9 -11 came and went. Some of us stopped and took some time to remember that life changing day. Like me, I am sure you can remember exactly where you were when you heard the news. I had just dropped my oldest daughter off at kindergarten, my younger ones – still babies -were home asleep and unaware that for many of us on that day the world stopped turning. As a mom with young kids I suddenly had new fears for them and the world I’d brought them into. Somehow, for most of us life went on. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not that each year it takes me a little longer to remember it’s September 11, takes me a moment now to wonder why the flag is at half mast and then I am deeply embarrassed by my own slow forgetting. This year my youngest, the baby, is 11 and finally able to see the footage and learn more about that day – I want him to learn not only about the horror and the hatred and fear, but also the many acts of compassion and heroism.
So this year, I’ve decided to take a bit less time to remember the towers crashing down, and a bit more time thinking about all those “ordinary” people among us who do the extraordinary every single time they go out the door to work. “Saving lives and protecting property, it’s what we do”. But what we know, is that it isn’t what most of us do. Very very few of us are willing risk our own lives to protect the lives of others. Very very few of us get a call at 3am, jump into a fire engine, heart racing and run towards danger – why? Because someone, another human, needs help. Most of the firefighters I know love their jobs, they love the adrenaline, love the schedule and most are very self effacing about what they risk for the rest of us – even when we do dumb things, drive drunk, fall asleep smoking, or refuse to leave a home with a raging brush fire until it’s too late – they they still show up and do the job, do their best to save us from our own folly or bad luck. These men and women, when duty calls, they answer. Full stop. It’s pretty remarkable, so every once in a while, maybe think of them, offer a thank you, drop a dollar in the boot, or stop by the station with a gallon of ice cream.
This is a portrait of my buddy Danny. To me he is a brother, best friend, and old lover all rolled into one amazing package. We’ve shared 31 years of friendship. We’ve buried friends, listened to each other through countless breakups, deaths of parents, celebrated births of children – shared everything that a life can hold. And I can tell you, that if you are in need at 3am, this is exactly the guy you want at your door. He’s seen things with those clear blue eyes that most of us will never have to contemplate. He has earned every single line on that face, and somehow retained the compassion in his heart. So this September, I can not remember any firefighter than ran into those burning towers, but I can remember a fire fighter 3000 miles away that would have done exactly the same. I can remember a guy who was busy saving your house as his own burned to the ground, a guy who would scoff at the word hero. So because he is the firefighter I know best, and someone I deeply respect and love, and because every day he goes to work he puts his life on the line, I want to say to him, Danny, thank you. Maybe you can do the same? You may not know a Danny, but believe me, drop off the ice cream at your station and just say thank you to the guys and gals, because at 3am somewhere in the world a guy is getting cut out of his mangled car, an 82 year old with a a broken hip is getting help, or the whole world seems to be burning he or she is going to get you to safety or die trying. Thank you is the least the rest of us can do, September 11 or otherwise. Thank You.