September 11 Part 3

I don’t think those of us outside the families that lost loved ones that day, realized how difficult it would be for these people to see and hear about this disaster every day for many years to come. I would have taken away the pain for every one of them if I could have, so they would not have to see or hear about that terrible day ever again. Just like many others, I felt great helplessness knowing I could not help. However, I did get to help one family in this terrible disaster.

Helping the Healing

You've heard about all the heroism of people helping each other after that terrible day -- all the firefighters, police and EMS. What I did does not even come close to the courage and fortitude of those great people. However, it helps me sleep at night to know that after the saddest day in American history, I got to help one family that suffered so much. In whatever way, no matter how small, it felt good to know that they could start to heal some of the pain.

I sent the business card and pictures with a letter that I had written to the man's wife. After she received them, the sisters and brothers of the man called me. Newspaper reporters from different parts of the country have called to say how much my letter touched the family. They wanted to put my letter in their hometown paper. When I started this, I was afraid that by contacting this family, it would only hurt them even more. That was the last thing I wanted to do. But like I said, God only knows why he put me there that fateful day.

True American Heroes

The saddest thing about this whole story is that the brother of the man, and other family members that worked in the financial district, had to run away that day, and then witness the towers come crashing down. The man from the business card had escaped the 1993 WTC attacks as a hero himself, by helping a woman get out of the building safely.

Nobody will ever know how that business card survived from the 104th floor of the south tower for me to find it among all the debris, but I am glad that I was the one that did. In April 2002, I met the man’s wife and family members at a restaurant called Park Avenue Country Club in New York. They showed me what true American’s do when something so tragic happens. They hugged me, and cried with me, and told me so many people were touched by my letter. Then they showed me pictures of a loving father, husband, brother and family member. These were pictures just like ones I have of my sons and my family.

The restaurant refused to let us pay for anything that night. The restaurant owner treated us like we were famous. When we parted that night, the wife of the man came up to me, hugged me, and told me thank you. With tears in both of our eyes, we walked away. At that very moment, I never felt more proud about being a firefighter. I knew that I had completed the journey that God had started for me back on September 14, 2001.

The next day, the man's brother gave us a tour of the New York stock exchange. While there, people came up to shake our hands and say thank you. One very nice man handed me a check for $500, which I gave to my own fire department.

While in New York, we were there to give a check for $31,600 to the New York Port Authority Police Department. We had already given money to the New York Fire Department. But after seeing a story on the Port Authority Police and how little they were getting after losing 37 of their own, we decided to give them the money we had raised from the people of Monroe County, Michigan during a two-day fire boot and bottle drive.

Just before we left the hotel to head to Ground Zero to present the check to the Port Authority Police, one of the brothers from the man’s family called me on my cell phone. He asked me if he could go with us to present the check. So, on April 5, 2002, we went back to Ground Zero, with a new friend and a man that had lost a brother on September 11, 2001. During the presentation of the check, the brother watched and was touched by what we were doing for the Port Authority Police. But I knew he was there for a very different reason. He got to say goodbye to his brother that day. He realized that we can’t let the terrorists win. We have to carry on. My reason was for my own closure. Whatever the reasons, it helped two people come together from different parts of this country, and all because of a terrible, senseless act. It helped us both in so many ways and different levels.
Changed Lives

No matter how small of a part I played, there are people in this world able to face the day once more because God put me there to help. Though I was only there for a week, this one event has affected me more than anything in my life.

So many people have gone there since 9/11, working effortlessly day and night. They will never be the same. These are true American heroes. This disaster was about the people of New York—firefighters, police and EMS that gave the highest price of all—their lives. I just want to say, there were people from all over the world -- from small towns like mine -- to help the people of New York. If we are ever needed again (God forbid), we will be there -- Semper Fi.

Who would have thought that a small business card could touch so many lives in so many different ways?

The brother that went with us to Ground Zero was the first of his family members to return there after 9/11. He dug deep down inside himself for strength that day, and came with us to represent an enduring, courageous family. He said goodbye for all of them. And for someone who I never got to meet, the man from the business card had a family that I know loved him very much. They touched my life in so many different ways. At the time of this writing, they have not found the man's remains. The business card may be the only memorial they will ever have.

God bless America and all the families and the people of New York that were affected by this event. I salute you and hope some day the pain is not so strong.

Resources : DAVID

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