The children. I always think of the children.
And the spouses. I think of them, too.
Not just the children and the spouses of the ones who were in the Towers or on the planes in NYC, D.C., and Pennsylvania, but also the children and the spouses of the first responders.
There’s a picture going around that has the turnout gear of the same number of firemen as those who died on 9/11/2001. It’s a powerful picture. So powerful.
What’s even more heavy-hitting is that every. single. pile of turnout gear – while it represents a single firefighter who died – actually represents far more: if we look closely enough – with our heart, not just our eyes – we can see the wives. The children. The parents. The brothers. The sisters. The friends. The neighbors. Each turnout represents so. many. more. lives changed forever than just one.
That’s only a snapshot of the firefighters who died that day. The same is true of the fallen paramedics, rescue workers, police officers. For every one of them who died as a first responder, countless others were changed forever with their death.
And of course there were those who simply went to work that day, just like any other day. Only not like any other day ever because they would never go to their earthly home again. Or those who got on one of four planes – the passengers, the flight attendants, the pilots – either because it was their job or because it was their pleasure. Certainly they had every right to expect to land at their destination, not to go down in flames at the hands of evil.
I think of the first-responders, the front-liners who didn’t die that day but whose worlds were rocked to the core by the carnage, the wickedness, the diabolical destruction they saw up close and personal. Most of us saw images on TV and online, heard news reports and eyewitness stories, grieved what was far away but felt so close, like a kick in the stomach or a punch in the kidneys. But the official first responders as well as the hordes of other average, everyday, good-hearted Americans who stopped to help anyone, anywhere they could? They saw the wreckage. Felt the wreckage. Breathed in the wreckage. Touched the wreckage. Cried with and over the wreckage.
That day, on display for all the world to see, were the worst of man and the best of man. That day, evil tried to get the upper hand; what it got instead was what makes America the greatest nation on the face of the earth in the history of the world: the willingness of Joe Every Man to lay down his life for his friends. And, as we saw that day and in so many days to come, even for strangers.
May that one day be a little bit more how we live every day. To their memories. In their honor. To the glory of the One in whose image they were made, the only One who can bring healing and redemption … and a steel-beam cross … in the middle of the madness … whether that’s all around us on the outside or raging on the in.
God bless America, and may He continue to raise up in light what the forces of evil would like to remain in ashes and darkness.
And may we never, NeVeR, NEVER forget.