How I wish this was a countdown to Christmas, a birthday, a special occasion.
It is not.
If you know me, you know what twenty-six more days mean.
I found some solace yesterday on a tour of the 9/11 Memorial with visitors from the 9/11 Tribute Museum. It was not a very large group but it was a very healing 75 minutes.
I have made it a point to do two things when I give tours: Wear my sunglasses and don’t look at any one on the tour who is crying.
- I don’t want them to see me crying and
- If I see them crying, then …… refer to Number 1
I did both. But it didn’t work.
Once again, I try to keep some emotions in check but human feelings will always be powerful, no matter the situation. And yesterday was one of those days where, the universe insisted that I let those emotions out.
By the end of the tour, I usually get hugs. I was now the one giving them. That’s fine too. The feelings are the same. Doesn’t matter who makes the first move.
One of the visitors waited a bit. She was in tears. She walked up to me and hugged me so tightly and began to sob uncontrollably. I wondered if she had a 9/11 story. When I asked, she said,
“No I don’t. I saw it from my television. But now it’s real. I’m so sorry you are dealing with all of this.”
“I’m not the only one,” I said.
“I know and I only know this because of what you shared with us today. That day was so hard for all of us but it was even harder for all of you. How can you do this every day? I couldn’t.”
“Yes, you can. You came here today. You just did it. Talking about it is as healing as hearing about it. You know you are not alone when others share their stories. ”
She began to hug me again and this time she put her head on my shoulder and cried even more.
“I don’t want to let you go. I feel I need to help now even after all this time. I don’t want to go back home and not do something after knowing all that you and so many others do.”
I now felt as if I was holding my own child. This would be the second time in two months that I was overcome with that emotion.
I began to cry with her.
Soon, two others joined us.
It was more than a group hug kind of thing. We held on to each other not wanting to end the moment. Finally, she moved back. All her makeup was gone. The others, I noticed were men. Two grown men, crying just like we were. Men hurt too.
Pain, hurt, bad memories, does not discriminate. It hurts us all equally.
They asked if they could say a little prayer with me. We held hands. This was a first for me in my eight years of doing this. I never say no to a prayer moment.
Shaking, she held my hand as the others connected with me.
“Dear Lord, heal my friend here. Heal her husband. End this hate that we seem to be living in every day. Help me to be a better person. Help me to help others.”
The gentlemen then began to speak.
“Dear God, I haven’t been a good person lately. I’m angry all the time. I don’t find happiness in anything but today, my plans were cancelled and I came here. I know why now. Please heal those that are sick. Please forgive me. ”
I cannot put into words what I was feeling at that moment.
The third man spoke. But this time he took my hands as the others circled around me.
“Father, I have not spoken to you for three years. I blamed you for taking my wife. I’m sorry. I know it was her time. But it wasn’t their time.” He points to the memorial waterfalls. “I don’t want it to be Sonia’s time. Heal her dear Lord. Give her peace for the next few weeks. I promise to be a better man. I promise to make those phone calls Sonia suggested we make to make amends. I promise I will be a better person to others. Today I release my anger. I am filled with your blessings and I thank you for putting Sonia in my path today.”
Suddenly, in the 82 degree temperature, I felt a chill. I raised my head and began to let the tears flow. I didn’t care any more about having to be strong. I didn’t care any more that some people think I should get over this. I didn’t care any more if those not affected couldn’t stand to hear one more story about 9/11. I felt a sense of peace. Tranquility. I felt love from strangers. I felt connected.
We hugged one last time with the woman telling me she still couldn’t let me go.
“I want to hold you. I want to comfort you. You will go home today and still have to face the unknown and all your nightmares and I can’t help you.”
“You came today. You helped me. Believe me you did. Go home and practice random acts of kindness. Do not let anger control you. Let love guide you. Be a friend to someone you haven’t been a friend to in a while. Call the person that hurt you and begin a dialog. And then you will know that you have indeed helped me as well as yourself and most importantly others.”
As I walked back to the Tribute museum, I began to realize that I too had the same emotions they had for different reasons. But in the end, it was about healing. I’m not that caught up in my own 9/11 world that I can’t realize that other people hurt and while I find healing and some peace in what I do with my volunteer work, I do believe with all my heart that there are many out there that did not experience 9/11 like my friends and I did, but they hurt as well,
They hurt for their country, our world. They hurt because they felt helpless. They hurt because they believed that now that we had a memorial and a museum that we could move on and they know we can’t. They hurt because they are human beings.
As I got into the museum to turn in my headsets and pictures, I was told I had a visitor upstairs. I was expecting no one.
The visitors were in the lobby. I did not know any of them.
“We apologize for intruding like this. We didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your tour or conversations but we saw the women crying and we moved closer. We prayed along with you even though you didn’t see us. We didn’t know that this was the museum that had the stories. We wanted to hug you but didn’t want you to think we got on your tour for free. Please accept this from us. And know that we will be praying for you and your family and all your friends.” They put something in my hand. I thought it was a prayer card. I get a lot of them.
“Thank you for your kind words. Please don’t feel bad about eavesdropping. If you took something away from what you heard, then I’m happy. I invited them into the museum, ready to cash in my discount for entry. They had to leave as they were late for another tour.
I took a deep breath and walked back in.
I remembered the prayer card they placed in my hand.
It was not a prayer card, it was a hundred-dollar bill wrapped in paper with words of peace.
I don’t take tips. I don’t take money. What I do comes from the heart. By the time I realized what I had in my hand they were gone. I didn’t want them to think that we took money. I became a bit upset at that thought.
I handed the money to one of our managers, picked up my belongings and headed for my car. I read the message again. On the bottom was this:
“We knew you would not take this money for yourself. We know that education is important to you. Please use this money to educate others. And thank you for keeping the memories alive for all who were taken from us.”
They knew! Suddenly I felt so much better that these kind people didn’t walk away thinking I did this for money. They got the message with what little they saw and heard. It is always a heartwarming feeling when even just one person tells you, that they got it. They understand better now.
For the first time in days, I didn’t think of that number. I didn’t feel that sadness. Today was a good day. I was light on my feet. I was even humming my favorite song. I came home, tossed my stuff in the corner basket. Got into my comfy clothes, turned on the computer to check my email.
Another First Responder died .
Twenty six more days.
It just never ends.
But I am so grateful for the blessing I received earlier. I am so very grateful that the good Lord sent these people my way. I am so thankful that I can still tell my story with hope and faith.
And that’s what I held onto until I could no longer keep my eyes open.
God sends us messages all the time. Whether it’s a beautiful butterfly that stops along side you, a kind smile from someone you don’t know to brighten your day or visitors that wanted to understand 9/11.
Be good to yourselves these next twenty-six days. Be kind to others. Do not let the hate that came into our back yards sixteen years ago overrule all the good that is in your heart. Make that phone call you’ve been meaning to make to speak to the friend that you had a falling out with. Be mindful of the things you say to others as you do not know what they may be going through at that moment. Always always believe that today is the best day and tomorrow will be better. Let Go and Let God because trust me, he does work in mysterious ways. Do not be deceitful to any one. If you can’t be a friend, then at least be cordial and respectful. It takes less energy than to be spiteful and dismissive. When you find yourself caught up in the drama of others, do not let that change you in any way. It is not your drama, it is theres.
What someone does to me is their path, how I react to it, is mine.
You are loved.