The September 11th anniversary approaches

Hello everyone.

Each year as the September 11th anniversary approaches I notice myself keeping that emotional door shut and not giving it as much thought as maybe I need to. And each year there is something a day or two before that breaks that door wide open. It can be a song, or the thought of a certain person or a powerful memory that does it. That door was opened wide while I walked on the boardwalk this morning with a memory of my nephew and Godson, Fire Fighter Michael Roberts.  

That evening, having made that long walk from the Brooklyn Bridge to the southern part of the site I looked at the wreckage I knew that Michael could not have survived that. One of my first thoughts was, he loved me so much. Why? What was it about me that he loved so much? So often when he was happy about something that I had either accomplished or experienced he would say, “Uncle Joe, that’s awesome!” I thought back on him saying that so often and I thought to myself, I don’t know why he love me so much, but I know that I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to be that man. 

That became a calling for me, and it still is. When I feel like I am making an impact, sometimes in the front of a funeral home trying to offer someone support, I hear those words, I hear Michael saying, “Uncle Joe , that’s awesome.” And that has become a significant part of my life mission – live to be the man who Michael loved and respected. That also has become an important way I personally deal with death. I try to focus on the “job” that our loved one leaves us – to be the person that they loved so much, to live the life that they wanted for us.  

Death is certainly sad and tough on us, often emotionally crippling, and this coming week is a very sad time in our part of the world. We grieve personally and we grieve collectively for all of the good people who lost their lives that day and in the years since to aSeptember 11th related cancer.  My love to all those who find this time of year particularly sad and to all those who suffered personal losses.  Bless you Michael Roberts and bless all of the good people whose lives were taken needlessly.

(Photos: Michael at my Police Academy graduation, 11 years old. Michael and his sister Karen on the porch of the house they grew up in on Avenue L. See his hand on my back. Michael on the beach, a photo I took on July 15, 2001 when Michael and my son Joe and I were at the beach, Michael hugging his dad at his FDNY graduation)

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