The lingering odor of burnt eggs and toast for breakfast. A sweater pulled hastily over my pajamas. Dragging feet as I accomplished my chores before another day of school began.
It was the beginning of another Tuesday, a day that felt like any other day.
A phone call from my sister- "Mom--- turn on the TV." We all piled onto the couch, my sister came home early from work and schoolwork was abandoned. My Mom, born and raised on Long-Island was completely shaken. Frantic phone calls to her three siblings to make sure they were safe. Her three siblings, their spouses and our 7 cousins were all safe. Heartsick, terrified and safe.
We watched the footage air for 3 consecutive days, and it left an impression on my young mind. Questions, anger and sometimes fear. It felt very far away- but yet so completely overwhelming. As a child watching the terror in the faces of the witnesses followed by the immense bravery of the rescuers, it was awe-inspiring. People who went above and beyond the call of duty. People who stopped in their tracks to stop give aid in a time of crisis. People who had to wake up the next morning without their loved ones. And the next day, and the next, and the next.
Even today as I reflect, I am truly amazed at the selfless bravery of hundreds of men and women. Hundreds of men and women who gave their best that day and continue to give their best today.
Over the years, thanks to time and maturity, I've come to grasp the severity of the events of 9/11 more than I ever did as a
loud-mouthed, over-opinionated mini-adult in 2001.
Our country came together on 9/11. Nothing stood in the way- language, gender, occupation, race, fiscal status-- nothing mattered. People saw needs, people met needs.
A strong country is built from strong communities. Strong communities are built by strong families. Strong families are built by strong friendships. Strong friendships are built by strong individuals.
The strength of this nation comes from strong, loving, capable people joining hands and creating a force far greater than they could ever produce on their own.
There's no scaling down the events of 9/11. It was a national crisis. It revealed the strength and integrity of hundreds of people who today we call heroes.
I distinctly remember watching in admiration as countless people made a difference in a time of trauma. I wanted to be ready for trauma- I wanted to be a part of healing- I wanted to be a hero.
Crisis does not make heroes; crisis reveals heroes.
Being a hero doesn't always look like pulling a woman out of the rubble of a fallen building. Heroes are built in the commonplace of day to day, the minutiae of our everyday lives.
Being a hero is helping an elderly woman carry her groceries.
Being a hero is admitting you were wrong.
Being a hero is holding that small child during a thunderstorm when you have a to-do list a mile long, because they only feel safe when you are right there.
Being a hero is accepting yourself, 100% everyday, no reservations.
Being a hero is giving someone a second chance, even when you're scared.
Being a hero is being a man or woman who is true to their word.
Disaster happens. No life is left untouched. Storms rage. Death calls too soon. Relationships break.
The integrity we cultivate on a day-to-day basis is our only preparation. Crisis can swallow us whole. Or we can stand on the foundation of integrity and face each raging storm. Fall 7 times- get back up 8.
Be a hero.