We are devoting many posts today to the anniversary of 9/11, with first-hand accounts, insight, and commentary dedicated to that day seven years ago that changed our world.
This is my first 9/11 in New York. Everywhere I go today – the bank, the park, the subway – I can’t help but wonder what the people around me are feeling and thinking on this somber anniversary. Were they downtown that morning? Did they lose someone they loved on that terrible day? Are they also new to NY, scanning the faces of their neighbors, wondering what the protocol is?
On our family walk this morning, we witnessed something incredibly moving by chance…and feel lucky to have been a part of it. Making our way uptown, we noticed Riverside Drive was closed, and there were a number of firefighters on our path wearing their dress uniforms. Initially I figured they were coming from a memorial ceremony somewhere downtown. I’d forgotten about the beautiful monument in Riverside Park dedicated to New York’s Bravest: the Firefighters.
As they assembled near the Firemen’s Memorial, I couldn’t help but search the faces of these brave men and women for a hint of their memories, their stories from that painful day. A few of them met my gaze with kind eyes. I wanted to thank them, to tell them how sorry I am that they have to relive this day each year, to ask them what this morning is like for them, and to apologize for intruding. I looked at the young women in pretty floral skirts and wondered if they were her to remember a husband lost on September 11th. I saw a woman about my mother’s age standing toward the back – was she here to honor the memory of her son?
As the names of the 343 firefighters and paramedics killed that day were read, the silence was oddly comforting. It felt right to be in this place, at this moment, remembering and honoring the fallen in our own ways. As my son went back and forth between my husband and myself, we each hugged him a little tighter, gave him an extra kiss and silently told him that he is everything to us. I watched the toddlers playing at the feet of their parents, and felt hopeful. I imagine these children growing up with this annual ceremony, knowing the bravery, the sacrifice, and the indescribable bond their parents will forever share with their lost brothers.
I am honored to have chanced upon this memorial this morning, although I doubt it was truly by chance. Thank you to the brave men and women who allowed us to be a part of it, and who selflessly protect us every day.
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