SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2011
More than likely, on this tenth year anniversary of 9/11, I am not the only one doing so.
I remember being in New York City after the terrorist attack, seeing Fire Stations in the Tribeca area bearing the tributes to those first responders: public servants who might have thought twice about what they were rushing toward, but did it anyway.
Two of my cousins – in high school when I was born – became firemen. Later, one moved to Alaska and became a police officer, not on horseback or in a squad car, but in a single engine plane. He flew his beat. Coming home from work one day, he flew into a freakish snow storm not forecast and unusual for that time of the year. His plane went down and he was killed. Bobby was larger than life to me – a beautiful man who was a body-builder, a mountain man born in the Rockies and happier in the wilderness than in civilization, a man who died doing what he loved. There is a kind of peace in that for me.
One definition of “sacrifice” is the surrender or loss of something in order to gain an objective.
This morning, I read the story of an off-duty NYC fire fighter, who, while driving to play golf, saw the first plane hit the Tower. He turned around and drove toward the city, but unable to get through the Tunnel by car, he abandoned his vehicle and ran through the Tunnel to the Towers. He lost his life that day ten years ago. I think about all those who went into that hell as others were trying to get away from it as fast as they could. (His family established the Tunnel to Towers 5K race in his honor and millions of dollars have been raised for those in need…a wonderful remembrance of this man.)
Giving your life because your job may require it is the ultimate sacrifice, but I have been reminded over the years that sacrifices are made daily for those we love. My friend, Kenny, loved his family. When his architectural firm fell on hard times, he moved to Los Angeles, leaving his wife and two kids in Dallas, in order to take a lesser position so he could feed his family and send his kids to college. He didn’t want to leave, but he sacrificed his needs for those of his family. Men (and now women in the military) have been forced to do this through the ages.
Which brings me to Karlis. He was on the Russian plane that crashed into the Volga River on Wednesday. He was on that plane, with the rest of his hockey team, because he made the choice to leave his expectant wife and two daughters in the States in order to sign a player’s contract that would insure the financial safety of a family he loved. This has been an ugly week.
But life goes on…
…as it should.
I think about my own death. Of course, I can laugh at the Woody Allen line: “I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” I don’t want to die; I’ll hate missing out on the things that will happen after I’m gone! In reality, I don’t want to be forgotten, but would I want my daughter’s life to stop just because mine had? Absolutely not.
Memory is not always accurate…we may forget some of the details, embellish others, have selective recall about certain events and people in our lives. Every person that has truly been a part of our experience here has left an imprint on us. They are carried with us into everything we experience as we go forward. The term “washboard abs” always makes me think of my friend Kenny, because he had them and he knew I loved them! People who met Karlis briefly through the business I am a part of have emailed condolences not only to me and my partner, but for us to pass along to his family…he was such a good man and they were struck by the force of his goodness. Those things do not die in us because the person was taken away from us.
I have been thinking about death…
…about life and sacrifice.
But mostly, about remembrance: a sacred act.