I am grateful that everyone is taking the time to remember this day to honor the sacrifice made on this day. On the anniversary of this day, our communities come together to share the story of where they were when they heard or saw the towers collapsed. Its how we heal. Its how we give ourselves permission to grow.
With that said… this is the first year I have not shared where I was or what I was doing. Suffice it to say that I was serving as a Marine at the time and then as a Police Officer afterwards. That is not what this post is about.
To get straight to the point… 12 years later… It is a great disservice to only remember our first responders this one day.
How many stories did you hear about a visit to a police station or fire department. Tours throughout the year are not what I mean. What I mean is… What have you done for your first responder lately?
There are things we can do on a more regular basis… and it starts with our behavior towards them. I appreciate every citizen who came up to me and shook my hand when I patrolled the streets or was out on call. First Responders don’t always get a Thank you… sometimes they get scowls and angry remarks.
Despite it all, I can tell you that they respond from a place deep within them. It is the reason they get up at odd hours and knock on doors or enter buildings you don’t want to enter.
That night those first responders and many others, believed the world was coming to an end. They didn’t bicker and complain. They didn’t point out how impossible the task was. Instead they chose to show up and help… they chose to not let fear stop them.
Years later I find the best way I can honor those who serve us is to share stories of heroes. I share stories of overcoming fear. I refuse to live in fear. Fear fills us with doubt and robs us of the ability to act. Fear blocks inspiration. That doesn’t mean I am not ever scared. My heart goes pitter-patter at all the right moments, trust me.
Going forward if you want to influence your kids on the gravity of the day, you don’t have to rehearse the stories of this one particular incident. Instead, show them and give them opportunities to be a part of their community! Show your kids how you overcome fear! Give them permission to live courageously, through your example. If you think you’re not the best example, then it’s your responsibility to surround them in an environment that encourages them to live courageously.
That… is a priceless gift and one our country needs more of. Communities who choose to live forward by overcoming fear, together.
What if the kids want to talk about the tragedy of that day, do I avoid it?
In my home I don’t hide anything. If they see I’m worried and ask I tell them why. I never want them to be afraid of the truth. By my example I hope to show them how to handle truth. Even if it is unpleasant from time to time. In general they are aware of 9/11. My oldest more so than the younger ones, but they are sadly becoming stories in a history book. Stories that neglect the hearts and souls that endured these heavy events. Written in the same context of history as in the Holocaust, Vietnam War, and the internment of the Japanese Americans. It makes me wonder what will we remember if we don’t talk about it?
Which is why in my own home, I would rather focus my time and energy in nurturing the characteristics or values they need to act if ever they were in that situation. That means we talk about events like 9/11 and we visit memorials to honor those who gave their lives. It also means we take the time to pay attention to current events. That we participate in our communities and practice the values we claim are in important to us.
Those who wear the mantle of hero did not have the previous experience of 9/11 to inspire them to act in the face of peril and devastation. They had training. They had beliefs that helped them to focus on the mission at hand. They understand what they practiced was vital to the community. Most importantly they didn’t demand someone compensate them before showing up. They recognized the severity of the situation and they showed up.
Of all the pictures I saw this year, this is the picture that inspired me to write this post.
My friend Abina E., proudly serving and sharing memories today with her community. She is a joy and an inspiration!
My hope is that in 12 years from now, we will not only share the stories of where we were that day… rather that we would share stories of what how we have helped our first responders since then… what we did in our communities… what we did to come together.
I hope if you get the chance you will visit the National September 11 Memorial Museum to see and hear the stories we need to remember. Stories that remind us to take the time to support and appreciate those who train, believe, and act for the benefit of our communities. Stories that remind us to rise in the face of fear. Stories that help us understand our values and our beliefs when they are challenged.
P.S. Every year I reread this post and reflect on the memory of those events. I always seem to ask myself So what does it mean to be a first responder? What makes a citizen, a Patriot? Why do we help others when it may mean sacrificing our own lives for them?
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