Remember the heroes

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002

We talk about the heroes of today, and our memories are filled with the firefighters and police officers, walking into the towers for the last time, silhouetted by a wall of smoke and flame. We think about the volunteers who formed bucket brigades, a throwback to our early, pioneer days, who hauled ash and debris instead of water. We think about the clergy, the doctors, the nurses, the EMTs, fighting fatigue and fumes to help those they could. We think about Todd Beamer on Flight 93 and about those in the Pentagon, helping each other to safety after the explosion. These are the heroes of September 11, but they are not the only ones.

Every person who died from the terrorist attacks of September 11 is a hero. From the loftiest stockbroker, overlooking his financial empire far above Manhattan, to the homeless victims in the subway, more than 100 stories below. Port Authority clerks, secretaries, maintenance workers, coffee shop waitresses – all are heroes.

Some will tell you that it take a conscious act to be a hero – throwing yourself on an open grenade, jumping in front of a bullet, climbing down a well after a trapped child – but the victims of September 11 have their status established after the fact, because of the fact. Like millions of others in this country, they performed those activities that comprise the backbone of our society. They ate breakfast with their families, they went to work, they bought a cup of coffee, they hoped and dreamed and planned for a better future.

And they died.

And in their death, like some great collective spirit, more than three thousand souls joined to infuse this country with a unity it has rarely seen in more than 200 years. Today, we think of them, the pain still there after a year of fear and anger, and we thank them for their sacrifice.

We cannot forget what they have done – to do so would render each death pointless. We cannot afford to let the events of September 11 chase us underground, forgiving normal, every day lives. To do so would give the terrorists the victory and, again, render the deaths of 3000 pointless.

So have breakfast with your family, go to work, buy a cup of coffee, hope and dream and plan for a better future – and thank those heroes who have made life's little pleasures so much more meaningful today.