Monday, September 11, 2006
What Heaven Is For: Lt. Joseph Gerard Leavey, RIP
One of the stanzas of "Home on the Range" asks whether the glory of the stars in the heavens exceeds the glory of man. A conceit, to be sure, and one that many today would dismiss as that which is the worst about America. But it also reveals a sense of awe, rooted in humility, that often gets glossed in a self-absorbed culture of chatter and buzz. "Look what we can do" is not a phrase we hear much these days, a year after Katrina and three and a half years after invading Iraq, but, I suspect, it's a thought that Joe Leavey carried about him every day.
By all the accounts I have read, Mr. Leavey was intelligent, quick-witted, and personable, and it was not much of a surprise that he would rise in an engineering career to be a successful construction manager in the city. He loved buildings, or rather, he really loved to marvel at them, the World Trade Center and its huge dimensions in particular by taking countless pictures of the towers and taking his family with him to do it. And what better way to marvel at buildings than to create them? To know from the inside the necessary scientific and engineering knowledge, to see the teamwork and coordination of skills and material, to appreciate the host of individual efforts to bring the vision of a building into reality together brings a special kind of joy that comes when people are acting in the names of the best within them, where you can almost feel like you can hold the creation regardless its size. And while such feats could exist and could be appreciated for their own sake, here is where Mr. Leavey shows us how the notion held by the rugged individual on the prairie still exists, and if a conceit, it can be a healthy one.
He always wanted to be a firefighter and he gave up his high-paying position to became one, eventually rising to lieutenant. His wife Carole said that he was a people person who knew everyone in their town. People people love people. I can imagine the reasoning behind his becoming one of New York's Bravest being along the lines that after helping to create many buildings, recognizing that ultimately buildings are for people and concluding that buildings and people deserve to be protected and saved, the time had come to act on his love of buildings and his love of people.
Joseph Gerard Leavey, 45, stationed in the South St. Seaport with Ladder 15, was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the World Trade Center. Riding to defend his loves, he stepped into the breach of chaos to find that this time his reach exceeded his grasp. He grew up in Inwood, attended Good Shepherd School, Power Memorial High, and Manhattan College. He lived in Pelham with his wife, his son, and his daughter, with a stepdaughter who lived in Manhattan. May that he and all the heroes and innocents of that day have been greeted by the angels of heaven and led unto paradise. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
This memorial is part of a larger project hosted by D. Challenger Roe to give more than names, ages, and occupations to the pictures of the victims who died from the attacks of September 11, 2001. Please visit other tributes, say a prayer, and pass the word.
A moving article on United 93 passenger Tom Burnett and his wife. Tom was a native of Bloomington, MN, where I grew up, and attended St. Edward's parish, where the Troglodytrix and I were members early in our married life. (Hard Hat Tip: Catholic Report)