“I need you near, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire.” - Bruce Springsteen, Into the Fire
Seems almost impossible to believe it has been 19 years, just short of two decades since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, what became known as 9/11.
On that brilliant fall morning, with so many eyes glues to televisions and newscasters wondered what was happening, the world turned upside down in a matter of just a few an hour or so.
For many of us of a certain generation, the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and a plane crashing in Pennsylvania was our Pearl Harbor.
A wake-up call from the hum of everyday life, an event that has resonated over the nearly two decades since, altering forever a sense of security and sacrifice.
There are certainly plenty of memories of the event and the days that followed.
Firefighters and others who came from around the country, even some from our backyard, to labor through the piles of metal, concrete and glass at Ground Zero.
And the processions that quickly assembled when a fallen firefighter or first responder was found.
By the end the total would exceed 350 fallen firefighters alone.
The memorials and funerals in the days that followed, the almost constant strains of the bagpipe reminders of what had been lost.
The hundreds of pages the New York Times devoted to provide a brief biography of each of the nearly 4,000 victims of the attack, a testament to the lives and humanity lost.
And the togetherness, the sense of country, found in that time.
George W. Bush, a man reviled by many today, rallied a nation on the top of those ruins at Ground Zero.
A pro football player who turned aside a million-dollar contract to enlist, become an Army Ranger and be killed in a friendly-fire incident.
The many far-less prominent men and women who saw in the attacks a call to arms to defend and serve their country.
There is a street at Veterans Memorial Park in Beacon Hill named after one of the early casualties, Christopher Blaschum.
But all that seems to have been put through a shredder from Washington on down.
It required a late-night comedian to shame Congress into acting on providing sufficient insurance and benefits to those who descended on Ground Zero immediately and made, in some case, the ultimate price.
And in this era of self-absorption in which the wearing of a face mask to protect others during a pandemic is a political issue, one wonders how many will spend Friday as just another entrance into the weekend.
Heck, a global pandemic has become a political issue and if any courage is in evidence, it certainly has been staying out of sight.
So many never give a thought to any event that occurred prior to yesterday.
More than anything, however, my memories of that day revolve around those firefighters, those first responders who did not hesitate, as was written, to head “into the fire.”
Who ascended up staircases filled with smoke, dust and fire not knowing if they would come back down.
And in far too many instances, did not.
That is one reason I marvel today at the volunteer firefighters of this county and their willingness, if required, to plunge into a dangerous situation because of some kind of calling.
And without asking whether the situation is Democratic or Republican.
Put them at a scene, and first responders, firefighters, law enforcement are the most apolitical folks around.
But in those firefighters, on 9/11, in Gulf County, wherever, I find a kind of peace that they exist, that they protect, that they serve, they run in the direction that most others would flee.
And, possibly, offer a little life lesson all of us could use right now.