It's about our community and our spirituality!

The Firefighter’s Boys


It is the morning of September 11th and people are remembering that fateful day eight years ago when hijackers flew commercial airliners into both World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.  A forth airliner went down in a field in Pennsylvania.  Its target destination was never really determined although some believe it may have been the White House.

This morning, National Public Radio was playing a Story Corps recording from a firefighter who lost both of his sons eight years ago.  The man’s father was a firefighter.  He was a firefighter.  One of the boys was firefighter while the other was a police officer.  One of the boys loved to go to their father’s fire station.  The man recalled how when it was one of his boy’s birthday, they would go to the station to celebrate.  I can’t recall the full story, but they would set a milk carton resembling a building on top of the cake, set it on fire, and the men would give one of the boys a bucket of water and he’d use it to put the fire out.  Hell of a candle.  The birthday cake underneath would get a good dousing.  It would be a little soggy, but the boy got a kick out of the whole affair and that was the most important part.  That was his son Joe.  Joe became a police officer.

The other son grew up wanting to be a corporate mogul, make a ton of money, and take care of every want mom and dad would ever have.  That was John.  He wanted nothing to do with civil service or firefighting.  But when dad, the man telling the story, came down with throat cancer, John had an epiphany.  He saw how the firefighters came together to support the family and that’s all it took for him to become a firefighter.  The father feigned disappointment.  He said he was hoping to retire and live like a king off his billionaire son.  But he was thrilled to see his son follow in his footsteps.

Both sons responded to the emergency alarms at the World Trade Center.  Both sons lost their lives.  The man’s voice was calm as he recalled the day he lost his sons.  The last thing he said to both boys was, “I love you”.  He told his firefighter son the night before, when he went on shift, that he loved him.  It became a ritual.  The next morning, his police officer son called his father up and told him to turn on the television.  A plane had just crashed and there was a big emergency.  At the end of the conversation the man told his son that he loved him.  The man said it helps him sleep at night.

I thought about being a father and losing a child so horribly.  I took a moment to try and imagine the tragedy of losing both sons so abruptly.  My compassion went to this man and his wife.  I took a moment to silently extend my sympathy to them.  Unfortunately, I hold little doubt that things would be much different if the situation was reversed.

As a collective we look at what happened in New York and our hearts go out in sympathy.  At the same time, we look at the damage and destruction caused by the cataclysm that hit New Orleans and we nonchalantly say “whatever” with as much indifference as possible.  We look at the Jewish holocaust with our collective heart on our collective sleeve and do everything possible to keep the memory of that human tragedy fresh and foremost in our consciousness and not forget the horror.  Whenever anyone does anything to try and bring our attention back to the African holocaust, eyes will roll and chests will rise and fall with a deep sigh of exasperation.  What happened then has absolutely no place in our consciousness now and therefore people need to just forget all of that because.

I would like to think that if our roles were reversed and it was me losing my son to some violence spawned by someone’s nonsense that I would receive the nation’s compassion.  But I have to keep it real.  A lot of black parents lose their sons and daughters everyday without much in the way of a national tear of remembrance.  We don’t get national memorials or have our loss recognized by the President with a wreath on a marble slab or such.  If black people get anything it will be the condemnation that black people should have been better parents.

If black people would only practice a little more personal responsibility they would not have anything to worry about.  But if what happened to the firefighter’s boys Joe and John eight years ago is any indication then tragedy can happen to anyone at anytime.  If common black people can’t get a national remembrance, at the very least, it would be nice if people remembered that we are people too and sometimes we suffer tragedy beyond our control as well.

Friday, September 11, 2009 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts

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