Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pep Talk: "The Boss Knows Best"

With a son living in New York City, visits are frequent. None is ever complete without a trip to Ground Zero. It’s a pilgrimage to honor those who perished, lost loved ones and responded but continue to suffer physically and emotionally for their efforts.

Our world forever changed on September 11, 2001. The ability to see goodness in one another drastically eroded in the horror of falling buildings, fire, toxic ash and death. A friend was a New York University student at the time. He recalls hearing a loud “boom” when the first plane hit, the shudder of the ground when the first tower fell and the cloud of hazardous dust that billowed eastward from lower Manhattan and toward NYU’s campus. Today he’s among thousands receiving yearly, federally mandated, physicals to search for signs of illness from inhaling dangerous chemicals. 15 years later, according to the World Trade Center Health Program, more than 37,000 have sought treatment for medical conditions related to the attacks.

Rock legend Bruce Springsteen’s 2002 album, “The Rising” contains many songs in remembrance of a day that will live in infamy. One is called, “My City Of Ruins.” I love the closing portion of the ballad. There, in an emotional crescendo, the New Jersey native implores America to “rise up” and overcome despair with hope.

When visiting Ground Zero, it’s a favorite exercise to stand at the Freedom Tower’s base and gaze skyward following the building’s seemingly endless march toward the heavens. It’s a powerful reminder to life’s uncertainties and the importance of mustering the will to rebuild when and where necessary.

The nearby museum touches my soul deeply for its tragic loss of life artifacts and the sacrifice of so many. Springsteen honors them in another song about first responders who went “Up the stairs, into the fire.”

New York City is a busy place. However, the pace slows considerably when standing before The National September 11 Memorial. The reflective water pools occupy land where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Touching the names engraved in the bronze panels edging the memorial, hearing the rushing water and feeling mist the twin waterfalls create inspires a somber experience not easily forgotten. 

These days Facebook reminds us of posts from our past. I wrote the following three years ago on 9/11: “To those who lost loved ones on this day 12 years ago, to those who deal with injuries suffered, to those who responded so bravely to help others, please know you’re in our thoughts and prayers that time may somehow ease the pain. Emotionally and physically.”

The thoughts and prayer remain the same. Another Springsteen song, “Empty Sky” remembers the 2,753 who perished with, “I woke up this morning, I could barely breathe, just an empty impression in the bed there you used to be....”

Let’s never forget, life often leaves us with an empty impression of the way things used to be. We have to courageously go up the stairs and into the fire. We must resiliently rise up. 

The Boss knows best. It’s the American way.

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