Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thinking, that's all: On this day, I can't help but think of him

When I finally heard his deep south-side Chicago-accented voice via phone ten years ago today, my body shook with tears as I breathed an audible sigh of relief into the speaker.

He finally called me from his post at the fire station {or hospital? can I even remember that minute detail}, sadness enveloped in his voice as he spoke about the brothers, the sister lost their lives while responding to the World Trade Center attacks.

There was an ache in his words I'd never heard before, a crack in his normally composed voice that made me realize that while my firefighter father didn't die that day, a piece of his heart surely did.

I grew up with fears of losing my father to the thick smoke and billowing flames of a burning building. Scenes from Backdraft were etched into my six-year-old brain, and I'd begged and pleaded with him to do a different job more times than I could remember.

My father, the stoic, old-school Italian he was, would hug his little girl and simply explain that being a firefighter was his job, his calling, his passion, his duty.

It was as much a part of him as every thick wave of black hair on his head.

I never questioned him again, and I knew bravery was required by even those of us who simply prayed for their loved ones to emerge from overnight-shift shadows unscathed, every-day heroes.


He sported an NYFD baseball hat the last time I saw him alive and well, his large, Italian body unbound to a hospital bed, free to live and enjoy the freedoms he so loved about our country.

We'd talked about that day for some reason -- that blue-skyed perfectly sunny day in September of 2001 -- during his last visit to my house.

He wore it on his sleeve even eight years later -- the horror and terror and pain rendered on his serviceman heart from both the assault on our homeland and on his brotherhood. His voice cracked as he spoke about wives who lost firefighter husbands and children who lost fathers and mothers and fathers who lost sons at the call of duty.

But duty calls, and we respond, he'd said.

Respond they surely had, many with their lives.


This anniversary of September 11 brims with more emotion than most any other day of the year in the wake of unexpectedly losing him.

Because this day -- it was his day, in so many more ways than the anniversary of my father's death will ever be or the day of his birth ever could stand up to.

Because this day?

This day is about responding amid the shadows of uncertainty and horror to the deep need of your neighbor, a stranger, nonetheless, but still a neighbor.

This day is about putting aside the well being of self and trudging through shaking ground in response to cries for help.

This day is about taking evil by the throat and not letting it claim any more than it already has.

It's about service and duty and love.

So I can't help, as I remember, as I honor the brave responders, but to also remember, honor him.

Life: Unmasked


  1. this is so tender, hyacynth. loss is an ache that interweaves, doesn't it?

    "This day is about taking evil by the throat and not letting it claim any more than it already has." yes. i am comforted by a Savior who rose victorious over sin, death, and all kinds of oppression. even when it seems like the dark prevails, i know Light is taking ground, inch by inch, mile by mile.

  2. May you have peace upon this day Hy. Peace in knowing that your dad is with our Father, and there are no wars in heaven. Peace in knowing that your dad's serving heart knows not the ache of destruction, and mourning. September 11th is a day in history that we will never forget here in our earthly bodies. And our souls will remember the love we gave to our brothers, sisters, and neighbors- just as important.

    I so hope that we can come together again in this great nation of ours (before another devastating attack, which may eventually come) and act as a real UNITED country. Not just a united country, on September 11th. Does that make sense?

  3. this was such a lovely tribute. and I am so sorry for your loss.

  4. I'm truly speechless (which doesn't happen often). I wish you lived down the street or I had your phone number or something so I could really talk to you about losing your dad. I looked at the post from the funeral and those photos were taken on the day my dad died. HUGS to you. From someone who knows what you are going through.

  5. I've been reading your blog for nearly an hour -- I had to read all your posts about your dad after reading this one. (My dad lived in Chicago Heights when he was growing up.) I'm teary at your writing and your honesty. You are in my prayers during this difficult time of the year. My hard days are rapidly nearing. Thank you so much for linking -- I'm so glad to have found your writing.


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