My pledge to do more than just remember 9/11
Last night and this morning, my wife wanted to watch all the media coverage and specials of the 9/11 10-year anniversary. I watched alongside her and we talked about where we were, what we were doing and how we felt on that horrific day. But I felt like I didn’t want to remember…like I didn’t want to revisit those terrible events that happened a decade ago. I began to consider whether it was selfish of me to not want to be reminded of the tragedies that took place in New York, DC and Pennsylvania.
As I ruminated on that thought, I realized that the reason I didn’t want to delve into the memories was not as much because they were personally painful – although they were, without a doubt, the most painful national events in my lifetime – but because the 10th anniversary of 9/11 served as a reminder to me that I had not done enough personally to make this world a better place. Selfish? Yes, but wholly appropriate.
We had planned on taking Parker to a special service at church today, where men and women who serve as police officers, firefighters and in our nation’s armed forces were to attend in uniform. My intention was to bring Parker to the service, and show him how to thank these men and women personally afterward. I would set the example for Parker to show him how to let them know we appreciate what they do for us.
At church, our new priest shared with us a very stirring and emotional sermon where he told us how he lost his four best friends on 9/11 when the first tower collapsed. Our priest is from Trinidad, and had been friends with these four men since he was five. Their fathers were best friends, and they had spent the majority of their lives together. When the four of them left school and got jobs in the financial world, he was instead called by God to become a priest in St. Louis. On the day of the attacks, his friends called him and he go to speak with them one last time as they described their desperate attempt to evacuate. They were trapped in a stairwell with dozens of other people and could not escape. In fact, he was on the phone with them when the building collapsed, killing his four friends. It was a very gripping and emotional story.
He then used that story to convey to us the importance of living the Christian values. Of overcoming hatred and being able to forgive your enemy. He told us how he struggled with his anger, his rage and his human desire for vengeance, and through the power of Jesus Christ was able to overcome his feelings. He talked about how we must strive to do this on a daily basis, not just on the anniversary of a national tragedy.
But that got me thinking. Is it really setting an example to thank these men and women once or twice a year? Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and Patriot Day (9/11)? Isn’t that like being a good Christian on Easter and Christmas, and not living my life the way we’re supposed to every day? What would I be teaching Parker by having him watch me shake the hand of a firefighter or police officer only once or twice a year?
My friend, Booker, once offhandedly mentioned to me a few months ago how he took his family after church one random Sunday to deliver a dozen doughnuts to his local fire station. It wasn’t a holiday. It wasn’t a memorial. It wasn’t because they had saved him from a burning building. It was just because. Just because they were firefighters. Just because they chose to devote their lives to something that we did not; something greater than themselves. Impressed, I asked him how often he does this. He replied, “every so often.”
That’s the kind of example I want to set. Not the fair-weather patriot, not the when-it’s-convenient-to-my-own-life kind of citizen. I want to be the man who says thanks to police, firefighters and military every time. Every day. That’s my pledge to remember the heroes of 9/11, to always and without fail take the time to shake the hand of a firefighter, police officer or member of the United States armed forces, no matter how embarassing it might feel, no matter how out of place or socially awkward it might seem. I will fight through my own fears to tell these brave men and women how much I appreciate them facing and overcoming theirs. After all, I’m the one they do it for. Parker and Kelly are the reason they go to work every day, and I sleep at night because they’re out there on the front line.
Thank you for everything you fight for, everything you stand for and everything you do. We are standing behind you.