Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9/11 ... Plus Two Days

Last weekend I joined my brothers and sisters around the world in honoring the memory of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 10 years ago. It was hard not to show emotion as family members were ushered into the Memorial to find, remember and honor their fallen family member. It was hard not to show emotion as the children read the names of the lost and added their personal comments and memories. It was hard not to show emotion as the bells tolled in the peaceful countryside of Pennsylvania as the heroes of Flight 93 were remembered. It was hard not to show emotion as I viewed the wreckage of the Pentagon. It was an emotional weekend.

I was one of millions that watched the documentary made by Jules and Gedeon Naudet, two brothers who started out documenting the "coming of age" of a young New York firefighter and ended up documenting American Airlines Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The film also included scenes from inside the North Tower lobby when the South Tower collapsed. The scenes were graphic reminders of the magnitude of destruction that happened on that day.

The filmmakers remarked how they were trying to document the journey from boy into man as they followed the life of a single firefighter. They expected the journey to last many months but, instead, the boy grew into a man in one very long, very tragic day.

It dawned on me that many of us have grown because of the circumstances we face. We have faced natural disasters: fire, floods, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards and all other manner of natural disasters. These calamities have tested our courage, will, resources and faith. We have been victims of crime and violence that lead us to thoughts of revenge and retribution. We have heard doctors share a diagnosis -- either for us or our loved ones. The doctor calmly sets out a course of treatment, looks us in the eyes and ends with the words, "We can't guarantee results." The words "courageous" and "hero" have been used many times in the last few days and with good reason. I would apply those words to all of us who have faced the trials that life hands out, as well.

It also occurred to me how the truly courageous man is the one who lives his life with integrity and transparency. He resists the changing winds of popular culture and the fickle nonsense of public opinion; he seeks a steady course. In so doing, he leads his family, performs his work and influences his community with word and deeds that strengthen and build up. His life inspires others -- not because he's a well-known national hero -- but because of the courageous life he lives every day -- with his wife, with his children and when he's alone.

What the courageous man gives contributes to the benefit of everyone he knows. He makes a difference, and the world is better for it.

Thank you for your courage and heroism.

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