A wise man named Billy Graham once said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” It’s in times of trial that courage makes its greatest appearance, and that was certainly true 18 years ago today. If you are old enough to remember that day, there are many examples of courage to remember. If you aren’t old enough, please keep reading. The most touching and bittersweet images of that day would be those of the first responders that were running into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center to do their jobs as thousands of others were trying to get out of them. Some lived to tell their own stories, but many did not.
Running towards danger to help save lives is pretty much the job description of a firefighter, police officer, emergency medical technician, and member of every branch of the military. They face events in the course of their everyday duties that most people never will. It’s fitting now, these 18 years after the worst terrorist attack on American soil, that the children of these heroes would choose to continue the legacy of the fathers they may have never known who died on 9/11.
In just a couple of weeks, the City of New York Fire Department (FDNY) will graduate its largest “legacy class” since September 11, 2001. For these young people—who were young children or babies when they lost their fathers—bravery is more than just contagious…it’s in their blood. The class includes 13 people- 12 men and 1 woman- whose fathers died at the World Trade Center. One of 2 sets of siblings in the class is Marc and Rebecca Asaro. Their father Carl, who was 39 when he died, was the father of 6 children. Upon their graduation later this month, Marc, 25, and Rebecca, 27, will make a total of 4 of the six siblings who followed their dad into the “family business” of firefighting.
The same is true of the Regaglia family. Two brothers, Anthony and Leonard Jr. are also among this class of soon-to-be firefighters. Their father, Leonard Regaglia had been a police officer in New York prior to becoming part of the FDNY before 9-11. He was following in the footsteps of his father, so bravery runs across multiple generations. No one knows better than these families what their service may cost them, but even so, they’re eager to do the job that so many heroes have done before them.
On this day of remembrance, let’s pray for the safety of these young people, as well as those tireless first responders who have our backs every day in big cities and small towns across America. Thank you for your service.
In yesterdays post, I linked to some rather disturbing audio of two victims of the attack on the World Trade Center nine years ago during their last moments on earth. I also posted a picture that’s come to be known as “The Falling Man”, depicting one of those many WTC victims who choose to exit the building on their own terms rather than wait for the fate that they knew was coming. The photographer behind The Falling Man, Richard Drew, was initially criticized for snapping that one second in The Falling Man’s life as he was approaching his death. Newspapers were also under fire for running the photo, so therefore it ran only once in most papers here in the United States. I never came across it myself until a year ago, and found it shocking and disturbing. Even so, I see it as another memorial to those who died, much like the memorial wall above at Ground Zero. The photo above was taken on my last visit there in July 2006, so I don’t know whether or not it still stands. The construction of a permanent memorial and towers is still a work in progress, as is the memorial in Shanksville, PA for the passengers and crew of Flight 93. To the best of my knowledge, the memorial to the Pentagon victims is the only one that’s been completed. These things take time, I suppose, but it’s important that they get done. Memorials serve not just to pay tribute to those who passed away, but they’re important for the living. As September 11, 2001 gets further and further in the past, we need to be reminded, at least once a year of what happened and what those people went through. Not just the people whose last dramatic moments were caught on film or audio tape, but everybody who was lost: the rescue workers, who walked up into the towers, as others were going down towards safety—and life. The passengers on the 3 flights that flew into the towers and into the Pentagon who never knew what was happening. The passengers on Flight 93 who did know, and decided to do something about it. The workers at the Pentagon who were taken in an instant as they sat at their desks… and those people who’ve since passed away from illnesses caused by working among the debris at Ground Zero. All of these deserve to be remembered, today and always.