My 6 year old is a quick learner.
She was dusting the shelves in our living room as a chore when she moved a few books as she always does. But this time she noticed something on one of them.
“Your buddy looks sad. Daddy, did you win this hat?”
She was pointing to the cover of one of the two September 11th books I keep on that shelf. On the cover is a firefighter holding an American flag with a leather helmet on it, not unlike the one they see I wear (wore) at work. The shield says 343.
We stopped the chore and sat down to look through the books. She had heard the term “twin towers” and had seen the “343” before, but I began telling her about the bad men in the airplanes and how daddy’s buddies (their term for firefighters and paramedics) went to put the fires out.
The images of the towers collapsing had an impact on both of us and she asked how many buddies got hurt.
I was starting to get emotional.
“Tell me about them?” she asked.
I flipped to the page with an ambulance in the rubble and shared the story of Paramedic Carlos Lillo on Medic 49 Victor. Then I turned to Chaplain Mychal Judge and showed her the picture burned into my soul. We looked through another book with photographs of all the firehouses who lost members soon after and saw Ten House. I told her I had been there and seen Carlos and Mychal’s names on a beautiful sculpture.
The impact of that day was not completely understood, I imagine much the same way Pearl Harbor is lost on recent generations. But her questions and my being able to relate on a personal level to the photos from that day will help her understand the human toll when it finally clicks exactly what happened that morning.
And because we take the time to learn their stories and share their stories they will not be forgotten. Their names shall be spoken long after they, and we, pass from this earth.
Forget the bumper stickers and memorial T-shirts and learn a story, any story, there are hundreds to choose from. Learn it, learn from it and share it.
Only then have you never forgotten.