9/11: A Reflection

By John D’Alessandro, FASNY Deputy Volunteer Program Coordinator

Today is September 11. More than a dozen years have passed since that day that changed our lives forever. Over the years, I have become increasingly fearful that for many this day is merely becoming the one between September 10 and September 12.

Yes, we mouth the words that we will never forget what happened 13 years ago. We go through the motions of acknowledging the thousands who died that day. We commemorate the heroism of the first responders who stood up to pure evil. But do we still truly think about what happened?

The kind of reflection that forces us to reach deep into our soul and, at least for one day a year, feel the same emotions we felt 13 years ago.

I believe we need to do this not to make ourselves feel bad or to rekindle some unproductive feeling of anger. Rather, I believe we need to do this to recommit ourselves to ensure that something like this never happens again. I believe we need to do this to motivate ourselves to become better people and better citizens. I believe that we need to do this so we continually recommit ourselves to the belief that we all have an obligation to add to the greater good.

On that terrible day 13 years ago, my family lost someone close to us because he chose to run into those towers and do what he was trained to do. As a firefighter, there was no question that the greater good was more important than his personal safety.

On September 11, 2001, I was not a firefighter, nor did I directly become one because of it. But now that I can proudly say I am, I oft en think about what happened that day. For me, it motivates me to train harder, to get out of bed in the middle of the night, to be there when my family, friends and neighbors need me.

In the days, months and even years after September 11, 2001, we saw an unprecedented energy and commitment to public service across this country. For a while the anniversary of this dark day recharged our batteries and pushed us to do even more in the next year. I truly fear that this is not the case anymore.

For most of us in the emergency services, we get it. But, we must do more than just get it and keep the memory alive amongst our own brotherhood. We must be the guardians of the memory of what those brave men and women did that day.

It is our responsibility to remind those who were alive when it happened and to educate those who only know September 11 from a history book. We need to recommit ourselves to have meaningful ceremonies that involve all parts of our communities. We need to remain connected to our elected officials and encourage people to take some time from their busy lives to give back.

As the saying goes, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” For every firefighter, “343” must be more than a symbol of remembrance. It must be an eternal call to action.

This story appears in the September/October edition of The Volunteer Firefighter magazine, just one of many benefits of FASNY membership.