|"Greater love has no one
than this: to lay down one's life for one's
~~John 15:13, NIV
It's so hard to believe that it's been fifteen years since
the attacks of September 11, 2001. No doubt like
many of you, I've been spending the day remembering the
lives that were lost, the bravery, and the many acts of
human kindness, large and small, that stood in beautiful
contrast to the destructive hate that began the day.
In the wake of September 11th, JABB went on hiatus for the
first and last time. This is the first time, since
then, that a JABB newsletter has been due on this
date. I'll admit I was tempted to take a week's
hiatus again. I just wasn't sure what to do with
today's newsletter. At the time of the 10th
anniversary, I wrote the story "In
the Palm of His Hand" and based it off my own
recollections of that difficult day, projecting those
memories onto Andrew and JenniAnn. I don't feel like
I can write anything more that won't seem like rehashing
that piece. Thankfully, Kim has penned a story
that's meant to be a journal entry by Sean, a Friend,
Dyelander, and firefighter in NYC. We hope reading
it will be meaningful to you as we remember the many, many
lights that shone in the darkness of that day in New York
City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
September 11, 2016
Kemara’s worried about me. I’m sitting on the porch writing
this, and I know she’s looking out the window every five
We just got back from church at Calvary Lutheran. Walter had
all the first responders stand up. I was surprised at how
many of us there were. Shouldn’t have been as large as NYC
is. I’m a guy, so I’m not supposed to talk about
feelings and this probably sounds soppy, but that made the
realize for the first time how connected we all are.
The FDNY sort of swallows you up. It touches your whole life
whether you want it to or not. The summer was pretty intense
- training at The Rock four days a week, working 24 hour
shifts with Engine 23 every Friday, fundraising, BBQs,
football (Man, that was a brawl!). And 9/11 was always in
the background. I could forget about it for a while, but
then it would hit me.
On June 17 (I remember the date because I keep the Mass card
in this journal) most of the department turned out on Long
Island for Chief Larry Stack’s funeral. He died when the
towers fell, and his body was never found. In May, his
family learned that he had donated two vials of blood. So
the Catholic church said it was enough for a funeral. Don’t
get me started on THAT! It wasn’t the first funeral of a
firefighter I’d ever been to - there was my grandpa for one
- but it was my first wearing the uniform. I watched his
sons, they’re firefighters too - see what I mean? - helping
carry his casket and I thought: Are you really sure you want
to do this?
Yeah, a little late for self-analysis. But the question kept
Couple of weeks later, my class took the now traditional
visit to the Memorial Museum. We’d all been before, of
course. They didn’t believe me when I said my wife and I had
our first date there.
I guess Joshua was plotting even that far back. Thanks, man.
You found me a good one. She never complains (at least not
to me) when I end up working overtime, and she's always
sending treats for the guys. Her cooking's improved by leaps
and bounds! Seriously though. I couldn't do this without
her. She keeps me grounded.
When we were going through the museum I started watching the
younger recruits, the ones just out of school. I could tell
most of them were awed and wanted to have people call them
And I guess that’s what I’ve been wrestling with, especially
When I was a kid, all I could see was the excitement. Fire
is dangerous! Firefighters are paid to do dangerous and
exciting things! Firefighters save people! You get the idea.
But none of that is why I’m doing it now. Well, the saving
people part was really the crux of it. At Chrysalis Court I
felt so useless. And I realized that being a husband, a dad,
a son, a brother and a friend wasn’t enough. I NEED to help
people in some way.
I don’t consider myself a hero. I haven’t carried a baby out
of a burning building yet, or rescued a trapped victim after
a car crash. I have kept a family’s home from being
destroyed along with all their possessions and a lifetime’s
worth of memories. Last week, I reunited a puppy with the
kids who loved him. Maybe I was their hero then? I don’t
But those things are part of my job. Just like climbing the
towers in 2001 was the job for those guys. I saw a picture
on Facebook of the towers burning, and the caption said,
“Remember the day when police and firefighters were the
biggest heroes on the planet?”
That’s a hard act to follow. How do I explain to Ian and Joy
why their daddy risks his life every day? They pounded it
into us at school: “A fundamental mission for the FDNY is to
protect the lives and property of New York City residents
and visitors.” I remember it word for word. But how can my
kids and the rest of my family understand that I might die
saving the life of someone I’ve never even met? Does that
person’s life mean more than my own?
During his sermon Walter mentioned the “greater love,”
verse. I’m no Joshua….I try of course, but I’m nowhere
close. My life’s pretty great right now and I don’t want to
give it up.
I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, I’ll be
ready. I owe it to them.
Sean laid down his pen. It would do - for now. He closed the
journal and ran a finger over the maltese cross on the
Kemara stood in the doorway holding the ten-month-old twins.
Sean went over kissed her.
“Yeah, I think so.” Joy reached out for him with her little
hands. He cuddled her close, breathing in the familiar scent
of lavender and baby powder. He looked out at the clear blue
sky above a sea of endless waves and smiled at his family.
“Come on, let’s go build a sandcastle.”
Kemara smiled back, reassured.
As they stepped off the porch into the warm sand, Sean
thought, “Rest in peace, guys. We’ve got this.”
This newsletter is dedicated to John
Dye and to all of those who use their talents to spread
hope and love.