Of Birth and Death

The picture above is at the WTC memorial.
The rose was placed on Bruce’s birthday.
This photo honors both his birth and death. 


Today is one of those days where you can’t help but remember the exact moment when you heard the news. You know where you were, who you were with, what you were doing. I was standing in my kitchen watching the smoke billowing from the World Trade Center, a building I worked in for 11 years.
Each year brings another anniversary of a day that changed the world as we knew it, a day we commemorate the lives that were lost.
While we mourn the loss of every person who died that day, I want to particularly honor those who died because they chose to help others live.  My friend, Bruce a firefighter, was one of 411 emergency workers in New York City who died because he responded to the World Trade Center catastrophe. We don’t know exactly how many people survived due to the selfless acts of these civil servants.
Across the country, today is a somber and somewhat counter-cultural day. We tend to take notice of people’s birthdays, even have a few national holidays to remember them.  
It’s the same with Jesus. Christmas has a whole season, starting earlier and earlier each year. Good Friday and Easter barely get a weekend.  While the gospel writers are very clear on the date and time of Jesus’ death, there is no mention of the timing of His birth, and the early church didn’t celebrate His birth at all. The Bible pays much more attention to Jesus’ sacrifice and death, repeatedly instructing us to commemorate it, but there are no directives to observe or honor His birth.
At my grandfather’s funeral, the rabbi told a parable I’ll never forget. He compared life on earth to ships in a harbor. At one pier, people are rejoicing as a new ship sets sail, breaking a bottle of champagne on the bow, streamers cascading over the sides. But further down the harbor, a ship returns from a long voyage with barely any notice. In life, the rabbi said, people rejoice over the birth of a new baby, not knowing what trials and pitfalls may lie ahead, while much less attention is paid to a person whose journey has ended and has returned safely home.  
We rejoice that Bruce is safely home. We recognize and honor those who on 9/11/2001 in NYC, in Washington DC, and in a plane over Pennsylvania, followed the example of Jesus in sacrificing their lives that others might live. 

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—butGod shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:6-8

Thank you Bruce and all the other valiant firefighters, policemen, EMTs and those on United flight 93. May we long remember and honor your sacrifice.  
To read more about life after Bruce, please visit his wife Ann’s blog. She is a gifted writer, sharing transparently about personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy, and a docent at the 9/11 Tribute Center. Her story was recently published in Chicken Soup For The Soul: Volunteerism
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  • quietspirit

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. This is writing from your heart.Thanks again for your efforts.