Sunday, September 11, 2016
At dusk fifteen years ago today, we took our children outside to play with other children whose parents were also seeking an escape from the continuous loop of the two towers falling. As I sat on a bench, watching my kids and talking with some of the other adults, my son, then 9, broke away from the game of wiffle ball he was playing and came of to stand in front of me. His face was solemn. "A lot of heroes died today," he said. I had no idea how to respond, so I just hugged him close. I didn't know it at the time, but his ambition to be one of New York's Bravest was crystallizing inside him. He was gobsmacked by the kind of bravery it took to run into a burning building to save people unknown to you. Since that time, through high school and college and jobs, he never wavered in his desire to join the FDNY, and he never stopped working toward it. This was the year he made his dream happen.
This morning, before daylight, while the rest of us slept, he showered and put on his full dress uniform to attend a department-wide memorial service for the men and women in the fire service who died on 9/11. I realize this is what he will be doing on this day every year from now on. And when there is a storm or any sort of public crisis, he will be there in his big steel toed black boots, wading into the center of everything to secure life and limb. It's what he wanted.
"When everything is going to hell, I plan to be one of the people who has the training to help keep it from getting there," he told me once. He is now an EMT with the FDNY, and will train as a paramedic, and take the promotion exam to firefighter. His paperwork for all that is already in. One part of me wishes he would remain on the medical side, because I am not as brave as he is. I don't want him running into any burning buildings. But when one feels called, you can't stand in the way of that. May there never be another day in history like the day those Twin Towers kneeled into rubble. May all those who lost people that day be somehow comforted. And may my boy ever be safe, as he lives this call to safeguard others when everything around them is burning down.