Face Book is loaded with the messages today. “Never Forget” … “I remember” … “Where were you” etc. Every post I see has something to do with the events that took place 11 years ago today.
Although these statements have merit, I’m not sure they carry the necessary weight.
“Never forget” …. HOW COULD YOU? How could any adult who was alive that day forget what happened? How COULD you forget the images? People jumping, citizens pouring out while firefighters rushed in. The impact of that 2nd plane. The towers crumbling like piles of ash.
“I remember” … I HOPE SO! Citizen or public servant, I hope you remember the sacrifices made. I hope you remember how vulnerable we were and still are as a nation and who stepped up to the “front lines” as we were under attack. I hope you remember what they did to us that day …. what they took from us…. and those they murdered.
“Where were you?” … GLUED TO THE TV … that’s where you were unless you were on scene or responding in to either of the 3 sites. Where ever you were, hopefully; your mind, thoughts and spirits were in Pa, Washington DC and NYC. I know mine were. I’ll tell ya where you were …. In the same place we all were. In a state of disbelief and confusion. Scared, mad and searching for answers. I know EXACTLY where you were because like so many others, I was standing there beside you!
I’m not sure how to express or say what I’m feeling tonight. I’ve been thinking about it all day. I don’t want the words to become “catch phrases”. Something “cool” to say but without meaning or purpose. “Never Forget” should be way more than a slogan on a tee shirt. Saying it is NOT enough. Remembering is not either. Not just once a year when September 11th rolls around.
I met Lee Ielpi almost a year ago now, back in October of 2011. He is the strongest man I’ve ever met. He’s retired from FDNY’s elite Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. His youngest son (Brendan) is on the job today and currently assigned to that same company. His eldest son, Jonathan; was murdered in the attacks of 9/11. Jonathan was also on the job and assigned to Squad 288 in Queens. They lost 19 members that day … more than any other unit in the FDNY.
Lee now runs the 9/11 Tribute Center. “9/11 Tribute Center offers visitors to the World Trade Center site a place where they can connect with people from the September 11th community. Through walking tours, exhibits and programs, the 9/11 Tribute Center offers “Person to Person History,” linking visitors who want to understand and appreciate these historic events with those who experienced them”.
Lee gave Zach Green and I a personal tour of the center. I posted about it HERE . In that post, speaking of Lee and ground zero; I said “he hasn’t left yet”. I feel the same way about me and the Center. A part of me remains there.
You see, one of the exhibits is a set of turn out gear. Not just any gear mind you … Jonathan Ielpi’s gear. It’s like he’s standing right there and Lee has to walk by it every day. What do you think “never forget” means to this man? His son’s turnout coat and helmet! He walks by it everyday to share the story with us. To educate us and the generations to come.
THAT Brothers and Sisters is the meaning of NEVER FORGETTING. I guarantee you that Lee Ielpi REMEMBERS and he knows EXACTLY where he was not just that day but for months following … he was on that pile searching for his son!
Not as Lee does, but I too remember EVERY DAY. I have mentioned (and shown you) here on the site how I have photos of the fallen hanging near my bed. I see their faces every morning as I wake up.
I carry photos from our 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs in my turnout gear. They are part of my daily / morning check and remind me of the sacrifices made by others as well as of the one I may one day be called to make.
I’ve made the climbs. I even climbed in the shadows of the new Freedom Tower with Rhett and the founding members of the Stair Climb Committee.
I assist the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation anyway I can.
I support and work on behalf of the National Firefighters Endowment.
I leave my family to travel and deliver motivation speeches. I teach classes, promote life saving technology and try to do my part in making a positive impact on the fire service.
It’s more than a t-shirt, helmet sticker or catchy slogan for me. I hope I don’t need any of that crap. I’d rather you know that I remember EVERYDAY and would hope you can tell that by my actions and not by the slogan on some shirt or hat that I’m wearing.
Stay SAFE and in House!