December 14, 2012 started out just like any other day for many of us… The pain the victims’ families are feeling is unimaginable. In the coming days and months, there will undoubtedly be great debate in the arena of public policy; what improvements can be made in the area of mental health treatment, how can we better recognize the danger signs, do we need enhanced gun control, etc.
Likewise, September 11, 2001 started out just like any other day for many of us. I was a Police Officer in Downtown Manhattan. When the first plane crashed into the North Tower, my thoughts immediately turned to my wife’s forty-five-year-old brother, Johnny (names have been changed for privacy), who I knew worked in one of the towers. My wife called to tell me that Johnny was okay. He was in the South Tower, the one that wasn’t hit. As flames poured from the North Tower, I watched as the second plane flew into the South Tower. Where was Suzanne’s husband, six-year-old Loren’s daddy, the man who had walked my wife down the aisle at our wedding?
The South Tower fell at 9:50 a.m. The South Tower, the one Johnny had safely called from earlier, was gone.
Within a few short moments, the sidewalks and streets were swarming with people walking, and running, away from the general area of the World Trade Center. As I assisted in the evacuation of Manhattan, I scanned the crowds for Johnny, hoping that he would pass by me on his way home.
The second Tower fell around 10:30 a.m. as we continued the evacuation of people off Manhattan. I finally spoke to my wife sometime that afternoon. Johnny still had not called.
We never saw Johnny again.
That first Saturday after the attack, my wife and I were able to be with Johnny’s wife and daughter. Suzanne was amazingly strong in those early days, and in the months and years that followed. I suspect it was partially because Johnny had beaten cancer twice in the ten years prior to 9/11, with Suzanne by his side and blessed with the birth of Loren along the way. Maybe Johnny and Suzanne had braced themselves for the worst during both cancer battles and that somehow helped her navigate the difficult times post-9/11.
Suzanne said that she had to be strong for Loren. With Suzanne’s strength, love and guidance, Loren continued the journey through life that she began with two parents. Today Loren is a lovely young lady attending college, a real credit to Suzanne’s spiritual strength.
In the first six years of Loren’s life, Johnny was her idol and buddy. They were inseparable on weekends. Recognizing that the cancer could come back, Johnny made sure to make time for Loren in his life, never knowing what tomorrow might bring. What most of us know as Saturday they called “Dadurday”. There is not the slightest chance that Loren will ever forget Johnny as he was not just a blur passing through her life. Johnny intentionally made memories with Loren that will endure her entire life. Johnny knew what mattered in life and made sure to live life to the fullest with Loren and Suzann.
What is the point in resurrecting this 9/11 story now, after the horror of the Newtown massacre? Well, to drive home a single point; live everyday as if it is your last. Make memories with your children that they will never forget, even if you are taken from them tomorrow. Conversely, enjoy your children now, while they are with you. In all likelihood they will live well beyond your years but in the unlikely event they do not, let there be no regrets. Take them to see that movie this weekend, don’t put it off until next weekend. Don’t miss one of their games because you have yet another business meeting. Spend as much time as you can with your kids. Hug your kids.