York City is particularly poignant as the setting where such a huge loss of human life occurred. Last Saturday, I wanted to find a way to immerse myself in the stories of those who sacrificed their lives to help the terrified, the vulnerable, and the wounded.
So I went to the East 85th Fire Station in Manhattan to learn about the “Yorkville Nine”. From veterans to new firefighters, nine men from that firehouse perished in the line of duty on 9-11.
One woman will not let their story be forgotten.
Kathryn Jolowicz, age 81, grew up in the neighborhood. For the last twenty years, she shows up at the Firehouse on each 9-11 anniversary to honor the brave men who died. As the neighborhood historian, Kathryn used her connections to raise money for commemorative stone monuments honoring each firefighter.
The stones sit in gardens, in street plantings, and in the flower beds of churches and public buildings from Fifth Avenue, to Madison Avenue, to Park Avenue, and beyond.
I took the map Kathryn gave me, displaying where to locate each stone, and walked to find them all. As I made my two-hour pilgrimage, I reflected on the web of connections each firefighter had --- building outward in concentric circles from their families, to friends, to their fire stations, to their neighborhoods and then to the larger community. The ripple from their deaths touched a nation.
Peggy Noonan in this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal said it best in an article entitled “A Day of Grief and Human Glory”:
“We saw an old-fashioned masculinity come back…We grieved the firemen. 343 of them entered history that day when they went up the stairs in their 70 pounds of gear, and tried to impose order on chaos. So many of them…understood they were on a suicide mission. But they stayed and wouldn’t leave. Because they were firemen.”
The Yorkville 9 and all the others who perished that day inspire us. Despite their own certain overwhelming confusion and fear, they did what they were trained to do. In their strength, courage, and compassion, they were selfless.
And this year and every year for the last 19, we remember what they gave to those whose lives brushed up against their own on that horrific day.
What I Know For Sure
Learning about the Yorkville 9 has helped me find meaning in 9-11.
Most of us will never be called upon to sacrifice so much for others. But in the everyday moments of our lives, we can be connectors for good.
In the face of a challenge, the very best we can do for ourselves is to make sure we not only have a support team, but that we become one.
The firemen were the 9-11 support team.
They gave rescue.
They provided hope at the darkest of moments.
How can we possibly measure up? In all of life’s struggles, both big and small, we can be the solution. We can use our own connection power to be someone else’s support team. It doesn’t take a crisis. It just takes your presence.
And that’s your chance to be a difference maker.