On this day, I think it is important to pay our respects to the 343 FDNY firefighters who lost their lives in the 9-11 terrorist attacks. And for that matter, to everybody who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks, and to our armed forces who are so bravely and valiantly defending our country and keeping us free.
As you know, John was a firefighter and I was intensely proud of him and his occupation. As the saying goes “firefighters run into places where everybody else is running out.” They put their lives on the line to save people- who are usually total strangers and even to save property.
Today, in Maryland there were torrential downpours. I can’t help but think that maybe it was millions of tears shed in remembrance of 9-11-01.
My visit to the cemetery today just consisted of the drive. The cemetery where John is buried is named Brookview for a reason… and today the brook was crossing the drive and flowing rapidly. This is the second time I haven’t been able to visit due to heavy rain. I know John wouldn’t ever want me to put myself or Nathaniel in danger to get to his grave… he knows I’m smarter than that. I can’t tell you how many times we’d watch a car floating on TV and John comment about how stupid the drivers were to get THEMSELVES into that situation. I don’t every want to end up as one of those “stupid” people.
After I pulled away, I had a very comforting feeling that surrounded me- like a warm embrace. I’ve had that happen several times since John passed– and have never felt it before. I know it may sound strange, but I feel like John is giving me a hug. Like he appreciated that I tried to come to the cemetery and it was okay that I didn’t make it to his grave. As John’s illness got worse, he made it very clear to me that he really appreciated everything that I did for him and how I took care of him. He made sure to tell people who came over and to say it in front of me. That’s not to say we didn’t occasionally have our wires crossed, but on a lot of occasions, I knew what he wanted and how to help him without him even having to ask.
Ironically, I also received a call where I offered my services to do everything that I can to help to help fight firefighter cancer. I know that John would be proud of me for pursuing what he was unable to.
Back to eight years ago…
Nobody will ever forget where they were on 9-11-01. John came flying in the door of his mother’s house and turned on the TV. It was unusual for John to come flying in the door! He told me that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. He’d heard about it on the radio as he was driving home from Annapolis. Him, Ann, and I sat watching the TV in disbelief. At that point they didn’t realize it was a terrorist attack. I remember my stomach turning as we watched the second plane fly into the building.
I couldn’t sit there and watch it forever… it was just too much. At that time, I was boarding and went over to feed the girls and ride. At that time I had Squall, Willow, & Tiny. I remember that it was just such a perfect early Fall day. Perfect temperature. The clouds were just so beautiful- white and puffy- like a painting. The sky was such a pretty shade of blue. I remember thinking how could anybody do something so evil. I tacked Tiny up and had a lovely ride. John beeped me on the Nextel (cell service was so bogged down that it wasn’t working, but the direct connect still worked) during my ride to tell me about the plane flying into the Pentagon. I remember that I just was in shock and thought what in the world was wrong with people. My heart went out to all of the innocent people who lost their lives.
In the days and weeks that followed I remembered all of the news footage on TV at ground zero.
This image will forever be in my memory
I remember watching on TV as they sifted through debris at Ground Zero hoping to recover people, then bodies, and then just fragments of bodies. The loss of life was so devastating. There were huge ‘bulletin boards’ where people looked for their loved ones and posted fliers. Every day on the TV they had coverage of friends and family members searching for their loved ones. It was heartbreaking. The devastation was overwhelming. I have the deepest respect for the firefighters, emergency personnel, and volunteers who worked round the clock. I remember that shortly after 9-11 it was raining (don’t know if it was the next day… a week later) and just watching the rescue workers search futilely in the rain and the misery and sadness of the whole situation just seemed so vast.
I remember that John knew of some of the firefighters who had perished. John loved training and education and many of the firefighters who lost their lives were the best and brightest in the field. John had read articles, maybe even books, maybe even watched videos, and had attended training seminars that they had presented at. John told me that there were references to some of them in the show “Rescue Me.” I wish he was still here and I could ask John for names and details. The loss that NYFD took during 9-11 is one that will always be remembered and had a huge impact on the department. One can’t even fathom the loss that they suffered and the brothers that they lost.
In short… hats off to our heros. 9-11-01– We will never forget.
I’d like to think that John is up there in Heaven hanging out with some of his FDNY idols sharing fire stories and memories. One can only imagine the conversations… the calls… the memories…