Sunday, December 7, 2008

Heroes

Hey it's good to be back home again.

Jamie and I are in our living room. She sits on the couch, watching television, and I'm sitting in my recliner, blogging. We're both sipping our apple cider as Winston lovingly gazes at us (very Norman Rockwell, I know.) Ahh, the simple pleasures of life. I certainly hate to be the one to ruin the warm mood and holiday atmosphere, but I'll risk being a Debbie Downer and let you in on a little observation that's been pressing in my mind.

While in New York City, Jamie and I stopped by the National September 11 Museum. The museum had several offerings, so we opted to take a guided tour of the site. In the guided tour, folks with a personal connection to 9/11 volunteer as tour guides. We had two very kind ladies, Joan and Patricia, lead our tour. Initially, they took us to several areas where you could view the old Trade Center complex. Joan spoke of the plans for the future memorial that's in the works. At the end of the tour, each of these sweet ladies gave their individual stories of how their lives were changed by 9/11. I was particularly touched by Patricia's story.

Patricia is a nurse, and on September 11, 2001, she was working at a hospital in New Jersey. At the beginning of her morning, a patient emerged from his room and told Patricia that planes had crashed into the Twin Towers. Immediately, Patricia called her husband and told him to try to get in touch with their two sons because they were Brooklyn firefighters. At the end of her precarious day, Patricia found out that her oldest son Danny evacuated the north tower before it collapsed. Danny was safe. The whereabouts of her second son, Tommy, were unknown.

Tommy was a member of Rescue Company Three. This unit was among the first group of firefighters to respond to the World Trade Center. Ten days after the attacks, Danny and his father were onsite helping with the recovery effort when Danny and Tommy's father spotted a Company Three helmet in the debris with the use of binochulars. At the time, getting to that helmet was impossible on foot, so they found a crane-like device to lift them to the spot. When they reached the rubble, they found the hat and body of their brother and son, Tommy.

The emotion and distress on Patricia's face as she told her story was intense, as if the tragedy happened yesterday and not seven years ago. I did a poor job maintaining my composure (Jamie is always glad to see me cry, since I didn't do so at our wedding). Even as I unceremoniously sobbed, I was wowed by Patricia's resolve to tell her story. Living the memories and emotions of a horrendous personal tragedy in front of others is difficult to imagine. 

Jamie and I fought a gigantic crowd to see the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. People, mostly young folks, were everywhere. The buzz and excitement in crowds was unpleasently electric. After all, what could be better than catching a glimpse of the Jonas Brothers?

As I ruminated about our trip on the plane from Atlanta to Jackson, I couldn't help but grieve at the misaligned priorities of our nation. Our 9/11 tour group of 15 people contained folks from South Africa and Sweeden, Washington State and Florida. We took a mere hour to remember and honor authentic heros. At Rockefeller Center, hundreds of thousands of people pushed and shoved their way to the front of crowds to see pseudo heroes. The antithetical nature of these two experiences seemed to me irreconcilable. Does our nation appreciate heroes? Would we recognize a hero in a lineup of rockstars, soldiers, actors and politicians? There's not much I can do about any of it, but I there is one thing I know I can do. Patricia closed her words to us by reminding us that each day is gift. It is extraordinary. We are not owed it. She encouraged us to make the most of each day, as did her son Tommy.

Yeah, it's a banal lesson, but for some reason, its depth of truth is ingrained a little more in mind than before I heard the story of our tour guide, Patricia.  

2 comments:

UMC said...

its coming to the point where i need a thesaurus to read the blog... and i don't consider looking up every other word fun! you left out the fact that you were sipping on cider and reading the thesaurus...

Sarah Denley said...

ok first of all, Micheal, you did get a bit choked up at your wedding.....I was there.

Second, I am depressed AGAIN because of you (see my most recent post). People keep writing depressing shat on their blogs left and right. No, it's okay I need to be reminded. As you said each day is a gift.

Three, tell me how to rotate pictures on a blog. I need help and and I'm sure you know how.