IN MEMORIAM: RESCUE 9-11
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Four years have now passed since several hundred New York City firemen stormed in amid the chaos of the two burning, doomed towers; running toward the smoke and flame, toward the danger, toward the throng of innocents trapped. For 343 of them, the charred footprints of the Twin Towers would enshrine in eternity their last valiant act.
The first responders -- the initial heroes on a day awash in them -- arrived at 1 and 2 WTC not unaware nor unafraid, but armed with the conviction that something higher was more important than fear. As thousands fled for their lives, these husbands and fathers, brothers and sons charged into the breach with the courage their forebears displayed astride the battlefields of Gettysburg and the beaches of Normandy.
Every generation since WWII has been faced with its eventual defining moment -- a gauntlet hurled at its feet, daring to be picked up. Ours came in the form of kamikaze jetliners, hijacking not only the passengers and crew but an entire nation’s sense of invulnerability.
Those who perished in the smoldering ruins of Ground Zero did so on the front lines of a war they would never know; unwitting soldiers in the opening salvo of a conflict openly declared by a ruthless enemy abroad but long ignored by a complacent polity at home.
Many wish to resume the policy of strategic retreat. To them, nothing is worth the specter of war, not even the wholesale slaughter of their fellow citizens. Terrorists counted on America to remain passive.
They counted wrong.
The FDNY set the standard for the nation to follow in the aftermath of the attacks, an example many have already forgotten. With time, righteous anger has subsided; attitudes have changed; public support has wavered. Thankfully, the man whose opinion matters most has not.
“I can hear you…the whole world hears you…and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon.”
This 343-word tribute was composed in Mosul, Iraq on September 11, 2005. It is dedicated to all who laid down their lives on September 11, 2001 so that others may live.
Their sacrifice shall not be in vain.
COPYRIGHT 2005 BUCK SARGENT